1st session, 37th Parliament | 1re session, 37e législature
Thu 5 Oct 2000 / Jeu 5 oct 2000
ORDERS OF THE DAY
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTION ACT, 2000 / LOI DE 2000 SUR LA PROTECTION CONTRE LA VIOLENCE FAMILIALE
Resuming the debate adjourned on October 4, 2000, on the motion for second reading of Bill 117, An Act to better protect victims of domestic violence / Projet de loi 117, Loi visant à mieux protéger les victimes de violence familiale.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Tony Martin): The time was split between the two members from Windsor, and neither of them are here, so it's the NDP. Further debate?
Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): It would have been good to have had a Liberal here, obviously, to bring us into this debate, but always ready. Always ready, former candidate for the Alliance; always ready, willing and quite eager to discuss Bill 117. I've got it right here, and I want to read what its title is. The title says, "An Act to better protect victims of domestic violence." They never cease to amaze me with their titles. This is one of their most important agendas: the law-and-order agenda of this Conservative government. It follows on the heels of so many other bills that they've passed.
You'll recall the squeegee bill, the Safe Streets Act. Radical stuff, man, revolutionary stuff. They went after those poor little squeegee kids and made it appear like, "Good God, we have restored order in the country. People in the province will now be safe from those rascals in the street."
You remember that some of those young people were cleaning windshields and, man, did it scare the pants off those old men and women. So Harris comes along with his squeegee bill, the Safe Streets Act, and, lo and behold, the rascals and the rogues are off the streets and law and order has been re-established. Why? Because Harris was there to protect us, men, women and children, frail indeed, from these young people, who were just a couple of hundred, I think, in the streets trying to make a couple of bucks. I would make my contribution. I was never really frightened, as the Harris government claimed that most drivers were. I don't know where that fear came from, but they re-established law and order with the Safe Streets Act, the law-and-order agenda.
Then they came up with the other one, the one that's called the Parental Responsibility Act. You remember that one. You recall that with that one, again, law and order--we were going to go after those young rascals who committed offences against property and/or people, and boy, oh, boy, the offence was going to cost the parents big bucks. I think $5,000 was the sum, and man, oh, man, did we re-establish law and order once again in Ontario, all due to the diligence, the vigilance of the Premier, who, with his omnipotent oversight abilities, was to see that by introducing such a bill, the young rascals would be tamed because the parents would now be on the hook for those offences. Lo and behold, with that bill we have peace, law and order, and good government in Ontario.
Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): We already had one.
Mr Marchese: I'm reminded, but I hadn't forgotten: you will recall that the existing law already gave individuals the power to sue individuals where there had been damage against an individual person and/or property. In fact, there was no limit of $5,000 that one could get; you could claim more even.
This is the paradoxical nature of politics. This is where dissimulation needs to be uncovered. People say things and do not mean what they say, and the bills do not say what they mean, as a result of which we've got a law-and-order agenda that the Reformers out there think these people are implementing, but they're measly little things, little attempts to solve some little problem. In the case of Bill 117, it's not a little problem; it's a big problem we're dealing with. But they make it appear like they're taking giant steps.
I'm not a lawyer. A former modest teacher is all I am. But I can tell you that reading through this stuff doesn't give me the sense that we're solving the problem. We're making it appear that we're doing more than we actually are, and that's what I object to with the agenda of the Tories. Simply say what you're doing. Say it modestly. Say that these are modest attempts to deal with your perceived problems in Ontario, and then people like me wouldn't feel so angry at your initiatives, when you pretend to say more than is actually contained in those bills.
Remember the bill of rights? Good folks of Ontario, do you remember the Victims' Bill of Rights? To hear Mike Harris and the other MPPs, that bill contained rights given to victims, and everybody believed it. Everybody in the province believed it. Why? Because the title said so. It's the Victims' Bill of Rights. If it's written, it must be so. That's where I get cranked up in this place. If they were actually saying what they want to say, I'd say, "OK. We have a disagreement. They're doing a couple of things, good or bad," and you move on.
But the Victims' Bill of Rights had no rights. Good people of Ontario, taxpayers--yes, you--Judge Day said this so-called Victims' Bill of Rights was nothing but a statement. I believe the judge said it was a beguilingly disguised piece of legislation, or beguilingly disguised as legislation but nothing of the sort. That's it, more or less paraphrased. It was just a statement, no rights. Yet these Tories have the courage, the fortitude to go out and say to the people, "We have a law-and-order agenda." That fits well within the framework of a Conservative-Reform--Alliance-minded person. Yet if they needed the truth they would say, "My God, we've got to get rid of these Tories. What we need is an Alliance Party, because the Alliance Party says, 'We're going to do what the Conservatives are not able to do.'"
Sooner or later the Conservative Party will disappear. It's got to disappear--this one and the national one--because the Alliance has taken root. It has taken like a leech. It has leeched itself on to this body politic, and I suspect it's just a question of a short period of time until most Conservatives say, "We had better just fold the tent and connect ourselves with the Alliance," the party that used to be the Social Credit at one end of the world, then the Progressive Conservatives, then the Conservative Party, then Reform, then this new Canadian Alliance/Reform. Man, oh, man, is it ever a progressive party. It's in constant evolution and, like the good chameleon it should be, it evolves to fit the circumstances of the day. This is the party, and the Liberals had better catch up. It's hard to maintain the level of change these Reformers are able to engage in. Anyway, I'm getting off topic.
Bill 117 is another bill. They started this session with another law-and-order agenda. As if they haven't had four years of talking about law and order, they want to begin the session again with law-and-order issues. Cut taxes, bash welfare recipients, go after the poor--after four years of suffering through this, they are not able to move on. Unlike some of their leaders, who realize they've got to change their titles, they haven't changed the agenda. People expect a changed agenda, but we're getting more of the same.
That's why I made reference to the other bills: the squeegee bill; the Parental Responsibility Act, which had nothing more by way of powers than we had before; the Victims' Bill of Rights where there are no rights, and now this.
I have to say positively in this regard that obviously there are some things we support. We support the bill inasmuch as it purports to toughen up restraining orders that would help keep battered spouses, partners and children safe. The bill does other things like broaden the category of people who could be protected; for instance, it includes people in dating relationships. It requires the abuser to leave the residence. Currently that only happens on arrest or breach of order. Good things. How can you disagree? But they're not radical. It's under the rubric of "An Act to better protect victims of domestic violence," and makes it appear they have solved this problem of violence against women, and they haven't.
I began my comments by saying there are 95 organizations in the province that met a couple of months ago to talk about the issue of violence as it relates to women. They invited the leaders of the opposition and other members, they invited Mr Harris, they invited the ministers involved and their members--and, by the grace of God, they sent somebody who I think said very little, if anything--and were completely unsatisfied by the end of the day that they had the ear of the government.
Good listeners of this political forum, would you not expect the government to listen to those 95 organizations that deal with women's issues, in particular, violence against women? Would you not expect the government to go and consult with them first and take the best of what they have to offer and introduce that in the form of a bill? But they didn't even meet with these organizations. Neither the minister nor the Premier met with them. Isn't that a complete disregard for those organizations that daily have to deal with issues of abuse and violence?
I couldn't do their job. God bless the fact that these organizations are in place, volunteering thousands and thousands of hours, doing their best with less and less money than ever before to deal with an issue that I couldn't cope with. I couldn't cope with that, because I think violence against women is the most hurtful thing I could be dealing with. As a man, the fact that there are men in our society who have and use, and abuse, the power to beat up women is an offence against human nature, against humankind. That there are still men out there doing that kind of violence against women is to me almost unthinkable. An equally offensive thing to me is that there are men and women out there who could abuse children, little boys and little girls. That to me is the worst offence in this world. I would spare no time and I would make use of the law, yes, to its utmost to make sure that those who commit, perpetrate, such acts of violence against women, against children, are not spared the toughest legal measures there are. I wouldn't spare them at all.
I think we've got to do more as a government. I really do. The government has a responsibility, first of all, to meet with those 95 organizations which have made requests about what ought to be done and have not been listened to. When they take this bill out for discussion, they've got to listen to those organizations, again, because they are on the front lines. You, Premier, are not on the front lines. You, Minister, are not on the front lines. We are blessed in this place, I tell you. Those 95 organizations are on the front lines dealing with issues of abuse and violence, and they are the ones who need to be respected and listened to. If they recommend that we spend $300 million in terms of prevention, then you ought to be there and you ought to be spending the money.
I wanted to begin by saying that this government has failed us over and over again in its outward disguise and its outward articulation of consulting with people, only to find out that they don't consult. You hear the Minister of Education on a regular basis saying, "We consult teachers. We consult parents." We ask them who, because the people we've talked to don't agree with the minister. One wonders, who are you listening to?
The people in these organizations say that eight of these 95 organizations have suffered cuts in their programs. How? Why? How do you justify that? It's an embarrassment for a government to have initiated such cuts against organizations that deal with very vulnerable people. Eight of those organizations sustained cuts.
Explain yourselves to the public as to why you could do that and get away with it. Explain that to the public when these organizations say, "We need more housing to house victims of abuse, to house people of modest means," to house people who don't have the luck that some of us in this chamber have to have access to a home, particularly when there's an issue of abuse and they need to go somewhere and the waiting lines in our non-profit homes and in our public housing are too long for them to be able to access the home that they need. How could you as a government not have a modicum of a conscience to able to say, "Yes, they need a home," particularly when abuse has been involved?
This government doesn't want to build housing. They say they are not in the housing business. The other day Mr Clement said he hears the federal government is opening it's doors to the construction of housing. Mr Clement was reported as saying--I read it in the Toronto Star--that he's not going to wait for the federal government. Why, he's going to introduce measures of his own.
What am embarrassment. This guy, M. Clement, the Minister of Housing, said, "We're not in the housing business." In fact, they're not. They haven't built one single unit in this province. The private sector they rely on has only built 500 units in the last year. The need for housing has been clearly documented by neutral people over and over again, and this guy says he's not going to wait for the federal government to start building; he's going to do it on his own. It's so tragic it makes you want to weep. That's why I said last week that when we laugh, we laugh out of desperation, out of the tragedy that we experience and we have to bear listening to you people. We need more shelters, not just in Toronto any more, but beyond, in your own borders of 905 and beyond. What have you done about that? You've done absolutely nothing about that.
We hear from you that the extension of 24-hour-a-day provision of service to enforce restraining orders requires a major investment in staff. The extension of 24-hour-a-day provision of service to enforce restraining orders--that's all very well and good, but does anybody believe that the resources are there or that the resources will be put in order to make that measure effective? I argue no and I say no, the money is not there and the money will not be put in there, and so that measure, while it looks good and sounds good, will be ineffective because the money is not there.
We have underfunded courts, which the government will not admit to. We have a serious backlog in provincial offences court. We have restrictions on people as to who is eligible for legal aid, and we've had cuts there in the past that this government is not restoring in spite of the economic success we've had in the last five years, in spite of the millions and millions of dollars we've had in this economy. They are throwing it away to the corporate sector. Five billion dollars is going to the corporate sector in the next four years; $5 billion of my money and your money just thrown out the window to the corporate sector, which has experienced the best boom in this province in the last many years. Five, six years of a good economy and they give away five billion of your dollars to the corporate sector and they don't have any money to give to these things that they propose here today to make what they propose effective.
They're going to have a 24-hour line with no extra JPs, of which we are short, and no training, by the way, because this government believes judges are independent and they don't need training as it relates to their judgment on restraining orders or bail orders or anything connected to violence against women.
We need an hour for debate on this; we need hours and hours of debate on this. People will want their say, and all I hope is that this government will go off to the public, have extended hearings so those 95 organizations and people affected will be able to tell this government how inadequate this bill is at it relates to abuse against women.
The Acting Speaker: Comments or questions?
Mrs Julia Munro (York North): It's a pleasure to be able to rise and give some balance to the discussion we've heard so far.
There are a number of important details that need to be emphasized. First of all, this issue is one that certainly impacts our communities, families and individuals, and we all recognize how important it is to have programs that will address this issue.
In a number of ways we have addressed this issue. In community and social services there has been, just as one example, an additional $10 million to hire additional support workers, partly in order to be able to help children who have witnessed violence, recognizing that obviously, while the impact is great on women, it is greater on children. This money is also used to support additional shelter funding.
In my riding I was able to take part in one of the original victim/witness programs, the VCARS program, and it's really very heartening to see that this program has been expanded by 50%. We are now looking at 26 across the province.
SupportLink, which provides women with access to emergency use of cell phones, has been expanded tenfold.
In housing there is a commitment to $50 million in rent supplements. This will go to help up to 10,000 families and individuals. This is the record.
Mr David Caplan (Don Valley East): I can't believe what I just heard come out of the mouth of the member for York North: a rent supplement program which, by the way, was announced over a year and a half ago, and they've only tendered out contracts for 5,000 units. They can't even fulfill those. As of June, their record is 1,339 contracts. This is the record? That's not even for women.
In fact the record, when it comes to domestic violence programs, when it comes to funding and support--they cut shelter funding. They cut shelter funding for women and children fleeing abusive situations and for emergencies. Worse than that, indeed, funding for second-stage housing--you see, it's not just enough to get into an emergency shelter. Women and their children need to have a transitional place to go in order to get back on their feet, in order to get back toward employment, toward education, toward accessing health services. That's called second-stage housing. The Harris government has eliminated funding for second-stage housing entirely across the province of Ontario. I can't believe what I just heard. That is an incredible distortion of what the record of this government is.
I want to congratulate the member for Trinity-Spadina for his remarks because I think he made some very good points about what this government has done, what it continues to do, how this measure, while everybody of course will support it, really emphasizes things that are already happening, provisions that are already in the Criminal Code of Canada. Sure, there's a lot more that needs to be done, but the point is essentially this: these kinds of measures should be in addition to all of those community-based supports, all of the things which are truly effective, not in place of. Unfortunately, that's the approach that this government has taken: we're going to have a few punitive measures but we're not going to have any of the community supports.
Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough Centre): I must say that I believe the tone of today's debate has somewhat degenerated from the fairly non-partisan, passionate tone that we heard yesterday. I certainly want to repeat the commitment I made in my speech yesterday to continuing to ensure that this government is totally committed to eradicating domestic violence from this province. In my speech yesterday I spoke about the initiatives that our government has made. In fact, I spoke about the 40 programs that are in existence today and most certainly I also spoke about the actual increase in expenditures we have made since 1995. We now spend almost $135 million, which is an increase of over $37 million since 1995. We've also made a commitment to spend a further $5 million that will be added next year, which will bring the total in expenditures to $140 million.
I'm somewhat bemused by the thespianic rantings of the member for Trinity-Spadina when he says that we've withdrawn all support for housing. As my colleague to my right has said, we have committed $50 million to rent supplements to help house over 10,000 families.
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): I'm pleased to respond to my colleague from Trinity-Spadina. Let me begin by saying that I didn't see his statement as a rant at all but rather his usual eloquent and effective manner of conveying the passion I think he feels on this issue and many others.
First of all, like that member, we support this bill and we recognize that the real problem in the whole question of domestic violence is what's missing and what hasn't happened and in fact what has happened in the past. You can take those aggregate numbers and you can rearrange them on a balance sheet or an income statement, and at the end of the day what's lacking are the types of support that are needed in the whole area of prevention.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention in my own community Hiatus House, headed up by Donna Miller, who has done an excellent job in prevention initiatives, in providing our community with the kinds of supports it needs. I've met Donna on many occasions. I've spoken with members of her board; indeed, I helped raise some funds with them earlier this year in memory of my late colleague Shaughnessy Cohen, who sat on the board of that organization. I can tell you unequivocally that organizations like Hiatus House have felt the pinch very much and have identified a number of shortcomings in the funding and prevention models that we have spoken about and that my colleague from Trinity-Spadina spoke about so passionately.
So I say to the government members, we applaud this initiative, we support this initiative, but in the absence--indeed, in the presence of so many other changes, whether you're talking about housing or counselling or whatever, it really isn't enough. This bill doesn't do everything that should be done. Think about the rest of it.
The Acting Speaker: Response?
Mr Marchese: I thank the members from Don Valley East and Windsor-St Clair for their kind remarks and would respond to the member for Scarborough Centre, who can so easily dismiss me by saying she's amused by my rant. It's so dismissive. What we say is a fact, confirmed by every housing provider out there in the province, but she so casually dismisses my comments as rant: "I'm amused by that."
I say, with respect to this initiative, that this bill in fact disguises the real problems we have with this government and disguises the real problems that this government has caused, on the very problem we're trying to deal with. Ultimately the voter will see through it, I am convinced; will see through the dissimulation of this government.
Women's groups say that the extension of 24-hour-a-day provision of services to enforce restraining orders requires major investment in staff, JPs, judges, police etc. Women's groups say we'll need to ensure police and crown lawyers are trained to deal with domestic violence issues, and judges and JPs will need training too. Women's organizations say this act will require increased funding for legal aid to ensure women can access extended restraining orders. Women's organizations say this act will require increased funding for community-based services to inform and support women. The government has said it is willing to expand the number of spaces in male batterers' programs, but nothing has been offered to support women--no counselling, no extra legal aid, nothing.
I say, take this bill out for extended hearings so we can hear from the people and make you as accountable as we need to.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): It's my pleasure to be able to rise in this House and talk on Bill 117, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act.
Before I start, I have to make a bit of a response to my friend across the way from Trinity-Spadina. His solution, for the five years his party was in government, was, "Give 'em more money." It's interesting to know that when you give them more money, and they gave them more money, there was absolutely no plan, there was absolutely no accountability, there was absolutely no economic research, there was absolutely no efficiency--that was totally thrown out the window--"but we'll give them more money." That is what got us into this situation we took over when we came into power in 1995.
Domestic violence is a very serious crime that has serious repercussions. I think one thing that this bill does, and I think it's long overdue, is that it defines domestic violence to include acts and omissions that cause bodily harm or damage to property, physical assaults and threats that cause a person to fear for his or her safety, forced physical confinement, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual molestation, and any series of acts which collectively cause a person to fear for his or her safety. I suggest that every member in this House should be supporting this bill. I would also suggest that debate should have lasted about 15 seconds and everybody should have said, "We support this bill because we don't support domestic violence."
Not only is domestic violence a crime against the person who is abused; it deeply affects children who witness violence in the family. If there is one reason to support this bill, it is the fact that this bill may in a large way protect some of those children who are affected by violence within the family. If I look at the Unified Family Court, which opened in my riding of Peterborough a couple of months ago, and also the supervised access centres which I had the privilege of opening about a month ago, which are run by Kinark family services, I think that those, along with this type of legislation, are very much focused on the children of this province. I suggest to you, if those kids are going to grow up and be responsible citizens of this province, that they have to be looked after in the way they should be--anything we can do to make sure they do not have to witness violence in the home--and when they go to court for domestic disputes, that they are treated well, and when they want to visit their separated parents, whatever it might be, that they have access to those parents in a very professional and kindly manner.
During the last five years, our government has taken a leadership role in helping to protect victims of domestic violence. In those five years, we have created and expanded the domestic violence court program and made it the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in Canada. We've expanded the victim/witness assistance program, the victim crisis assistance and referral program, the supervised access program and the SupportLink program. These are programs that get victims in touch with services that they need. I often think if any one of us in this House were a victim of domestic violence in need of those services, we would have to know how to access them and where they are.
It's interesting to mention again that the member from Trinity-Spadina made the comment that our government seems to be all about law and order. I grew up in a family where law and order were very well respected and should be respected. We were taught to respect law and order, so I certainly have no qualms whatsoever about being accused of being part of a government that believes in law and order.
We have also allocated an additional $8 million annually to ensure that crown attorneys have sufficient time to meet with victims in preparing their cases for prosecution. This gives victims a voice in the justice system.
We're proud of our achievements and we make no apologies for our law-and-order agenda. We make no apologies for being on the side of victims. We make no apologies for holding abusers accountable, and we will continue to do that as long as this government is the government, which I suggest to you will be a long time into the future.
Improvements to the justice system are critical in helping victims of domestic violence, because the justice system holds abusers accountable for their actions. And why would we not? This is one of the ways of breaking the cycle of violence. The criminal justice system is a critical centrepiece for combating domestic violence, because it clearly delivers the message that domestic violence is a crime. When the police force and crown attorneys prosecute domestic violence cases, the message that domestic violence is a crime rings loud and clear. For many years domestic violence was perceived as a private family matter--most unfortunate. It was either kept behind closed doors or it was kept in the closet. Thank God it is not any more.
I want to make one comment. When we talk about spousal abuse--and it's been bandied about here in this House--I want to emphasize the fact that spousal abuse includes both females and males.
The enforcement of the law and prosecution of cases is an important reminder that domestic violence is a crime. The work in the criminal justice system keeps the public and the abusers focused on the message that domestic violence will not be tolerated in Ontario.
I liken this to changes in the mindset about drinking and driving. Drinking and driving--and we all know it--years ago was socially acceptable. Unfortunately, a lot of deaths occurred because we deemed it to be socially acceptable. Now it is definitely clear that drinking and driving is not acceptable, that it is a crime and that it has a devastating effect on victims and families. There is an ad on television at the moment that I think is one of the finest ads I've ever had the privilege of seeing. It shows a mother and child in front of that grave and you hear an overvoice, "I only had a couple of drinks." It is now not acceptable, nor is domestic violence. I argue that we ought to have had the same mindset about domestic violence that we've had about drinking and driving, because it is a crime. It is entirely appropriate that the justice system treat domestic violence as the criminal act it is.
Our government is keeping its promises to the people of Ontario. We said in the Blueprint that we would do exactly what we're doing regarding domestic violence. We're taking action to keep our streets and our homes safe. We're taking action to support and protect victims. Solutions brought about by the justice system are a critical component of that response. The restraining order reform we are proposing is an important element to better protect victims of domestic violence.
I understand that the federal Liberal government is planning a forum on spousal abuse and that it might consider some changes in penalties. It could happen. It is interesting to note that our federal Liberal government has more forums and more commissions and more discussions than any level of government I've ever heard of. I believe, and our government believes, that actions speak a great deal louder than words. That doesn't seem to be the Liberal way, whether it be here or in Ottawa. This is very much like the health care situation where the Premier of this province pushed to get the money back that the federal Liberals took out of the system. They have to know that they have to play a role, first of all, in health care, but also they have to be part of this solution.
Our government is calling on Ottawa to create a specific Criminal Code provision for domestic violence. All the forums they have, all the commissions, and all the talks are not going to push that forth unless they decide to act, and act quickly.
I want to present a couple of facts, if I may, things we have done that I believe support victims through many community-based programs. Yes, we have further to go, and we will continue to move forward in the future. Some $51 million has been allocated to support 98 emergency shelters and related services in the year 2000-01. We're committed to supporting women's shelters because they help keep abused women and their children safe. They also provide practical and emotional supports that are essential to helping women escape violence in their lives and supporting those kids who witness that violence. The key word, and I want to emphasize that word, is "support." People in these types of situations, in these homes where domestic violence is happening, need the types of supports that we can offer them.
Funding for shelters includes $1.7 million which was allocated by the Ministry of Community and Social Services in 1999-2000 for crisis lines across Ontario. These lines operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and fielded over 150,000 calls. We recognize the important role that these lines play by offering support and assistance to women in crisis. I believe that we are always trying to improve those services. When I look at 24-hour-a-day service, seven days a week, that's what we have to have, because domestic violence does not only happen at certain times of the day or night. We have to have support--again, I emphasize that word--for these folks who are involved in these types of situations.
Recently the Ministry of Community and Social Services announced $10 million annually to enable shelters to hire transitional support workers and establish programs specifically designed to help children who have witnessed violence in their homes. These services have been identified as critical services by a broad range of agencies serving abused women and children, including the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, the United Way of Greater Toronto and the Joint Committee on Domestic Violence.
MCSS has also improved the means by which shelters are funded. We have simplified the funding arrangement by assuming the municipality's share. Some $21 million has been allocated to over 100 counselling programs for women and their children in 2000-01. Approximately $50 million has been committed to support innovative community-based projects that focus on vulnerable children and adults as part of the victims' justice action plan, and $100 million annually has been allocated for the expansion of community-based programs, including the victims' assistance and the crisis referral service, and again SupportLink.
I want to talk about SupportLink for a moment. SupportLink provides safe planning, which can involve cell phones pre-programmed to dial 911, some degree of comfort and support for those folks who may be involved with this. This would help ensure that emergency response teams are alerted immediately if there is a danger.
An additional $500,000 was provided to cover streamlined applications for emergency legal aid advice, and the number of hours was doubled to assist abused women seeking restraining orders. Legal aid for those--and there are possibly those people watching today--is a protection, for domestic violence is the highest priority for family law certificates from legal aid. These certificates can be issued immediately and made retroactive for victims of domestic violence. Legal aid provides 90 advice lawyers; two hours of emergency legal advice is available to eligible victims of domestic violence. In 1998-99, almost 3,000 women received assistance through our emergency legal aid service for women's shelters program.
I also want to make a comment about supervised access programs. As I mentioned, we just opened one in Peterborough about a month ago that is being looked after by Kinark family counselling. In that facility, it's like going into a family home type of atmosphere, where the colour of the walls, the toys and support things that are available to the kids, the kitchen facilities, make it a family atmosphere, where kids go in and certainly do not have the sense of fear or frustration that they had in their home. I want to congratulate the government on those types of centres. As I said, I have been in them. They are highly supported by the family court judges. I believe the supervised access centres are part of our ongoing commitment to ensure the well-being of Ontario's children and families.
It's drawing near the end and I want to say, as I said before, that I can't believe we would have a long debate on this particular bill. Anybody who will not support anything that will make domestic violence a crime, who will not help people who are involved in those types of situations, I feel is not thinking of society very well. I would hope that the opposition, as I said, would support this bill and would work with us to make sure this bill goes through quickly and that domestic violence will be less and less in this province in the future. I believe it will be, by bills like this, by support from all members of this House. I would ask that the members do indeed support the bill and don't support domestic violence.
The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'd like to comment on the comments by the member for Peterborough. I'd just say certainly we will be supporting the bill, but again we would say that if you're interested in real solutions, you would respond to the recommendations of the people who are in the field dealing with these problems on a day-to-day basis.
It always is amazing to me that the Conservative government seems to describe problems in a completely different way than reality. Today we heard from the health minister about problems in our emergency wards. They are getting worse and worse and worse after five years of Mike Harris. Our education system is in turmoil. Without a question of a doubt, I really don't think I've seen it this bad in 20 years, tragically. If somebody can prove me wrong, I'd like to know that. But the Minister of Health will get up every day and say, "No, things are just fine out there." It is a mess.
We've seen in Walkerton the government saying, "The environment's fine. What are you worried about?" Six people died. Things are getting worse; things are unravelling under Mike Harris. Our emergency ward situation is far worse now than when he became Premier. Our education system is in far more turmoil than when Mike Harris became Premier five years ago. The environment is a disaster. We are now the centre of attention internationally. This is the one thing that people know about Ontario: Walkerton. Almost whatever country you go to, they know about the disaster in Walkerton. Here we are having the member for Peterborough--to me it is sad that he actually believes that this is going to be a significant part of the solution. We know what the significant parts of the solution are: we pass this bill but we deal with the very important proposals by the people on the front lines, and we haven't heard them at all.
Mr Marchese: The comments made by the member from Peterborough would fit so perfectly in a lesson in an English classroom under the theme Illusion and Reality. Indeed, the whole government's agenda could fit into a whole year's program of an English literature class under Illusion and Reality.
The member for Peterborough attacks the federal Liberal government, accuses them of doing all sorts of things, but essentially doing nothing, and then he says, "Aha, but our Conservative agenda is different." He says, "Actions are louder than words," and makes no apologies for being on the side of victims--like the Victims' Bill of Rights that has no rights. Is that what he means by being on the side of victims, where he actually lets people--the general public and victims themselves--believe that they have rights that are not contained in that bill of which Judge Day had to say, "It is beguilingly disguised as legislation"? But it's nothing but a statement, so the member from Peterborough would have everyone believe that somehow you have rights, and the Victims' Bill of Rights gives them none. That's what "Actions speak louder than words" means.
Then he makes reference to spousal abuse, and includes male and female. Please. Yes, there are some examples of males being abused by some woman but, good God, the abuse is by men against women, and that's systemic. It's an issue of power and it's an issue of the abuse of that power. Please, let's not confuse it. The real issue is violence against women, not the other way around.
Mr Frank Mazzilli (London-Fanshawe): It's my pleasure to speak on Bill 117. This is an area that's certainly long overdue, and if there can be a debate at committee at some point of some of the sections in this bill, then that should take place.
Domestic violence or assaults are certainly criminal offences, and the release orders, once someone is charged with a criminal offence, are under the Criminal Code. They're released on undertaking, recognizance and so on.
Restraining orders have generally been used in cases where one would say domestic violence, through some sort of abuse, is proven to the court but where an assault does not take place, where the victim fears that an assault may take place, where the victim fears for their safety from a partner. When it comes to restraining orders, the Family Law Act has never been clear on how to obtain them and where to access them. You had to make appointments. Women often had to make appointments, go see a justice of the peace at some point at the courthouse. What this bill does is to make that process much easier, where judges are going to be more available, where these things can easily be achieved, can be had on short notice.
If there are any difficulties within the legislation that need to be debated at committee, when it comes to assaults and domestic violence and the crossover between federal and provincial jurisdiction, that debate should take place, and it should take place in a productive manner so that we help people involved in these situations.
Mr Caplan: I certainly want to congratulate the member for Peterborough on his comments. I'm glad he's going to be supporting the legislation. I think all members of this House will be supporting it because domestic violence is a very serious and a very important issue.
I wanted to focus on some of the comments that he made. First, he castigated the members of the New Democratic Party for spending money. I was watching the clock. The member for Peterborough spent about seven minutes trying to outline how the Harris government cares about this issue so much and how they're spending money. I don't really understand how he would criticize the NDP on the one hand and then laud himself and his government on the other hand. I think this is an area, quite frankly, where we do need to spend some money.
I don't agree with the hypocrisy of saying, well, we have to do something but we're not going to spend any money on it. I don't agree with saying, OK, women and their children can go into a shelter but we're going to eliminate funding for second-stage housing which allows them to get out of shelters. That was a decision of the Harris government, and I really wish and hope the member for Peterborough will stand in his place today and say, "I think that decision was a very wrong one."
I'm committed to making sure that women and children can get out of shelters, can get back into the community, can get some stability in their lives, because shelters are not the only solution. In fact, punitive laws are not the solution. It is comprehensive.
One of the major events which has happened during the life of this government was the May-Iles commission: 213 recommendations to help to solve the problem of domestic violence. Certainly not everything would solve it. This government's response has been deafening silence on the implementation of those recommendations.
The Acting Speaker: Response?
Mr Stewart: I'm not going to take a great deal of time to respond to the rhetoric I heard across the way. It's interesting that the last speaker suggested that we've been spending money. Absolutely we've been spending money. It's been spent in a targeted area, targeted spending with accountability, planned spending. We didn't, as my friend from Trinity-Spadina said, throw money at things, because sometimes it doesn't stick and it falls down and floats away, doesn't work.
But I am pleased that the members across did listen to some of the things I said. I'm also pleased that they have suggested they will support this bill. And as I said, it's like any bill: when it goes to committee and goes out and is being looked at and considered by the public, they have that right to do that and we want them to do it.
You know, I look at this bill, and many people across the way say that it's all wrong, yet we're doing something about it. We're doing something about it that has not been done in the last 10 or 15 years when these folks were there. Again, words, not action. We are the action people. We will do it and we will continue to do it.
So I would suggest that you can be extremely critical--that's your job--but when you become critical and maybe suggest that this act is not going to assist domestic violence, I believe that maybe you are supporting domestic violence.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Ms Di Cocco: I'll be sharing my time with the member for St Catharines.
I do want to start off by saying that I will be supporting this bill, but I want to make it clear that this bill will be almost insignificant in dealing with the complex issues of family violence.
The fact that cannot be ignored is that most women do not contact or go to the criminal justice system. It just hasn't been the case. And as much as it is the case that domestic violence is a criminal act and that it should be dealt with as other criminal acts, there are tremendous societal issues that must be addressed.
You see, that's the difference between Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals and Harris and the neo-cons. On this side of the House, and I have to say this very clearly, Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals know and understand that the responsibility of government is more than a punitive approach. That's all this bill does, which is a part of the process, but only a part. To me, the real measure of good leadership is to address the complex layers of community support, the social impact and the generational effect.
I want to outline various areas that in my view are completely missing from the Harris government agenda, and those areas of community support for families of domestic violence are what's missing.
The first aspect that's really important is safety--shelters, counselling, support in rebuilding of lives. When they do proceed to the justice system, there is often a need to access legal aid, and that is exactly where the Conservative neo-cons don't get it.
There's another important aspect, and that is educational programs that are of value to break down the most difficult aspect of domestic violence; that is, the changing of attitudes in young people.
These are the areas, in my estimation--and I believe Ontario Liberals understand--that truly count. Again, that's where the Harris government is missing in action. It's this government that has cut funding to women's shelters across this province, the first point whereby women and children need assistance. Women's shelters are probably the most crucial point when families are fleeing from abusive situations.
I would like to point out to the Conservative members one of the realities that exist in my community of Sarnia-Lambton. The Women's Interval Home there has seen an increase in the women and children they house. They are funded for 17 women and children, yet they always have 20 to 25 they are dealing with on any given day at the facility. In other words, they don't get the operating funds to meet the needs. They can only afford one crisis counsellor on staff. It's not adequate to deal with the urgent and intensive need in the crises they are experiencing.
That's what I hear. That's what's out there. That is the reality. This government decides that they have to cut these areas, but they'll bring in a bill that has a punitive aspect in the Criminal Code so that it's going to appear that they are going to be tough on crime. The long-term effects require counselling staff, and that's what is missing.
Second-stage housing is needed. As these families move back into the community, they need second-stage housing. Once they are out of second-stage housing, they need housing that is available with rent geared to income.
The interval home in Sarnia is being stressed out to the max because there's another aspect: they are constantly fundraising to meet the needs. So their staff are constantly being stressed not only to deal with the interval home itself, but also to raise money. In our area, they used to raise money through bingos and Nevada tickets. Well, now Sarnia has slot machines and it's got a casino, so they're competing. They are actually getting direct competition from the province, and it has impacted on their fundraising ability. I have to say that this has cut 40% out of their fundraising initiative. It had been perceived, at least, that the fund from the Trillium Foundation was going to assist this gap, was going to fill this gap, but it isn't there for them.
Another aspect that's been cut is the education and prevention program. This was one of the most valuable programs, because they went into the schools and talked to young people about the unacceptable fact of family violence. This multifaceted, complex issue, with tremendous community ramifications--and I'll say it again--and generational impact has got to be addressed at the community-based level, at the point where families are most vulnerable. This government isn't addressing that. That's where it's missing. The government says that money is not a key, but in these areas it is a key and it is important.
There are two aspects under this legislation that are quite curious, and it's recycling. It's like some of the other legislation that comes down. This new act permits the seizure of weapons. I don't know if the minister knows it, but this provision is already available to judges when setting conditions for bail under the Criminal Code. It's already there. There's another aspect of the act that is being recycled. The new act permits the removal of the alleged abuser from the home, and of course this is already in the act as well. One of the key areas that's missing is the exact place where it's going to make the biggest difference, at the community-based support level. It isn't there, at least not at the level it should be if we're really going to move forward.
The Women's Interval Home in Sarnia really assists in helping many families. In the end, those women and those children are provided another opportunity because, you see, government is about providing opportunity. Providing opportunity doesn't mean you just instill a punitive measure in the Criminal Code and that's going to fix everything. That's not what opportunity is about. Opportunity is about meeting the needs at the stages that are going to directly impact on these women and on these children and giving them the opportunity to rebuild their lives.
This bill is only single-faceted, and this is where the biggest difference is between the Conservatives and the Liberals in Ontario. Because we believe in the community and that the community support has to be there. You have to understand that, but you may not understand what community support is needed because you don't consult. You don't talk to them; you know it all. You have an immediate understanding that, like the advertising, it's all about how are we going to spin this to make us look good? It's not about the reality that exists and how we are going to address it in an effective way; not just efficient, where you're just cutting dollars, but, how are we going to address it in an effective way?
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Further debate?
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): For the second half of the allocated time I would like to speak on this legislation. As our members have indicated on many occasions, we're supporting this as a small step forward in the area of dealing with domestic violence. But the reason that we take time to debate this legislation, which always annoys government members for some reason, that we should dare to take some time to debate legislation--they just want this whipped right through without any consideration because it's so great. They look for our co-operation. I've never heard them give any credit when there was that co-operation, so we have to recognize that. But we will be supporting this particular initiative.
The reason we've spent some additional time is that this is a very important problem and this is only one step or one aspect that we're dealing with at this time. I think we recognize, for instance, that there is a requirement for an investment of funding. We often don't want to hear that. People say, "I don't want to see money spent," and the government likes to talk about that. But if you're serious about undertaking solutions to some of the problems, then it requires an investment of funds. Otherwise, don't talk about solving them.
There's a lot of talk about victims' rights on the part of this government, yet the victims' rights office has really not received the kind of funding that's necessary to carry out its responsibilities appropriately.
I see that the Premier will be sending out--I don't know whether under his name or the Treasurer of the province's name--$200 to most households in the province. The backroom boys have a big smirk on their faces because they think this is very clever. They learned it from Jesse Ventura in Minnesota, Republican Governor Ridge in Pennsylvania, and a few other places; they got the idea. It's going to cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, to mail out these cheques. Of course, a lot of people are always happy to see money they weren't necessarily anticipating showing up. But upon reflection, most people would prefer to see the government, which has already cut taxes considerably, invest this kind of funding in such things as protection of the safety of our water in the province, our health care system, which needs a lot of money, and, in this specific case, dealing with the issue of domestic violence because it is an important issue.
I think of first-stage and second-stage housing in our communities and how they are crowded at the present time and chronically underfunded. Women's Place in St Catharines, and Bethlehem Place--Women's Place being first-stage housing, emergency housing, and Bethlehem Place second-stage housing--are both having to go out to try to fund-raise. You might say it's reasonable that organizations should fund-raise. Let me tell you that they're out there competing with virtually dozens of other organizations in our communities that are also trying to raise money. There's a bit of donors' fatigue taking place out there as people on a daily basis get telephone calls at home or pleas through the mail for funding, or simply are asked to participate in golf tournaments or dinners or other initiatives designed to raise funds.
It shouldn't be that way. If these organizations are providing a service which is genuinely needed, then it seems to me that all of us should participate in the funding of it. If any service out there isn't needed, then obviously it should not receive the funding.
I think first- and second-stage housing is absolutely essential. I know that Women's Place in St Catharines is over capacity most of the time. I know that Bethlehem Place has far more people who are applying for second-stage housing to try to get their lives back the way they would like them to be, and a new start in society, and not an ongoing problem in terms of finances for society. Both of these have been successful endeavours, as have others in the Niagara region, but both are in dire need of funding.
They must just shake their heads in disbelief when they see the government engaging in a public relations exercise of mailing out $200 cheques to people. Yes, it's going to gain some popularity as people, as I say, receive something they didn't perhaps expect they were going to get. But there are so many areas where we as a Legislature have a role to play, and one of them surely is in domestic violence.
Frivolous spending by government is supported by virtually no one I know of. I don't think people want to see that. When they see $185 million spent on government advertising--every time you open up your mailbox, there's Premier Harris's smiling face on a letter from the Premier, and the taxpayer is paying for it. I know the backroom boys and some of the government supporters have big smirks at this. Oh, aren't they clever? They're talking over the news media directly to the people.
I don't know how, in good conscience, a government which pretends to be so concerned about the expenditure of tax dollars can continue to undertake the kind of spending on what any objective observer would see as partisan advertising using taxpayers' dollars. I don't know how they can do it. I'm still waiting for the Ontario Taxpayers Federation, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation--there's another national organization; Jason Kenney used to be involved in it before he was an Alliance candidate. There are some people who think that maybe these organizations are just fronts for the Harris Conservatives or the Alliance--or the Reform Party, whatever you call the people--because they seldom seem to be critical of those kinds of political parties. The silence has been deafening. The cat's got their tongue.
My friend Frank Sheehan, who used to be the member for Lincoln when it was called Lincoln, is a well-known individual in our community. He used to be on the board of education, the Catholic board, at one time. He was the chair or the president of the taxpayers' coalition locally. They used to watch the local government to see that they weren't spending money, they felt, inappropriately. I'm going to phone Frank and ask him if he's seen the latest advertising from this government, because there's money spent on education pamphlets or the Premier's voiceover saying, "Look at all the land we've got now that's so nice for the environment"--they look bad on the environment so they have to compensate for that--or whatever they happen to be advertising at one time or another. Every time you turn the radio or the television set on or open the newspaper or get a pamphlet from the mailbox, it's the Harris government squandering hard-earned taxpayers' dollars on government advertising. But they will not invest in initiatives which I believe would be very helpful in avoiding family violence situations.
Let me get into one other one, as an opportunity, as I mention this. There is some advertising going on now by the ministry of gambling. That's Chris Hodgson's ministry; I call it the ministry of gambling. You'll remember they were trying to force on communities across Ontario the new Mike Harris gambling halls. What were they called? Charity casinos. They wanted 44 of them going seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 364 days of the year. Surely they would close at least on Christmas.
Hon Frank Klees (Minister without Portfolio): Maybe not.
Mr Bradley: "Maybe not," says the member for Oak Ridges. Then 365 days in a year, gleaning as much money as they can from the most desperate people in society. Let me tell you, that's one source of family violence, people who end up going to the local so-called charity casino, blowing the paycheque and then coming home cranky, and the kids and the spouse are the people who feel that abuse.
There are some particularly repulsive commercials going on now. Some people think they're funny. They actually are accurate. I think it's for Woodbine. Don't they have the one-armed bandits there now, the slot machines? They show a guy sneaking away on his wife to go to the gambling hall of some kind, and they show somebody else who ties the bedsheets together and he heads out and goes to gamble. You know something? That's not far from accurate. What kind of message does it send to our society--when we're trying to pry people away from these family circumstances--to have them blow their money on gambling, particularly the addicted people or the most desperate people who feel they have no other way of getting it?
The point I'm making there is that can bring about an abusive situation. If the government was clearly serious about this, they would be trying to avoid circumstances and take preventive action when it comes to abusive situations.
This bill is one step. I want to say I'll support the bill because it's one step, but there are a number of other steps that have to be taken and that's why some of us are speaking at some length this afternoon.
Mr Marchese: I support the comments made by the members from St Catharines and Sarnia-Lambton, because they are very much in line with what New Democrats think and have been saying. I would add a couple of comments to theirs and would borrow from what Frances Lankin said just the other day in her remarks when she says, along with so much else:
"I don't want to say that intervention orders and restraining orders are of no use, but a lot of people have said that they're not worth the paper they're printed on. I think this bill tries to make them a little bit more worth the paper they're printed on. But you still have to look at where they are in the hierarchy of things: as I said, below bail orders, below peace bonds. If bail orders are more serious, if bail orders already have a Criminal Code offence attached to breaching the conditions, and if that hasn't stopped some of the men I referred to yesterday who killed their intimate partners, how is this restraining order going to?"
She's right. This is the question. We support the measure, but it does hardly any of the more important things that need to be done. We have a quote here that says, "Only 10% of abused women call the police and only about 25% of abused women make it through the criminal justice system."
Although this is an effort to deal with this issue that we support, we're saying you've got to spend a few more dollars. If you have $5 billion of my money and the taxpayers' money to give away to the corporate sector, which no one asked you to give away, then you've got to find a couple of million to do more by way of prevention, by way of shelter, by way of housing, by way of helping those in the front lines, those 95 community organizations, do the work they need to do. They need support and money, and you need to listen to them.
Hon Mr Klees: I'm pleased to rise to comment on the remarks made by the member from St Catharines. As always, he makes his points succinctly and then drifts a bit from the subject at hand. I'd like to remind everyone in the House that we are speaking to Bill 117, which is An Act to better protect victims of domestic violence.
Let me say as well that I don't disagree with the member from St Catharines that this is not the answer in total, by any stretch of the imagination, to the issue of domestic violence in this province. There are some underlying concerns that we have to address, as a government and as a Legislature, but I think it is an important step, as the member indicated.
I think every member in this House has the experience of having constituents come to see us who are the victims of domestic violence, and in those circumstances our hearts go out to them. I think all of us in this House have felt the frustration that the system is not dealing with it and providing sufficient protection, whether it be the mother or the children who are subjected to those circumstances.
I look forward to this bill going to committee. Clearly there will be recommendations that come forward, from members opposite as well as from the public who will participate in that hearing process, that will help us to make this a better bill. It's not an answer totally, we understand, but it's certainly a very important step to addressing this issue of domestic violence in our province.
Mr Dave Levac (Brant): I want to thank the member from Oak Ridges for his very thoughtful comments and the invitation to seeing the bill go to committee. I think that's the right thing to say and the right thing to do. As the member for London-Fanshawe indicated, he too looks forward to seeing and hearing some of the recommendations that may result.
The reason the member from St Catharines went into what some people would like to characterize as a diversion is to try to make sure that the government of the day understands that the people of Ontario need to collectively look at the type of legislation we put before us and how it affects the people outside of the legislation. He was giving examples of how domestic violence is perpetrated, where it's coming from, the things we do in our province that require this type of legislation to be enacted in the first place.
I think we have to be very careful that we don't narrow our scope to simply saying, "If we're not talking about this bill, we're on the wrong track." I would hope that all members of this House recognize that we must look at the overall impact, the things that cause us to make this type of legislation.
Again, we will say that the legislation will be supported. We will say that the legislation is a good first small step toward the things we want to have discussed. You will be seeing legislation in the very near future that starts to incorporate the things that are being talked about outside of the legislation being presented today. So the member for St Catharines was bang on by going outside of the bill, as all of us are doing. I hope the members are taking notes to say that some of the things that are being said on this side need to be discussed at all levels in order to help the people of Ontario wipe the scourge away from us that we so desperately need to do.
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): I rise to respond to the member for Sarnia-Lambton and the member for St Catharines. I appreciate that both opposition parties have suggested support for the bill. Everyone in the room realizes that this is a step along the way to being able to deal with domestic violence. No one ever believed in the beginning that this was a solution in and of itself, and I appreciate that. In the spirit of all three parties supporting the bill, I want to say a couple of things to the members opposite about some misunderstandings on the impact of the bill that their comments have shown they have.
First of all, they have continuously equated the bill with the criminal system. In fact, this is not a criminal order; it's a civil order and fills an important gap for women who are not yet in the criminal system. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, two Liberal members have spoken about how this bill recycles things that a judge can already order, such as weapons seizure or removal from the home. The fact is that these powers are only available on a Criminal Code charge, and this bill is extending these powers outside the Criminal Code and expanding the protection of victims in a significant manner. I appreciate their support. I think we have to have some clarity around some of these issues of what the bill is doing, because even though they are supporting it, it goes even further than they believe it does.
Again, I appreciate the support being offered from the members opposite. They know that since 1995 we've increased spending to prevent violence against women by about $37 million. It's a substantial increase. I think we're in the neighbourhood of $135 million right now. So we are undertaking some of the other areas they've asked us to look at.
The Speaker: Response?
Mr Bradley: The member for Sarnia-Lambton and I are very thankful to members for their comments on the remarks we made, and we hope the government was listening as to other areas in which they might become involved in solving the problem.
I had a chance this summer--I do this on an ongoing basis but specifically when the House is not in session--to meet with people who are involved, in this case in first-stage housing but also in second-stage housing. They talked, from a frontline basis, about some of the problems they confront. There are problems with such things as intimidation of victims of violence within the court system. They talked about bail conditions out there for people, the access the abuser might have to the abused in some way or another, how long it takes a case to go through the system, the lack of what they believe to be adequate legal-aid funding, the fact that justices of the peace should have mandatory continuous training regarding domestic violence with an emphasis on bail hearing issues and peace bonds, in addition to proper training regarding the jurisdictions of other courts so victims are not incorrectly referred to other areas of the justice system. There are a lot of recommendations they would have in this regard and in how the courts work. Child support orders and whether they are actually followed through with--a point of privilege regarding that was raised by the member for Windsor-St Clair today.
There are a number of issues out there to deal with. I want to see this bill passed--I'm sure all members of the House do--and I want to see further legislation forthcoming. But I also want to see the necessary funding invested in the system to ensure that what is contained in legislation and regulation will be there in reality as well.
The Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): The halls are getting kind of quiet out there this afternoon. I guess a lot of people are starting to head off for Thanksgiving weekend. I thank you for the opportunity to rise this afternoon to take part in the second reading debate on Bill 117, the Domestic Violence Protection Act. I'd like to once again thank the honourable Jim Flaherty for his leadership in bringing forth this important legislation. We promised this legislation in our platform and again in the throne speech, and we're delivering on that promise.
I'd like to start off by thanking my caucus colleague, the member for Peterborough, for his insightful remarks. I'd like to thank all those people who spoke today, all the members who have contributed to the important debate on this bill.
The legislation is in response to one of the most disturbing types of crime there is in our communities: domestic violence. Not only is domestic violence a crime against the person who is abused; it deeply affects the children who witness violence in their family. This legislation is another important step in our goal to get violence completely out of the family environment.
The Domestic Violence Protection Act is designed to make restraining orders clear and more enforceable according to provisions of the Criminal Code which would mean stronger terms and conditions in the release of alleged abusers. The act would clearly define what domestic violence is, including assault that consists of the intentional use of force that causes fear for safety, and does not include acting in self defence. It also includes an intentional or reckless act or omission that causes bodily harm or damage to property.
As well, the act would make restraining orders available to a broader range of relationships, including people who are living together in a non-common-law arrangement, same-sex partners or former partners, and relatives who are living together, such as elderly parents and their children. The act would also protect people who are dating. All of these areas are not currently covered by the existing legislation.
The act would allow victims to get restraining orders quickly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The act also makes restraining orders easier to enforce by clearly listing specific prohibited activities for the alleged abuser.
There are also provisions that allow law enforcement officials more power to seize weapons. It also permits the removal of the alleged abuser from the home.
The Attorney General's office will make the necessary administrative changes that will strengthen this act if it is passed by this House, such as standardizing forms that would clearly set out specific conditions for the alleged abuser, making the order available to police and serving it to the alleged abuser more quickly, expanding counselling for alleged abusers to help prevent further violence, and continuing education and training for police, court staff, crowns and the bar on domestic violence issues and restraining order enforcement.
If passed, abusers will face stronger terms for detention and release, and victims of domestic violence will be better protected with this legislation.
During the last five years, our government has taken a leadership role in helping to protect all victims, including victims of domestic violence. We've addressed the needs within the justice system by creating an expanded court for domestic violence cases. Right now, it is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in Canada.
To help children deal with the sometimes extremely difficult justice system, we've expanded child-friendly courts which are specifically designed with the needs of child victims and witnesses in mind. These courts are used primarily in cases involving child abuse and domestic abuse in which a child is a witness. Providing a less threatening environment reduces a child's anxiety and enhances their ability to offer the court a full and candid account of their experiences.
In the area of legal aid, protection from domestic violence is the highest priority for family law certificates from legal aid. The legal aid system provides 90 advice lawyers who visit shelter and community agencies to provide free advice to our public. Two hours of emergency legal advice is available to eligible victims of domestic violence by direct referral to a lawyer of the victim's choice. This program is administered through shelters and community organizations. In 1998-99, almost 3,000 women received assistance through our emergency legal aid.
We've also created the specialized services for abused women in partnership with the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. This pilot project assists women who want to leave abusive relationships by providing direct legal services, advocacy and information about family law, landlord-and-tenant and immigration issues.
We've also expanded programs such as the victim/witness assistance program, which guides victims through the justice system and provides safety planning and community referrals.
As well, we've expanded the victim crisis assistance and referral program, which is a community response program providing immediate help to victims of crime or disaster 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is a team of accredited, highly trained volunteers providing short-term, on-site crisis assistance to victims, and it also refers them to community services for longer-term support. Managed by community-based boards, there are 26 of these sites across the province that work in partnership with local police services.
Under our government, we have expanded the number of supervised access sites which will provide safe distance between non-custodial parents and their children. They are part of our ongoing commitment to ensuring the well-being of Ontario's children and families. The number of court districts served by these access programs has doubled from 14 to 36 under the leadership and guidance of the government.
We have launched the SupportLink program, which will be expanded by as much as 10-fold. Currently, two successful SupportLink pilots are providing wireless phones, programmed to access 911, to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking. Safety planning assistance is also an essential component of this service. I would like to thank Ericsson and Rogers Cantel for their continued support of this program.
But we understand that more needs to be done in halting the number of domestic violence incidents in our communities. In the 2000 budget, the government invested in safe communities and supports for victims of crime, including providing $10 million annually for programs to help women and children who have experienced domestic violence, as well as investing $1 million to permanently establish the Office for Victims of Crime, which legislation has been introduced just a week ago.
The government has committed $50 million for rent supplements to help house up to 10,000 families and individuals, with 445 of these units allocated to victims of domestic violence. Victims will receive priority consideration for the remaining units.
The budget also provides for $2 million annually to establish a specialized OPP team to fight crimes that target senior citizens and $5 million annually for a prevention and intervention program to help teachers identify children at risk of neglect or physical or emotional harm.
We are also making the community policing partnership program permanent and increasing its funding to $35 million per year; and hiring 165 new probation and parole officers as part of a new $18-million, strict-discipline model for community corrections.
In Simcoe North, I had the pleasure to announce Huronia Transition Homes in Midland, an amazing organization that helps women and children break free of domestic violence. This organization will receive $62,500 to hire transitional support workers. These workers help abused women to develop transition plans and become familiar with resources in their own communities. For example, a woman could be assisted with accessing local community counselling and educational programs. This is part of the Ministry of Community and Social Services injection of $10 million in annualized funding to enhance supports for abused women and their children.
As well, in Orillia, the Green Haven Shelter for Women recently received additional funding of $40,000 in operating funding for the same type of help.
Work is now underway to establish these transitional support programs for abused women and their children as well as early intervention programs for child witnesses of domestic violence. I have been informed that the Ministry of Community and Social Services is in the process of choosing service providers, such as women's shelters and counselling agencies.
Our government has met with provincial and national women's organizations, child welfare groups, front-line violence-against-women service providers and other experts in the community. Our government has listened, and we are responding to their calls for additional programs to help women and their children establish a life free of domestic violence.
There are over 40 projects and initiatives in the areas of safety, justice and prevention to help meet the needs of abused and assaulted women in Ontario. In fact, this government is spending more to prevent domestic violence than it ever has in the past.
We now spend almost $135 million, an increase of over $37 million since 1995. A further $5 million will be added next year, bringing the total to approximately $140 million. I am proud of the actions our government has taken to make our justice system more responsive to the needs of victims of domestic violence. They are important components that support victims and hold abusers accountable for their actions.
While we are doing all that we can to help victims and to curb the number of domestic violence incidents, the provincial government cannot do it alone. There need to be some changes and support from the federal government. More changes are needed to the Criminal Code. Recently, the Attorney General called on Ottawa to change the Criminal Code. Ontario has asked the federal government to add a specific offence in the Criminal Code for violating a restraining order. Although the Criminal Code would be used to enforce breaches, a separate offence would allow for more timely prosecution of breaches and would send a clear message that domestic violence is a serious crime.
Secondly, we'd like the federal government to toughen up bail conditions by reversing the onus of proof in bail proceedings in domestic violence cases so that accused individuals would have to show that their release would not endanger the victim.
There is much more to be done in this area of curbing the amount of domestic violence. This bill is one more step we are taking to protect victims and hold offenders accountable. We made that promise in the Blueprint and again in the throne speech. We are keeping those promises. I thank you for this opportunity today.
The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr Caplan: I'd like to congratulate the member for Simcoe North for his comments. I am pleased that he will be supporting the legislation. I believe that all members are going to be supporting this legislation.
I want to point out to the member--and I know he did touch on this in his comments--that this really should be the final step. This should be the last piece of the puzzle when it comes to fighting the battle against domestic violence. I think the member made some factually incorrect statements, saying that the current government is spending more and supporting more programs for domestic violence than ever before. I don't believe that is correct, and perhaps the member will want to clarify his comments. I know, for example, Speaker, and I know you would be aware, or all members of this assembly should be aware, that previous to 1996 the provincial government used to support something called second-stage housing, which was to enable women and children to get out of shelters.
The problem is that you can have shelters and a place for emergency transition help, but in order to get out, in order to get a stable community life, in order to get back and well integrated and to have some well-being, you need that transition housing, you need the ability to do that. Yet the provincial government eliminated all funding for that type of housing. It was a lamentable decision and something I know this member touched on in his earlier comments and perhaps will lobby his government, lobby the Minister of Community and Social Services, to restore the funding for that very much needed program.
On another matter, back in 1998 there was the May-Iles inquest; 213 recommendations from the coroner's inquest about domestic violence, and virtually all of them have been ignored, particularly the community-based ones. I would really like to hear the member comment on how the government is listening when they don't even listen to the recommendations of a coroner's jury.
Mr Marchese: The member for Simcoe North speaks almost smugly about the millions of dollars they're spending here and there. He makes it appear like they've plugged all the holes where they need to.
I expect the government, in a surplus situation, where there are billions of dollars coming in, to spend more efficiently, effectively and meaningfully in areas of importance to the Ontario public. They're not doing that. They're wasting my money, the taxpayers' money. One billion dollars of my taxpayers' money--ours--is going to you, taxpayer, to give you $200 back so you can feel good. One whole billion dollars, in the aggregate, is wasted to make you feel good. And then they tell you, "It's not my money; it's your money. We want to give it back to you. However you spend it, even if you want to give it back, that's not of concern to me, because it's your money. You can send it back if you want or do whatever you want with the money."
In the aggregate, it's $1 billion wasted, when there are so many things in our educational system that need to be fixed because you broke it; when there are so many things in our health care system that need to be fixed because you broke it; and so many things in areas of social need, like housing, that you disconnected from completely that need to be fixed, and you broke that too. You've got the money now, and they expect you in a good economy to do all those meaningful things so that our society becomes human once again.
I've got to tell you, in the next recession, when it goes like this--and it will again--and there is no money because you've given $5 billion of my money to your corporate buddies, there won't be any money left to fix the social problems that you have caused. It is a disgrace to have you in government.
Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre): With due respect to the member for Trinity-Spadina, I think the only thing that's broken was his head when he fell off his bicycle, because the reality is that the $5 million my colleague from Simcoe North spoke about, in terms of the context of the program enabled by this bill, was to help abused women break free of domestic violence, and it's not putting money into corporate hands. Here's a specific example, I say to the honourable member for Trinity-Spadina. Yesterday it was announced that the Salvation Army family resource centre in Brampton will receive $133,439 to hire transitional support workers.
The member says to us as members of the government, "We came here to make things efficient. We came here to make things effective." Well, do you know what? That money goes towards the volunteers and the workers who are specifically designed to help the men, but most particularly the women who need the assistance--not bricks and mortar, not buildings, but people who are there to help people. That's what this bill is all about. I fully support my colleague from Simcoe North.
And fix your bicycle, member from Trinity-Spadina.
Mr Maves: The member opposite outlines, actually, one of the key differences between the government of the day and his party. He thinks all the taxpayers' dollars are his and that he should keep them and he should spend them as he sees fit. We think that taxpayers' dollars are theirs and the government should take what they need to spend on the services that the society as a whole agrees they should have.
Because we know so much better than his party how to govern in order to make an economy work--he's absolutely right that the dollars are now rolling in. Because the dollars are now rolling in we are able to spend billions of dollars more on health care, for instance. We replace the money the federal government takes out with our own dollars, plus we add dollars on top of that. It's because we brought in things like tax cuts throughout the economy that the economy has boomed--not solely for that reason, but that is a large piece of the pie here. It's also because the economy's booming, money is rolling in; that's why we're able to spend an additional $37 million in this sector of domestic violence.
I want to talk about the member, who gave a very good speech, a very reasonable speech. He has paid attention closely to the bill. I'm not going to be able to find his riding--it's Simcoe North. He did give a good speech. He talked about some key things: the availability of orders 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That hasn't been the case up to now. I think that's very important.
He talked about the fact that there will be stronger terms for detention and release, and victims of domestic violence will be better protected with this legislation. That's also very important. The member opposite has done a very good job outlining the key components of this bill and how it will help the situation in Ontario.
The Acting Speaker: Response?
Mr Dunlop: Public safety and security has been a priority of our government. We expect that everyone in Ontario should feel safe in their neighbourhoods, their places of work and on the streets and highways, but above all, no one in our province should ever not feel safe in their own home. Any type of domestic violence of any kind is completely unacceptable.
As I mentioned the other day during the debate when I made a comment, I witnessed in my municipal career how the attention to domestic violence evolved. I remember this lady--and I'll mention it again--Mrs Anne Monkman; she was the chair of the county of Simcoe social services committee. She actually pleaded with the members of Simcoe county council--this is back in 1993--to provide assistance to a women's shelter in Alliston, Ontario. I can remember some of the comments that day. I hadn't heard a lot about domestic violence, but I remember a lot of the county councillors really not wanting to provide any funding whatsoever for these programs because they thought, "These things are going to start springing up all over the place, all across our county." And of course they did, and they've served a great use for a lot of years. An awful lot of people have had to go to those homes, but they have helped a lot of families.
But we're a long way from being finished with domestic violence. I understand this is a major step. I listened to the comments from our members across the way. I know it is an important step as far as we're concerned. As we continue on over the remainder of this term of government, and as we debate this further and go through committee, we are planning on making it--as I said earlier, one step now but eventually we will completely eliminate domestic violence in the province of Ontario.
The Speaker: Further debate?
Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Brant.
I'm happy to participate in the debate today. I do believe that domestic violence is a very serious problem in the province of Ontario. That there is legislation before us which will attempt to address that I think does give us in this House an opportunity to look at the legislation and critique it from the perspective of how effective its implementation will be, how many women and children and men will be spared from abusive situations because of this legislation, how many lives indeed may be saved because of this legislation. So it has been from that perspective that I've reviewed this legislation and would offer some comment to the members of the assembly this afternoon.
I have listened very carefully to the members of the government who have made presentations on behalf of the bill and I have to say that I'm somewhat disturbed and puzzled by some of the presentations that have been made to the House this afternoon. The member for Peterborough suggested there should be no debate on this bill; it should be 15 seconds and we should leave this room and just support it. I want to say first off that I do intend to support this legislation because I believe that it does include components which will assist individuals who have been abused. But I want to say very clearly today as a member of the Liberal Party of Ontario--and I know that my leader, Dalton McGuinty, shares my view--that this is a very, very small step in addressing a very serious issue. So to the member for Peterborough, who suggested we should just talk about this for 15 seconds, I beg to differ, because I believe there needs to be a lot more done in order to prevent domestic violence.
I believe this bill misses some opportunities that the government has in a very concrete way to provide tools for individuals who find themselves in abusive situations to remove themselves from those situations. I think debate on this bill is very important. I would think the government would want to understand and to hear from members in this House who hear from their constituents the problems that exist in Ontario when people are abused. That's why I'm standing in the House to speak to those issues today. I support it because I believe it is a small step in the right direction, but I'm also here to offer some considerations that I believe the government needs to pay attention to if it is really to pass meaningful laws that will truly assist people in abusive situations.
The first issue I think we need to address is the fact that this government, Mike Harris's government, has cut funding to rape crisis centres. This government, Mike Harris's government, has cut funding to women's shelters. We've heard over the course of the discussion this afternoon about the number of dollars that this government is putting toward women's shelters. But very clearly what I'm hearing in my constituency, from my colleagues, from representative groups, people who work with women who have been abused, who understand the seriousness of the problem and are in contact with people who work on the frontline, indicates to us that government support for women's shelters is not sufficient to meet the need.
There are more women using shelters today than ever before, and the resources that flow to those shelters have not increased at the same rate as the visitors. This government needs to address that. They need to address the fact that many of the women who go to shelters are poor and they arrive in that state. They don't have the very basics of life.
Another very serious issue is the fact that this government has cut second-stage housing, the support of second-stage housing, the ability of women to make new homes with their children. Therefore, because this option has been removed, women are forced to stay in abusive homes. They have no other option. They cannot afford to take their children out of that abusive environment.
That is a very serious issue for me as the children's critic. We know in society that children who live in abusive environments very likely grow up to be abusive themselves. I would suggest that by removing second-stage housing, this government has not recognized this and has removed an opportunity to change the way children think and understand life as they know it. There is no place for mom to go, if mom is the one being abused. She must stay in her home and the children must witness the abuse. There is no option for mom to leave.
These are critical services that this government has chosen to either reduce or, at the very least, not support the need that there is in the province. Yet this government this week is mailing out $200 cheques. The Minister of Finance in the budget this year said, "We have more resources than we planned, we have more resources than we need to provide the services to the people of Ontario, so we are going to give people a $200 cash dividend." I suggest to the members of the government that you are not providing all of the services and supports to the people of Ontario that you need to. I would suggest that some of the $1 billion that's going to be mailed out this week in tax dividend cheques should be directed toward some concrete measures that will assist people who find themselves in abusive relationships.
On average, 40 women a year are murdered at the hands of their partners. These are women who obviously remained in a relationship because they felt they had no other choice. I was very moved the other day when I heard the member from Beaches-East York, who in a very touching way read the names of the women who have been murdered in this province. She put a face to a name that we read in the paper. I was in my office and I had to drop what I was doing and listen to the member from Beaches-East York. I would suggest that's what the members on the other side of the House need to understand.
This afternoon we've heard some wonderful claims about efficiency: "We inherited a civil service and a government operation that was run very inefficiently and we've come in here and now we're running things efficiently." But I say to the members on the other side of the House, as efficient as you may think you are, women are dying because they are not able to access the kinds of services they need; not just women but women and children are dying. Think about that when you talk about tax dividends and returning the hard-earned tax dollars to the people of Ontario. Think about the women and children who need supports in their communities and don't have them because your priority has been to provide a dividend, which sounds great in the media and gets you front-page coverage for a few days. But I have to say it really is very sad when a few days later we see the kind of coverage we have about women who have been in difficulty and been murdered.
The Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): I'd like to compliment my colleague from Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington for an excellent speech, as have been most of the speeches on this bill this afternoon. As she indicated, we will be supporting this bill because it's highly needed. But it is but a small step. What really needs to be done is set out in the declaration of commitment that the two party leaders, the third party leader and my own leader, Dalton McGuinty, have signed and that the government member refused to sign on behalf of the government of Ontario.
Let's review very quickly what that declaration of commitment is, to really put some meat on the kind of action being contemplated in this bill and to really deal with the issue of domestic violence. The declaration of commitment stated that a $50-million fund be established to ensure adequate community-based services and supports to women and children--that's what is needed--and that a $50-million allocation be made to ensure that legal reforms and services are there for the individuals who need these services. For some strange reason, the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General refused to sign that.
We all know that the number of legal-aid certificates that are now issued with respect to family matters, domestic violence etc is greatly down from five or six years ago, which basically means that a lot of people who are involved in family court activities are simply no longer getting the adequate kind of representation they were able to obtain previous to that.
We need more than just a bill. We need the resources to make sure the kind of activity the bill is talking about can be dealt with in an effective and efficient way in Ontario.
The Speaker: Further questions and comments? If not, response?
Mrs Dombrowsky: I thank my colleague from Kingston and the Islands for his generous comments. I am very happy to be able to stand again and indicate that I believe that while the bill will be supported, I hope that when it continues its journey to becoming a law, the members of the government will allow and consider the input and implement the ideas that will be offered in terms of amending this to make it a really effective tool in addressing a most serious issue, that of domestic violence.
I think it's very important that we understand why we are here. We believe the bill is a small step in the right direction, but we certainly believe there are many additional steps that need to be taken, that the government needs to recognize and show some leadership on behalf of those who are not able or in a position to be advocates for themselves. I think that is what has touched me most when I have reviewed some of the individual cases that have very sadly brought this issue to our Legislative Assembly for consideration.
I think we have a serious responsibility to very critically consider what we're doing here. Is it all it should be? Is it enough? I think not. So my challenge to the members of the government is to commit to doing all they can to make it the most effective bill against family violence that it possibly can be.
The Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Levac: I am thankful to the House and I am thankful to the citizens of the riding of Brant for allowing me to make comment on Bill 117, the Domestic Violence Protection Act.
I'd like to draw to the attention of the House the background that I have in education of over 21 years. As a teacher and as a principal, I had to witness and be part of the discussions and the debates that are directly affected by this particular bill.
I will start initially by saying to you and to this House that Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Party have indicated their willingness to support this bill. Anything that we can do to stop the scourge, we will definitely support.
In my background as a principal and an educator, I disturb myself by bringing my memories of some of the children and some of the parents I've dealt with over the years, but it is nowhere close to the disturbance and the torture that women and children have had to suffer at the hands of men. I was very honoured and pleased yesterday to ask for and receive yesterday unanimous consent that we designate this month as removing of all child abuse in our province. I was very proud to be a member of the Legislature yesterday when everyone recognized and understood that there was a need, unfortunately, to bring attention to that problem.
Some 19% of adult women are poor; 75% of all domestic violence against women is not reported to the police. Of the 25% of the cases that are reported, this bill will not affect every single one. So I repeat: As much as I support the bill, it is a small step.
On the other side, I must say that two members of the Mike Harris government have made comments that impugned this House with regard to our intentions as an opposition--one to the Liberal side, one to the NDP side and one holistically. What we heard was a member saying, "If anyone does not support this bill, I am sad to say that you must be for violence against women."
Speaker, I was about two seconds from standing in my place and saying that should not be accepted. However, I resisted because the members on the other side, when they heard that from their own member, cringed. To you, I say thank you for at least recognizing that that kind of statement cannot be tolerated in this House. That was not an acceptable statement from a member. To imply that anyone in this House or, for that matter, anyone in this province, would accept violence against women, and to suggest that we did not accept that bill--you will see in Hansard that he implied that we were for violence.
For the other member, to suggest that somebody would get hurt falling off a bike and hurt his head--as much as that may be a joke, I personally am involved in a situation where an adult can no longer operate in this province because of getting in an accident and falling off a bike. There are things that should never be said in this House, and we should not accept them from any member.
Those were two members. We would not say those things. Let's make a contrast between the types of things that get said, and I hope the people of Ontario take note of those things. We do not make those differences lightly. I am proud to say that there isn't a member on this side that would make either one of those comments.
Women are asking for expanded helpline service so that women throughout the province--not just in any city but across the province--can access these services. Currently, of the 25,000 calls answered by the helpline, it is estimated that another 50,000 to 75,000 calls are missed. This government has cut funding to women's shelters across the province. They're going to contrast that with words that try to suggest other.
When this bill was introduced I took the time to contact the stakeholders in my riding. Let me provide you with some contrast to what we've been hearing about defending their record against domestic violence.
We do not deal with the 75% of women who do not report abuse. The government does not recognize or deal with the devastating effect of emotional, psychological, sexual and financial abuse. Because 19% of adult women are poor, they are already susceptible to abuse, and you don't need a degree to figure out why. If you are poor and have no money, you have to stay in an abusive setting. We need to kick the roots out of those problems.
We did not deal in this bill with the fact that shelters across the entire province are operating over capacity. The example I want to cite for the riding of Brant is the Nova Vita Women's Services' occupancy rates for the fiscal year 2000-01: in April, capacity 106%; May, capacity 112%; June, 116%; July, 120%; August, 138%; September, 123%. In the entire year, there was an overall average occupancy rate of 119%. We are now having Nova Vita pressed to the limit. And guess what? There's more. Since this current government was elected in 1995, Nova Vita has lost $464,000 in funding, the majority of which went straight to the shelter.
What's important to designate is that this was a progressive and visionary group. They had a men's program to stop the abuse and its funding was eradicated altogether; $30,000 for a men's program to teach the men to deal with their anger and to teach the men to remove that stigma for their children, because they witness that crime.
During all of that time from that cut, from 1995 to now, we now see an average occupancy rate of 119%.
It doesn't deal one iota with the critical lack of long-term, affordable housing for women and children. Brantford and Brant county do not have any second-stage housing. We know that this is an effective program to assist women and children in crisis because they get out of the shelter, they move on with their lives and they don't go back to an abusive setting.
The long waiting list for counselling programs at Nova Vita Women's Services to help victims of violence was not addressed in this bill. Currently a woman waiting to enter a counselling program vital to healing and to correct the damage caused by domestic violence must wait over five months.
I'm not going to throw out any more statistics. I'm going to appeal to the government to move immediately when this bill is passed to address some of the concerns I've raised today and some of the concerns that have been raised by the members for Sarnia-Lambton, Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, St Catharines, Don Valley East, Scarborough-Agincourt and Trinity-Spadina. Please indicate clearly in this House that your intentions are to move rapidly, effectively, quickly and with the money to help us with the programs that are necessary.
I will speak personally for my riding that represents 119% overcapacity. These women and children should not, must not and cannot be left behind. Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Party have said time and time again, "We will not leave our citizens behind." No one in the province of Ontario should be left behind. Don't use statistics of how much money you've spent when you know one person has been left behind. It is not acceptable in this day and age and it is not acceptable, no matter what is said on that side, to justify any one person being hurt with domestic violence.
The Speaker: Questions and comments?
Mr Caplan: I'd like to congratulate the member from Brant, and the member for Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington for her comments earlier. I think both members have shown tremendous passion for wanting to do something, to take action to stem the tide of domestic violence. I know they reflect the thoughts and feelings of all members of our caucus and of our leader, Dalton McGuinty; I would say of all members of the House.
While in debate you have many passions aroused, and I can understand the strong feelings. I would say particularly to the members on the governing side that we're prepared as an opposition, but also as leaders in our own right in the communities from across Ontario, to work with anybody who is serious and wants to address this problem, whether it be changes in legislation, whether it be providing supports to the community.
I can tell you that in Don Valley East, as in many communities that I've travelled to, the issues surrounding housing support are some of the keys that are identified not only by advocates but by clients, by families fleeing from abuse, by police, by just about every commentator, stakeholder and advocate; these are the real keys toward addressing the questions of domestic violence, to having a stable and positive quality of life. We will continue to speak about these matters. We will continue to advocate for housing, not just for shelter but for stable, decent, safe, affordable housing so that women and children have a place to go once they've fled an abusive situation.
I want to congratulate both members, as I want to congratulate all members, for their contribution. I certainly look forward to supporting this and for it to go to committee.
Hon Mr Klees: As the debate on this bill winds up, on behalf of the government I just want to thank all members for their participation in this debate. I want to thank the member for Brant for expressing his views, although I must say, in defence of my colleagues, to whom the member referred and railed upon, that I, on their behalf, take exception to the implication that any member on this side of the House would suggest that any party here would condone domestic violence. There may have been an unfortunate choice of words--and the member will know that on occasion that happens in this place--but I don't think it's appropriate that anyone in the province would be left with the impression that any member of this government would accuse any other member in this House of holding those views. I suggest to you--and I know, Speaker, that you will agree--that that is simply not the case.
We do have a long way to go in terms of addressing this issue. It's a serious one. We all know it is. We look forward to working together on this bill, to make it better than it is today through the committee process.
I want to commend the Attorney General for bringing this bill before the House. He has done a good deal of work on this, and I know that he as well looks forward to having the people of this province, the various stakeholders, various people with experience--unfortunate experience--come to the table as we hold our deliberations, as we hold our committee hearings, to help us refine this bill in the public interest.
The Speaker: Response?
Mr Levac: I'm going to take the words of the member for Oak Ridges for exactly what they were: maybe it was a faux pas. But I know that if he checks Hansard, the words were direct, and I suggest to him that that is not acceptable here. Not the fact? Read Hansard.
I'm going to leave that and say again that I really appreciate the member's comments that in a bipartisan way we will be able to enact legislation that prevents anyone in the province from being left behind in terms of help and assistance to victims of violence, and in particular women and children, and also that my challenge be taken up that we move toward more legislation and more assistance, taking the ideas that have been circulated on this side of the House and turning them into legislation immediately, so that the people of Ontario can hold their heads up high and proud, the envy of the world, that we will not accept nor tolerate domestic violence in our province.
That will take a concerted effort by all members. It will take a concerted effort by the government to accept concepts and ideas that are being offered in an honest way by the opposition. It will take will take the men in this province to say no to violence against women. It will not be effective if we do not enact legislation in this province, mostly by men, to say no to domestic violence against the women and children of Ontario.
The Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Martiniuk has moved second reading of Bill 117, An Act to better protect victims of domestic violence. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Shall the bill be ordered for a third reading?
Hon Mr Klees: I ask that the bill be referred to the justice and social policy committee.
The Speaker: The bill is accordingly referred to the standing committee on justice and social policy.
Just before we adjourn for the week, it has been brought to my attention that last week, in introducing the pages, I mentioned that Mikhail Ferrara was from the riding of Hamilton West. I would like to correct that. Mr Ferrara actually lives in the riding of Hamilton Mountain. My apologies on that to Mikhail.
This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock on Tuesday.
The House adjourned at 1743.
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