1st session, 37th Parliament | 1re session, 37e législature
Tue 5 Dec 2000 / Mar 3 dec 2000
5 DÉCEMBRE 2000 ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
The House met at 1330.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
ORGANIZED CRIME LEGISLATION
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): Yet another law-and-order announcement from this government. The Attorney General stands up like Elliot Ness and he's going to take on organized crime this time, just like attorneys general have been prepared to take on deadbeat dads. Maybe this Attorney General better start finishing some of the projects he started, consistently following up before he embarks on new enterprises.
The Family Responsibility Office remains one of the sources of the most frequent complaints to our constituency offices across this province. Four years later and this Attorney General is still screwing up and victimizing women, their kids and those fathers legitimately paying, as well as ignoring those deadbeat dads.
It would have been far more refreshing to have heard this minister stand up today and talk about getting real about the Victims' Bill of Rights and fulfilling that promise to create a Victims' Bill of Rights that indeed entails providing some rights for victims rather than the toothless one this government persists in maintaining. It would have been awfully pleasant, and we would have been far more enthusiastic, had this Attorney General stood up today and told us about the status of his sex offender registry. Big announcement, legislative effort, we've seen zip, zero, nada, from this Attorney General and this government.
This afternoon this Attorney General and his government are going to introduce a time allocation motion on Bill 117, their so-called domestic violence bill, the bill that will permit abusive spouses, abusive husbands, wife beaters to maintain their arsenal of weapons. God forbid this government would interfere with the right to bear arms by taking handguns and other firearms away from men who consistently beat their wives.
It's about time that this Attorney General, rather than the photo ops, rather than the talking tough with his new-found obsession with organized crime, contrasted with his apparent disinterest in the disorganized crime that has permeated his backbenches, started delivering some real substance rather than mere words. This Attorney General is big when it comes to the rhetoric, but he doesn't deliver when it comes to substance. Another announcement, another promise made, another promise inevitably broken. This Attorney General's got a whole lot that he better fix up before he embarks on his Elliot Ness escapade....
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LEGISLATION
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): My question is for the Attorney General. On November 9, Ontario Liberals introduced an amendment to your domestic violence protection bill. It was to get rid of the Charlton Heston clause, which lets wife beaters keep their guns. Instead, it would give judges tools so that they could seize weapons before they're used against domestic violence victims. That amendment was shot down and now further debate in committee and further debate in this House on this bill has been shot down by a closure motion. With respect to the former, it was because of the phony argument made by the government that the Criminal Code provision already covered it, when you know, sir, section 111 applies, whereby a police officer appears before a provincial court judge, unlike your bill, whereby a victim appears before a JP or a Superior Court judge.
When are you going to get out of your partisan bunker and stop fighting on behalf of the gun lobby and join this non-partisan effort to try and fight for protection of domestic violence victims?
Hon Jim Flaherty (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I have trouble following my honourable friend, and I respond as follows: what he's saying is we need to have strong domestic violence legislation in this province. I think most members of this House would agree that's true. Certainly, the Joint Committee on Domestic Violence which examined this issue made recommendations that are reflected in the bill that's before this House. The objection taken by my friend opposite was with respect to weapons, which are covered by the Criminal Code of Canada in sections 111 and 117, which he knows.
Mr Bryant: I don't understand why this minister hunkers down in his partisan bunker, sniping down constructive ideas on behalf of the gun lobby. First, the Liberals brought forward a bill that would crack down on phony guns and this minister shot it down. Dalton McGuinty brought forward a proposal to assist Ontario victims of crime and this minister shot it down. Now we've got an amendment that would make the bill more effective. We want to make this bill better, Minister, and now you're shooting it down. The great tragedy is, it is victims who are caught in the crossfire. Would you come out of your partisan bunker? Would you join all three parties and would you say that we're going to fight for victims and we're not going to fight for the gun lobby? Will you do that?
Hon Mr Flaherty: Our concern, of course, is with victims of domestic violence. We have had some terrible tragedies in Ontario this year, including this summer, and I'm sure all members are aware of those. It's for that reason that several months ago now we introduced a very strong piece of legislation in this House called the Domestic Violence Protection Act, which I hope will be returning to the House today.
We have a division of powers in this country between the province and the federal government. The federal government has the criminal law power. The federal government has occupied the field with respect to seizure of weapons in section 111 and section 117 of the Criminal Code. I would have thought the member opposite would understand that. We can work together. With the two pieces of legislation-the piece that I hope passes this House today-together with those provisions of the Criminal Code, our police officers will have the tools they need to combat this serious social evil of domestic violence..
ORDERS OF THE DAY
TIME ALLOCATION / ATTRIBUTION DE TEMPS
Hon Frank Klees (Minister without Portfolio): I move that pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 117, An Act to better protect victims of domestic violence, when the standing committee on justice and social policy next meets for the purpose of considering the bill, the Chair shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment; and
That, any divisions required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession, with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 127(a);
That, the committee shall report the bill to the House not later than the first sessional day that reports from committees may be received following the completion of clause-by-clause consideration, and not later than December 12, 2000. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on that day, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House;
That, upon receiving the report of the standing committee on justice and social policy, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading;
That when the order for third reading is called, the Speaker shall immediately put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment; and
That, the vote on third reading may, pursuant to standing order 28(h), be deferred until the next sessional day during the routine proceeding "Deferred Votes"; and
That, in the case of any division relating to any proceedings on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to five minutes.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey): I'd like to address the House with respect to the resumption of this bill, which is the Domestic Violence Protection Act. The reason this bill has come back before this House is that it became deadlocked in the standing committee on justice and social policy. In that committee we had about two weeks of public hearings, where we heard different groups and organizations address the committee for and against different items in the bill.
At the outset of the Bill 117 committee hearings, all three parties indicated they would be in general support of this bill. In fact, during the debate on second reading in this House, generally speaking, all members who spoke in this House spoke in favour of this bill. The government therefore is frustrated because of the deadlock that has arisen in the committee. The Liberal caucus introduced a number of amendments. The New Democratic caucus introduced none. We are pretty well finished with those amendments, but we clearly are not going to be able to proceed further because of the delays of the opposition and, more specifically, the New Democratic caucus.
As I indicated prior to clause-by-clause, an agreement was reached with all three House leaders. The agreement was based on the understanding that since, as I said, all parties had publicly supported Bill 117, clause-by-clause would be completed in one day. We've now gone two full days. I think we are on section 4, with no sign that we are going to finish the bill. Therefore, to my shock and dismay, I find myself in the Legislature debating this time allocation motion.
I don't believe we would be here doing that if the opposition had not flip-flopped and had kept their word to support victims of domestic abuse by supporting Bill 117. It was during the second day of clause-by-clause that the opposition's true intent to derail, for some unearthly reason, because it was contradictory to what they'd said earlier, our domestic abuse legislation became apparent.
The NDP representative on the committee, Mr Kormos, the member from Niagara, for example, used during that second day two 20-minute recesses, totalling 40 minutes of the committee's time, and it was strictly to his advantage. Clearly, it was his efforts to filibuster that brought us here today. I place it on him, which precluded the committee from concluding its work.
What puzzled me in the House yesterday was that the New Democratic Party raised a recently published book of poems and writings by victims of domestic violence and asked the Premier how far he intends to go to support victims of domestic violence. Really, the question for the NDP is, how far are you prepared to go to support victims of domestic violence? Your actions aren't showing it. Your actions in the committee clearly are not showing it.
One week ago the New Democratic caucus pulled out every procedural trick in the book that it could think of to delay Bill 117 committee hearings, and then the following week they stood up in the House, as they did yesterday, and portrayed themselves as the champions against domestic violence. Usually we criticize the Liberals for this issue of fence-sitting or flip-flopping, but I believe the label of "flip-flop" best describes the erratic actions of the New Democratic caucus during the domestic violence debate.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: My apologies to the member who was speaking, but I believe I need to get on the record this point of privilege as soon as possible after it happened.
When the Minister of Community and Social Services was leaving the House today he pointed at the Liberal caucus, waved his finger and said in a rather threatening tone, "Don't lobby me for more money. Stop lobbying me for money." I interpreted that to mean that if any of us in the opposition were to come to him for assistance on behalf of a constituent, he's serving notice to us that he won't listen to our pleas on behalf of our constituents.
I believe it was an inappropriate comment. I believe the member was abusing my rights as a member. I would like to put this on the record, Mr Speaker, and invite you to look into the matter. As I say, I find it serious that a minister would say that to the duly elected members of the opposition, particularly with his sensitive position of being an advocate, hopefully, on behalf of some of the most disadvantaged people in Ontario. But to threaten the members and essentially say, "Well, if you were to come to me on behalf of your constituents, I'm not going to help"-I would appreciate it if you would look into the matter.
Hon Mr Klees: On the same point, Mr Speaker: While I did not hear those remarks that were quoted by the member, I can tell you that what I did hear as the minister was leaving the chamber was specifically the member from Parkdale-High Park yelling at the minister and in a very abusive tone saying, "You are a sick man," and a number of other comments that certainly were not befitting a member of this House.
I would say that whatever exchange may have taken place was provoked by the antagonistic approach of the members opposite. I would expect that in any results that take place here, there should be apologies to the minister from the members of the Liberal caucus who abused him as he was leaving the chamber.
Mr Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I want to reinforce what my colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt has said. After an intervention was made by our House leader, calling quite properly, asking, as is appropriate in this House, for the Speaker's adjudication on a matter relating to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, an obviously agitated minister walked down the stairs and without any provocation from this side whatsoever, because at that point no one had spoken to him, simply said to us, "Don't lobby me for any money. Don't any of your members come to me for any help."
I think that's an abrogation of the kind of decent behaviour that should ensue from any member of the crown. It is such an undermining of the privileges of the members of this House, to think that one action, properly put in the format given to us by this House, to appeal to the Speaker in his abilities as a neutral arbiter of this House, should then invoke from that minister some kind of retaliatory response to try and intimidate us away from our actions as members of this House.
I want to reinforce that this is a point of privilege in my estimation because my privilege to stand in my place, to vote and to voice concerns on behalf of the people of Parkdale-High Park is undermined by the actions and the words of this minister of the crown. I would hope the Speaker would take this with the seriousness it deserves because I think it sets a terrible precedent if those kinds of remarks can be made in this Legislature and not be subject to sanction, because they stand so far outside the rules, the orders and the expectations we would have for conduct in this House.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Tony Martin): I appreciate the points that have been made and the point of privilege that is being tabled. I understand there's a difference of opinion here as to what was and what wasn't said. None of what has been alleged to be said is on the record so we don't have the privileges of being able to take a look at that. I would ask all honourable members in this place to respect the privilege of each other, as we are expected to do or are wont to do or are understood to be doing when we're sent here by the electorate, and that in future we will act accordingly.
The member for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey.
Mr Tilson: I understand the member for Scarborough-Agincourt bringing his point of personal privilege to this House as promptly as he could. The only problem is I'm the one who's suffering because at least four-
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex): Oh, oh.
Mr Tilson: Well, I'm sorry, but normally the practice with these types of motions is that the time is split among the three caucuses, and I've lost almost five minutes with this little altercation. Mr Speaker, I ask you to restore that to my time.
The Acting Speaker: I'm sorry, but the standing orders are fairly clear in this instance and the time is divided evenly. This kind of thing comes up from time to time. I have no way of restoring that time, so if the member would continue.
We're losing time as we go through this. The chief government whip.
Hon Mr Klees: I believe, Speaker, that you have a way to restore the time by unanimous consent. I would ask for unanimous consent by all three parties to restore the time.
The Acting Speaker: You're using up the member's time, I understand that. OK, the member for Toronto-Danforth.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: There's a closure motion here today that we're debating. I would move unanimous consent to extend this debate into tomorrow so all members can have more time on this important debate. Is that agreed?
The Acting Speaker: The member for St Paul's, quickly.
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): That was my point of order as well.
The Acting Speaker: We don't have agreement. The member for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey.
Mr Tilson: Somehow six minutes have elapsed.
Mr Tilson: You know, the most noise in this place is being made by the member from the New Democratic caucus. When this legislation was introduced, you indicated that you gave this bill your support. Somehow in the committee it has become quite clear that you're not supporting this legislation, a bill to stop domestic violence. That's why we're in this House: to get on with the bill so that we can stop violence against women in this province. Clearly, the New Democratic caucus has indicated that it does not intend to support Bill 117.
But I'm not going to lay all the blame at the feet of the member from Niagara. I suggest that the Liberal member from St Paul's also shares in the blame for the tactics that have gone on in this committee. It was within his power to submit to his opposition colleague the member from Niagara to stop the legislative shenanigans and delays that were going on in these committees and proceed with the completion of the work of that committee. But he was part of it. He was part of the delays that occurred in that committee. Unfortunately the opposition member from St Paul's and the member from Niagara, I believe, if you watched the committee hearings, have been exposed for playing a shallow game of politics.
It's the government's agenda to move forward with the domestic violence legislation, the first of its kind in this country. It's the opposition's agenda to find ways to stall the legislative process and not to support this critical piece of legislation. That is clearly what the opposition intends to do with this legislation. This government views Bill 117 as initially written as a balanced measure that serves the public interest.
Ontario is a great province. People are working. The economy is booming. We have a quality of life that is envied by many around the world, and part of that quality of life is the sense of comfort and safety that we feel in our communities. The people in Ontario deserve safe communities, and our government is committed to ensuring that they have safe communities in which to live, work and raise a family. Above all, people must be safe in their homes, and unfortunately we cannot take safety in the home for granted in this province. For many, the threat of violence is not from strangers, it's from people they know well. That's why our government continues to take action to help protect victims of domestic violence and to hold abusers accountable for their actions.
The Domestic Violence Protection Act supports these goals. The Domestic Violence Protection Act proposes to reform and improve the effectiveness-
Mr George Smitherman (Toronto Centre-Rosedale): On a point of order, Speaker: Is there a quorum present?
The Acting Speaker: Is a quorum present?
Acting Clerk at the Table (Mr Peter Sibenik): A quorum is not present, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.
Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): A quorum is now present, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey.
Mr Tilson: The government proposes with this legislation to reform the effectiveness of restraining orders, which many victims seek for protection. Restraining orders are non-criminal court orders that prescribe and/or prohibit contact between alleged abusers and victims of domestic violence. The proposed legislation and changes to current practices in the justice system address the limitations of existing restraining orders and would go a long way to better protecting victims of domestic violence. These reforms in this legislation would replace restraining orders with new intervention orders, allow victims to get intervention orders more quickly and ensure that they are better enforced in an effective, consistent and timely manner across the province.
If passed, this bill would comprehensively define domestic violence to mean:
-An assault that consists of the intentional use of force that causes fear for safety. This does not include acting in self-defence.
-An intentional or reckless act or omission that causes bodily harm or damage to property.
-An act or omission or threatened act or omission that causes fear for safety.
-A series of acts that collectively cause fear for safety, including the following: contacting, communicating with, observing or recording the person.
-Sexual assault, sexual exploitation or sexual molestation, or the threat of these actions.
The bill would help to better protect more victims and their children from domestic violence by making intervention orders available to a broader range of relationships, including persons in dating relationships, current or past persons who have been living together for less than three years and relatives such as elderly parents living with adult children.
The bill would provide clear standards to simplify and speed up the process of getting an intervention order 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This bill would provide a broader range of supports to help protect the victim from the alleged abuser. For example, an order would clearly specify that the alleged abuser should not communicate directly or indirectly with the victim or other specified people; the specific distance an alleged abuser must be from the victim or particular places, such as the victim's workplace or children's school.
Other terms of an order, depending on the circumstances, might include requiring the alleged abuser to vacate the shared residence; requiring that police are present while the alleged abuser removes personal possessions; requiring the alleged abuser to give up possession of firearms and weapons that have been used or threatened to be used to commit domestic violence; ordering counselling for the abusive partner to help prevent further violence; recommending counselling for children at the alleged abuser's expense to help them overcome the effects of exposure to the violence; granting the exclusive possession of the residence to the victim, or exclusive use of certain property such as credit cards and bank accounts; and ordering compensation for damage or losses suffered.
By listing specific prohibited activities or other requirements for the alleged abuser, intervention orders would be clear and easier for the police and the courts to enforce.
This bill would also see violations of intervention orders as a criminal offence rather than a provincial offence. This would provide stronger conditions for detention and release of the alleged abuser, thereby increasing the ability to detain an alleged abuser where there is concern for a victim's safety.
Our homes are where we should feel safe and secure, but for many home is the least safe place of all. It is the place where their safety is threatened from within. Domestic violence not only affects the adult victim but also has repercussions for children who witness it in the home. In the broadest sense, domestic violence is a threat to the foundation of our society's strong families.
Currently, many people obtain restraining orders to help protect themselves from their abusers. However, the current legislation and practices in the justice system create limitations that make restraining orders less effective than they ought to be. Victims of domestic violence or those at risk of violence shouldn't have to wait for the courts to open before they can obtain a restraining order in an emergency. They shouldn't have to find out that they're not eligible for a restraining order because of the kind of relationship they're in. And they shouldn't have to question whether the restraining order will be enforced and charges laid appropriately if the order is violated.
Finally, offenders shouldn't be able to go on knowing that there are no serious consequences for violating a restraining order. Unfortunately, this is what is happening now. Police, family law lawyers and other people who are representing victims of domestic violence have told us that victims need to get restraining orders more quickly. They've told us that the current eligibility criteria are too limited. For example, people who have been living together for less than three years can't get a restraining order unless they are also the parents of a child. There have been urgent calls for changes to ensure better enforcement of restraining orders.
Currently, enforcement of violations of restraining orders falls under the Provincial Offences Act. This means that alleged abusers can only be held for 24 hours after violating an order, unless there is a concern that either he or she would not appear in court. While this may be fine for a minor offence, it's not acceptable for the serious crime of domestic violence.
Bill 117 addresses these limitations and proposes to correct them to better protect victims of domestic violence and their children. Throughout the debate on this bill, the opposition has attempted to minimize the importance of this proposed law and our other achievements of making innovative changes in the justice system.
This government does not apologize for its law-and-order agenda. We make no apology for being on the side of victims. We make no apologies for holding abusers accountable. We make no apologies for our commitment to triple the number of domestic violence courts across Ontario to 24; for allocating an additional $8 million annually to ensure the crown attorneys have sufficient time to meet with victims in preparing their cases for prosecution; for specializing training on domestic violence for crown attorneys across Ontario.
Improvements to the justice system are critical in helping victims of domestic violence, because it holds all abusers accountable for their actions. This is one way of breaking the cycle of violence. When the police enforce and when crown attorneys prosecute domestic violence cases, the message that domestic violence is a crime rings loud and clear. Work in the justice system keeps the public and abusers focused on the message that domestic violence will not be tolerated in Ontario.
The Domestic Violence Protection Act addresses the limitations of existing restraining orders to better protect victims of domestic violence. With this bill, more victims would have faster access to intervention orders, which would be better enforced across the province. Experience with similar legislation in other provinces supports the need for Bill 117 in Ontario.
For example, Saskatchewan's legislation over the last five years has provided quick access to orders and has enabled more victims to stay in their own homes. At the same time, the bill is a balanced bill, and while protecting victims of domestic violence it would also provide safeguards to protect those bound by intervention orders.
We on this side urge speedy passage of Bill 117 in the public's best interests.
Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): I find it very interesting that here we are debating time allocation, in other words, closure of debate on a bill, and yet somehow the member for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey blames the opposition for the denial of this bill. That's not true. The Liberal caucus will support any bill which will reduce domestic violence, no matter how small or incremental a step that bill takes.
Just a moment on process: I've sat in these committees for a year and a half now. Quite often in these bills, whatever they are, although we support the principles, there are parts of the bills that are so ridiculous we can't support them, and we find ways, whether it's the NDP or the Liberals, to oppose those bills. That's our job. These aren't stunts. That's democracy. It does hurt sometimes over there, but that's democracy.
I just want to make it clear that the Liberal caucus supports this bill. We just don't feel it goes far enough. The reason it doesn't go far enough is the majority of women who are affected by domestic violence will not ever enter these courts or go to the police. The majority of women don't feel safe to even leave their abusers until it's far too late for themselves or for their children, because there's nowhere for them to go.
You've washed your hands of social housing as of 1995 and you're proud of that. "Thank God," is what I heard one of the members yesterday say when that was pointed out to them: "Thank God we washed our hands of social housing." You've cut front-line shelter funding so that their waiting lists are longer and longer, particularly in southern Ontario, so these women have nowhere to go. They stay, they get abused, their children get sicker and sicker psychologically; then, when it's too late, you're going to get tough on the abuser. When they've already either been scarred for life or killed, or their children scarred for life, you're going to get tough with the abuser. It's too late then; it's way too late.
Ten days ago I was in Sarnia and I visited the interval home in Sarnia. Here are some statistics the papers didn't print, because quite often families of suicidal and successful suicides do not send press releases: two women committed suicide in Sarnia. They didn't even make it to the shelter. That is how helpless they felt. They knew they could only stay in the shelter in Sarnia for one month to six weeks. There is no second-stage housing in Sarnia and there are no social housing units available in Sarnia, so they stayed home. But the abuse got to them and they committed suicide.
What really brought me to tears and made me feel ashamed to be part of this Legislative Assembly, at least for that one day, was the story of a 10-year-old boy who observed his mother's abuse day in and day out and said, announced, proclaimed, "I'm not going to take this any more, Mom and Dad," and went upstairs and hanged himself-10 years old. How is this domestic violence bill going to help that child? Who is going to pay for that sin, for that murder, for that death?
The interval home in Sarnia can take only up to 17 people; that's including the children. They confess that at times they take 26 or 27. They don't want to turn anyone away. There are no second-stage houses; there are no social housing units. They know that by sending them away they're sending them back to a dangerous situation, and they often take more than they're allowed to take.
Because of the cutbacks, one of their staff members had to be laid off. Their utilities have increased in cost and yet their operating grants have decreased. I spent quite a bit of time with my colleague from Sarnia, Caroline Di Cocco, with the director of the interval home, and these women who work in this shelter do an amazing job of fundraising. But they need stable funding so they can make their clients feel secure.
I also visited the assault centre in Sarnia. What program was cut there? The program that was cut was the immigration settlement program where there was a counsellor who would counsel immigrant women who were abused. This counsellor spoke a number of languages. The funding for her was cut.
Ironically, six months before that program was cut, $30,000 worth of computer equipment was sent to the centre for use in this program. The former counsellor said to me, "That could have paid my wages for more than a year," because she was part-time.
I can get really cynical here and say, "These immigrant women aren't citizens yet, they don't vote, they don't have a voice. Cut their programs." But we should be a government for citizens and non-citizens, for taxpayers and non-taxpayers. That is what has made this province great in the past and what has made Canada great in this world. That is slipping.
Yesterday representatives from the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses came again, and the leader of the third party asked a question based on the book that was published by this group. I want to read one paragraph from a child, Rachel, who is 10 years old:
"How I Feel About the Shelter
"I feel good to be in the shelter because it's a good place. When you get bored you get to do crafts. You make friends, and you get to explore a new place. They even have a toy rocket that goes up into the air by pumping water into it. I like the staff, too. They always give you a warm feeling, and that's why I like the shelter."
I have a daughter who is almost 10. There are some very basic things I read here that make this little girl happy. If you read between the lines-and you certainly don't have to be a psychologist to read between the lines-what this little girl is saying is, "I feel safe, and my mother feels safe."
This is where the cuts came. Yes, they put money into employment programs, and we applaud that. But before a woman can take advantage of an employment program or a career change, she has to feel safe. Maslow's hierarchy of needs says that safety is number one, food is number two. Self-actualization comes much later.
Another poem by an abused woman:
The worst fear of all,
Is the fear of being alone.
The hardest step for one to take,
Is the first step to be on your own.
The first sign of strength,
Is to stand up to your fears.
The first sign of inner peace,
Is when you can shed the tears.
The first step to a solution,
Is taking the time to think things through.
The first step to happiness,
Is accepting what is inside of you.
The first sign of independence,
Is standing on your own.
The first sign of love
Is knowing you're not alone.
When you speak to these women, that is how they feel: very alone, very forgotten.
Earlier in the House I also talked about the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. When the Provincial Council of Women of Ontario came, they said to me that the minister was unable to give them assurances that it was not Ontario that was holding Canada back from signing on to the optional part of this protocol. What is the optional part? It allows a woman to go to the convention when that woman has exhausted all the other means in that province or country. Most of the other countries have signed on to this except Canada, and according to the Council of Women of Ontario, it is because Ontario is in the way.
All I know is what the council of women told me. I made a member's statement asking the minister to come clear and straight on this issue, preferably in writing: is it Ontario that's holding us back as a country or not?
Lest the members opposite put in a box or category the type of women who are abused and need our assistance, let me refer very briefly to a letter to the Premier by a very educated woman who was abused, a social worker.
"I am on workfare. I have two young children who are my priority, as it should be, and a family that is truly supportive.
"My ex-husband and I bought a small house in 1993...."
To make a long story short, she took on all the loans after the divorce.
"I have struggled ever since to ensure my children have a healthy and stable home.... I receive no financial help from their father."
Previously a member of the NDP pointed out that the Family Responsibility Office isn't working with deadbeat dads. That's all tied into this. Many of the same clients we see from shelters in our constituency offices also have difficulties with the FRO, of course. If a partner is going to go as far as beating and abusing, not paying child support or wife support is not a priority.
The woman continues: "I completed a social service worker course in 1996. I've always had a part-time job, but it is never enough to pay all the bills, so I am grateful for the government's help.
"I receive $1,086 per month."
She goes on to list her very modest expenses. Some of these grocery expenses-most middle-class families spend in a weekend having two or three meals out with their kids what this woman spends in a month. She is left with $266 every month.
"None of my debts were due to a frivolous lifestyle....
"The final straw is that your government has just put a hefty lien on a house that I barely own."
Our caucus has brought this up. The member from Leeds has brought up before how there is absolutely no compassion across the way when a person is attempting to own a home but is still accepting help from the government. Some of these homes are actually cheaper and the mortgages these women are paying are actually less than if they were on social assistance and paying rent, and they have the dignity of a home.
I can't believe what this women says.
"My children love their home, their friends, this town and so do I. I have always taken pride in my abilities as a mother, counsellor, bookkeeper and homeowner.
"All I want is a good job that will pay enough to cover my expenses, including child care, and allow me to pay back my debts. I need something where I am not away from my kids all weekend or all evening. Good jobs are hard to find and now even harder because I no longer have a car.
"Should I give up, declare bankruptcy, live on the street? I might have no choice."
This is a woman who was abused, who actually broke away from that and tried to have a successful life. Once again, because of the roots of abuse, the power taken away, women are suffering.
I'm sharing my time. There's so much more to be said, but we are debating time allocation, which means once again we are cutting debate on this very important issue.
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): I will be joined from my caucus by Marilyn Churley, the member from Riverdale.
I listened, oh so carefully, to what the parliamentary assistant had to say in his opening comments to this time allocation motion, which is designed not just to inhibit debate but to prohibit debate, to end it, to ensure there isn't a thorough consideration of all the concerns that had increasingly come to the forefront as we progressed through this bill in committee.
Yes, New Democrats thought the bill held some great promise and supported the bill on first reading. Yes, we supported the bill on second reading. We were anxious for the bill to get to committee. But then we heard the modest two days of presentations, and some of the flaws in the bill became incredibly apparent.
Opposition members from both opposition caucuses-understand that we're in the minority on that committee. It's clear. I understand the government members control what happens in committees. But opposition members began to address those flaws, beginning, quite frankly, with the first section of the bill and relied upon and referred to arguments made to the committee by presenters, and relied upon and argued positions taken by any number of people who wanted to be at the committee to testify viva voce but who were forced to make their submissions in writing.
The opposition members were voted down summarily from minute one as they raised serious concerns, legitimate concerns about elements of this bill that would leave it far behind what this government is trying to pretend it is. Opposition members were, in a spirit of non-partisanship, trying to make the bill the thing that folks out there were hoping it could be for them. In comment after comment we saw the gestures from the whip of the committee indicating, "Ignore those observations by opposition members, ignore their references to comments made by witnesses at the committee," to people who took the time and who cared enough to make a valuable contribution to that committee.
You've got to understand that to most of the people across this province, that committee process is their one entree into the legislation-building process. Although I have grown, over the course of a dozen years-plus, very cynical about it, for folks out there it's their one chance to make a difference. They do it at great expense to themselves, with the expenditure of a great deal of energy, and with great commitment and sincerity. I've seen far too many now leave those committee hearings shaking their heads and saying, "Why did I bother? What was the point of travelling here?" from whatever part of the province they travelled here from. What was the point of engaging in the incredible amount of work that many of these participants do in preparation of their submissions when it was all for naught, when it meant diddly-squat to government members who were going to vote as they were whipped, regardless of what submissions were being made by participants from the public across this province in those committees?
As we went through section 1 and section 2, as I say, opposition members tried-and I'm sorry we failed-to be as creative as we could be in trying to impress upon government members that perhaps there was reason for some pause and some reflection on the arguments that were being made, that there were some serious concerns about the language of the bill, about the fact that the bill, once it's passed, will be just another statute on the shelves of this government's impotent arsenal against abusers of women and kids.
Four years later, the Family Responsibility Office, the family support plan, remains one of the biggest sources of complaints to our constituency offices; I dare to say all 103 constituency offices across this province. Four years and they still haven't got it right. Women and kids are still suffering, and this government wants to blow its horn, wants to blast its trumpet about all the great things it's doing for victims? My foot.
The Victims' Bill of Rights is declared effectively of no effect by the courts in this province. The Premier promises to replace it with a meaningful bill of rights, and we see nothing.
I mentioned earlier the sex offender registry. You remember the fanfare, the photo ops and, my God, the press conferences by the Attorney General. That legislation passed. Where's the sex offender registry? Not a whisper of it. I recall the committee process for that bill too, because opposition members, in that case New Democrats along with the official opposition, made amendments to that bill to make it tougher, to ensure that a wider range of sex offenders would be included in that registry. We were concerned that the government was leaving holes big enough for a Mack truck to drive through in terms of the sex offenders who wouldn't be registered. Were those amendments acceptable to the government? Those weren't either.
And yes, the committee process, as we were doing clause-by-clause, began to become increasingly frustrating and of increasing concern, I suspect, to all opposition members; certainly to me. When we reached the section of this bill, very early on, and observed and had an opposition amendment that would have cured the provision in this bill-this bill, as it stands, will permit abusive spouses, partners, husbands, people who are beating the daylights out of their spouses, girlfriends, partners, to keep arsenals of weapons. The bill specifically prohibits a judge, when making a so-called intervention order, from ordering that an incredibly violent respondent be compelled, among other things, in the discretion of the judge, to surrender whatever collection of handguns, long-arm firearms, what have you, he may have in his possession. That's nuts. This Legislature has been told far too often of, and has had to reflect far too many times on, the list of women who are fatal victims of lethal violence by partners in this province. You go through that list and you find that the weapon of choice, when it comes to assassinating one's girlfriend, one's wife, one's spouse, is a gun.
The official opposition had an amendment. Was the amendment perfect? I suppose not. Did it address the issue? Yes, it did. It was frustrating to see the amendment not even worthy of consideration by the government. Their obsession with letting even some of the most violent people in our society, in our provincial community, retain possession of firearms went beyond frustrating to repugnant.
It was then put to the committee, "Well, look. Let's go beyond sections 3 and 4," the two sections you're talking about. "If you don't like the official opposition amendment, let's defer consideration of sections 3 and 4, the ones that will permit abusers to continue to pack their firearms, and deal with the rest of the sections of the bill. That way you'll have time, government, you'll have time, Parliamentary Assistant-your bureaucrats, your policy advisers will have time-to draft the amendment you think is appropriate if you don't like the official opposition amendment." That was as conciliatory and non-partisan a gesture as could ever be made. But was that good enough for the government? No, because their wacko obsession with the right to bear arms overrode common sense.
I don't find it amusing to have violent men whose spouses, whose girlfriends, whose partners, whose ex-partners have been getting beaten, have had the boots put to them, have had clubs and whatever other weaponry put to them, but unless and until he chooses to point a gun at her-you see, the problem is that by the time he's pointing the gun at her, he's probably going to kill her. So women are mowed down in this province.
I don't find it comforting at all that this government that wants to wield its majority with oh, so much authority refuses-refuses-to consider the dangerousness, the incredible hazard, of letting violent men, even after assaulting the women in their lives, keep conceivably an arsenal-not one rifle, not two rifles, but handguns, rifles, modified M-16s, the whole nine yards. Does it sound overly dramatic? Think about the women who had to look down the barrel of a gun in their final moments before they got blasted away. That's dramatic.
Notwithstanding our enthusiasm and support for this bill on first reading when it was announced in the House and on second reading in our eagerness to get it to committee, this caucus is seriously reconsidering whether it should even be supporting Bill 117 on third reading and whether it wants to be a party to the false sense of security that this government is creating. This government is pretending, and it's nothing but pretense, that this bill is somehow going to protect women who are at risk. I tell you, that's a very dangerous state of a false sense of security.
I too was incredibly moved by having a chance to read excerpts and pieces from the collection of the book No More! Women Speak Out Against Violence, published by OAITH, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses. It was inevitable that I find stuff written in there that is oh, so relevant to what we're talking about today, because, you see, even these women know that more phony legislation isn't going to protect women from violence and slaughter.
One author, Catherine, who is the director of a shelter, writes, "We have a strong voice in this fight against violence against women but the government is not hearing our voices. We do not pretend to have all the answers, but we know we should be allowed to play a bigger role in the development of systems that would go a long way in providing women the safety that they so desperately need."
Another, Jeanette, who is a front-line shelter counsellor, writes that it's a lot harder-and understand the impact of this-for abused women in this province to leave their violent spouses now in Mike Harris's Ontario, since the Harris government came to power.
"The legal process has become more difficult," more complex. "There is now a manual to explain the intricacies of the family law rules.... A woman has to have a lawyer to guide her through the maze of paperwork."
One of the issues that was recurrent during our discussion of Bill 117 in committee was, where are the lawyers going to come from who are going to assist women in the course of their applications, be they the ex parte emergency applications or the section 4 ones? Where are the lawyers going to come from when this government refuses to provide legal aid with the funds it needs to ensure that women can access those legal services?
There was the proposition that somehow women would be able to use the police. The police? "Once is Too Often," by a woman, Lori: "No one at the police station would help me compile the statements and the evidence. I was told it was my responsibility because I laid the private information charge, not them," the police. "I knew I was slipping through the cracks of the system and I knew if the police didn't assist me, the system would fail me." Systems, resources.
Julia, in "On the Road to Freedom," writes about having grown up in a controlling family, writes about having her parents abuse her in a variety of ways, writes about her father dying when she was 19 and how she was left alone to fend for herself, writes about how shortly after, she got pregnant, in hindsight "probably to fill a void that my Dad left behind." Then she writes with some upbeat tone, "It has been two months since I left my one-year stay at the Second Stage. I am comfortable with my life now and happy to be me. I have gained my freedom both physically and mentally. I don't need to depend on anyone else to make my life complete."
The editors of the book, Ms Morrow and Ms Wakeling, add an addendum to that article. They draw our attention to the reality in Mike Harris's Ontario. "Second-stage housing programs," which Julia was able to access and which changed her life so radically, "are independent living programs where women can stay for up to a year." However, my friends, "In 1995, funding for second-stage housing counselling programs then delivered by the province of Ontario was cut by 100%." So there is no more funding for second-stage housing.
That's why when members of this caucus talk to this government, they try to impress on them so often that this government's cuts to social assistance have forced so many women to maintain their home in the home of abusive, violent, potentially deadly partners. If they do manage to leave that violent home where their lives and the lives of their children are at risk, they are forced back because of the cuts to social assistance, which mean that rental accommodations aren't available to them. The cuts to any number of programs and shelters across this province mean that shelters have longer and longer waiting lists and struggle with lower and lower budgets at higher and higher demand.
So I make no apologies, and I ask members of both opposition parties to deny that apology as well to this government, about having been less than co-operative in committee. I'll be damned if I'm going to sit by while this government passes phony legislation that it says is going to protect women but that is going to do nothing more than create a false sense of security and provide women who are victims of violence-some of whom will inevitably end up on that growing list of women assassinated by their partners and former partners and spouses and boyfriends. It's going to deny them real protection. It's going to force them to jump through yet more hoops and deal with yet more bureaucracies. It's going to create a house of cards that has no substance to it.
I am disgusted at this government's phony legislation in the course of Bill 117 and its even phonier closure motion today. It's the height of dishonesty. It is. I don't think women out there are buying it. My constituents aren't buying it. Other people in this province aren't going to buy it. I'll be damned if I'm going to buy it. We will be opposing this time allocation motion and, as I say, we will be reconsidering whether we as New Democrats in good faith can support legislation that is nothing more than part of a publicity stunt by this government to create the impression that they are on the side of victims and women who are subjected to violence and women who will be subjected to violence, when this government has abandoned those women beginning in 1995 and carrying on now to the year 2000 so that the list of murdered women in Mike Harris's Ontario can grow longer and longer, and so that the victims-the kids, the mothers-can continue to suffer.
As I indicated, Ms Churley from Riverdale will be speaking to this matter as well. I look forward to the chance to vote against this evil, evil motion.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Michael A. Brown): Further debate?
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth-Middlesex): I rise today to speak to the time allocation of Bill 117. Of course, the reason it's time-allocated is because it was at a standstill and nothing was happening. In spite of the agreement that it would go forward and that there was support from other parties, here we are at a stalemate and it comes to this.
I make no apology for going ahead on the part of this government with a bill that we feel addresses some of the concerns of a very important constituent in most of our ridings. By that I mean that I think it's important. I'm not going to stand here and tell you it's perfect. The member for Niagara Centre had the opportunity to bring this bill forward, or something like it. He chose to lie on his back and kick his feet because he couldn't start government insurance. If he had felt as strongly about domestic abuse as he did about his own agenda of change back then, he could have kicked his feet about that, because they had the opportunity to do it and did nothing.
This government believes in addressing needs, and we have made remarkable progress in the number of initiatives we have brought forward to address some of the needs of families where there is either a dysfunction between the husband and wife, or perhaps it's an unaddressed outrage of temper. I don't want to ever be accused of saying it's always men, but in our society, by far, the man is the abuser in a majority of cases, and it's not just a small majority.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has put forward initiatives to help victims of domestic violence. We've created the most comprehensive domestic violence court program in the country. An additional $10 million will be spent to further expand the program. The Ministry of the Attorney General also provides for emotional support and prepares victims as they deal with the criminal justice system. We expanded the victim/witness assistance program and we plan to do more.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has added 59 additional crown attorneys to interview and prepare victims and witnesses, and we have increased help for families in crisis by the expansion of the supervised access program.
I'm not going to stand here and tell you that I am content with the initiatives that have been taken up to this point. In my own community, in my own constituency, I am not content with the amount of access that is available, particularly for women and their families, to be supervised. It's a big need, and although I will stand here and say this government is firmly committed to doing as much as we can with the resources that are available to prevent any future abuse, in that initiative I want to do more and we will do more.
An additional $500,000 was provided to cover and streamline applications for emergency legal aid advice, and the number of hours was doubled to assist abused women seeking restraining orders. As we see from this bill, restraining orders are not the only remedy that should be available to women in crisis. In most of these crises, the ones who need the help the most are those who have deteriorated to that extent and they are the ones in need of the most help.
Not only has the Attorney General addressed and is addressing some of the needs, the Ministry of Community and Social Services has allocated $51 million in the budget year 2000 for emergency shelters and related services under the violence against women program. Some $10 million in annualized funding has been allocated by the Ministry of Community and Social Services to help children who have witnessed domestic violence and to establish a transitional support program, and $21 million has been allocated to more than 100 counselling programs for women and their children in the year 2000.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General has also been involved in help for domestic violence. The Ministry of the Solicitor General has allocated $10 million annually for expansion of services, including community-based programs such as the victims' crisis assistance and referral service and SupportLink, and to make services more flexible to meet the needs of northern communities.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has committed $50 million in rent supplements to help house up to 10,000 families and individuals.
These are a few of the actions that demonstrate our government's commitment to help victims. We know there is more to be done. That is why we're proposing this help for this very real crisis in those families where the situation has become a crisis.
It has been a privilege and a pleasure for me to stand in the House this afternoon. Snow is blowing in most of my riding. It's a pleasure to be here and to speak on the progress of our government's initiative to better protect victims of domestic violence. If there's anything I can do to speed up and to support this very real and important initiative, I stand here today making that commitment.
Mr Bryant: We're still reeling over here on this side of the House at the comments made by the member for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey that he felt robbed of the ability to speak on this debate as much as he wanted to. I'm not allowed to call any member of this House a hypocrite, of course, but I will say that when it comes to time allocation motions, he certainly is hypocritical, if you understand my oxymoronic suggestion here. My point here-
Hon Mr Klees: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm sure that the parsing that is being attempted by the honourable member crosses the line and I would ask you to ask the member to withdraw his comments.
The Deputy Speaker: I am sure the member knows that certain language is unparliamentary and I'm sure he knows that you cannot do indirectly what you cannot do directly. So I would ask him to withdraw.
Mr Bryant: Withdrawn, Speaker.
The real issue here is about getting this law right. Come on. The government introduced the bill, the official opposition supports the bill and the New Democratic Party supports the bill. So all three parties want this bill to happen. So it goes to committee and amendments are tabled to try and improve on what was there. Leaving aside the shortcomings of this government's approach to domestic violence altogether-we'll get to that in a moment-leaving that aside, we wanted to make this bill as effective as possible and so the Liberals tabled a number of amendments. At the beginning of that debate, incredibly, the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General said, "We will consider all amendments very seriously and closely." Of course thereafter they did not agree to a single amendment. The conniptions that the government was in to try and explain why they couldn't support the amendments would have been comic if not for the fact that it's victims of violence who are at stake here.
He singled out myself and the member for Niagara Centre as fighting for victims of domestic violence. We don't apologize for that. What we were hoping-I'll tell you, we wanted to get it right, and in particular we really wanted to get the Charlton Heston clause fixed. Again, it would be comic if it wasn't so tragic. Under the present clause in the government's bill, a judge cannot seize a weapon unless that person has already used the weapon or threatened to use the weapon. So if we have an abuser who has a history of violence-and we may have a number of instances either prosecuted or not under the criminal law because, as we've discussed in this House time and time again, the vast majority of victims of domestic violence don't turn to the criminal justice system. In fact, this bill does not involve going to the criminal justice system. That's the point of the bill. We heard that was the purpose of it. A victim of domestic violence could make an application under this bill. You don't have to go to the police. So you've got a circumstance where the victim has been victimized several times and it turns out that the abuser's got a gun.
You've got to be joking. How could this government be against the idea of taking the gun away from somebody who's got a history of abuse? We said, "No, that must be a mistake," to suggest that you have to use the gun before the bill can take it away. If they actually already used the weapon, then they would be charged criminally and inevitably, under one of the bail conditions, the gun would be taken away. So that's of no help. Or threaten to use the gun; again, that's also a crime. That provision doesn't do anything, so we said on this side of the House, "No, those who are domestic abusers cannot keep their weapons."
You wouldn't believe the arguments we heard on behalf of the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General on this front. The first shot out of his mouth was, "This isn't going to work in rural communities, and of course the members won't understand that." The member for Niagara Centre and Mrs McLeod, the member from Thunder Bay, don't understand anything about rural areas? I see, OK. But moreover, besides that, the idea that rural abusers somehow have some royal exemption from being prosecuted or otherwise being held accountable under the domestic violence protection bill was just a patently absurd argument.
The thinking by the opposition in the committee was that we had enormous respect for the witnesses who came forward and made their submissions and we hoped that more would talk to the government about the amendments tabled and other amendments. I have enormous respect for the counsel at the Ministry of the Attorney General, who are the best that Ontario can offer. I was hoping that the government would go away, and in fact those working in the ministry-not the Honourable Mr Flaherty and not the parliamentary assistant but those who work there as counsel-would go to the government and say, "You know what? I think we should fix this."
We tried to do everything in our power to give them that opportunity and give them time to do it. Somehow the government thought that it was OK to dig in their heels on behalf of the gun lobby on this one, and it's a disgrace.
Then they try and fix it, these Keystone Kops of Ontario law and order. They table their own amendment that was supposed to cover it, and they said, "Nothing in this act will affect section 111 of the Criminal Code." I should hope not; otherwise, it would be unconstitutional. Then the parliamentary assistant puts a closure motion on his own amendment. We couldn't even debate his amendment. He killed his own amendment. I haven't been here that long; I've never seen anything like it. So not only are they against our amendments, they're against their own amendments, they hate debate so much.
Then we heard yet again from the Deputy Premier and during question period from the minister, "The member for St Paul's knows or ought to know that section 111 covers this." I guess he assumes that none of us can read, so let me read to the House section 111 of the Criminal Code.
Mr Bryant: Fair enough. But, here, I'll show you that I can read. Section 111 of the Criminal Code reads, "A peace officer, firearms officer or chief firearms officer may apply to a provincial court judge for an order prohibiting a person from possessing any firearm," and it includes a number of weapons.
Here's the first problem: an applicant under the domestic violence bill ain't a peace officer, a police officer or a firearms officer. The whole point here was that the victim could be the applicant, not a police officer. So right away, section 111 doesn't apply. The minister knows it and the parliamentary assistant knows it. Then it says you can apply before a provincial court judge, and he knows that too. The chart set out by the ministry staff shows how you get one of these emergency interim orders. It says you go to a JP. Go to a JP? You can't go to a JP to get a section 111 order under the Criminal Code, and the minister knows it and the parliamentary assistant knows that as well. Section 111 can't be used. As if a JP or a provincial court judge would make an order under section 111 of the Criminal Code wondering what's going to happen with respect to the emergency interim order application under the domestic violence protection bill, plus there would have to be a separate application.
The whole point was one-stop shopping, as it were, for victims of domestic violence in going to the courts and getting some kind of interim order. It was a false argument. It was a phony argument. It was a sham.
We had an opportunity to fix it-all of us support this bill-yet no, no, they wanted to shut it down. We wanted to take the time to get it right because we think that this bill, as little as it may do in the broad scheme of things as per Madam Justice Baldwin in the Baldwin committee report submitted to this government in August of last year to conform to those recommendations, we wanted at least to get it right.
We heard from witnesses, including the Advocates' Society, the Canadian Bar Association and the Family Lawyers' Association that said, "You know what? If you don't fix this bill, what's going to happen is that the victims are going to have to fight the constitutional challenges from the abusers and their defence lawyers." We always have concerns about constitutional challenges. We can't let it stop every single piece of legislation.
In this case, guess who's going to have to pay for it? It is going to be like the victims under the Parental Responsibility Act. They're going to have to bear the brunt of the errors of this legislation. They're going to have to bear the brunt of any shortcomings. I have no doubt that counsel for the Attorney General did their best to get it right under the time constraints provided. All we were saying was, why don't we make sure we get it right so that victims don't have to pay for it?
Lastly, since the parliamentary assistant decided to familiarize himself with the Baldwin committee report, he started out the last round of debate on this bill in the committee by saying, "Seventy per cent of the Baldwin committee report"-in terms of what had to be done in the first year-"has or will be done." Will be done? What happened to the other 30%? The government's going to abandon 30% of the Baldwin committee report's recommendations?
This isn't good enough. These amendments should've gone through. I don't know why they want to put the gag order on this any further. I hope it's not because they know very well that this bill is flawed and they want to get this over with. We support the bill. Obviously we can't support this closure motion.
Ms Churley: Since Wife Assault Prevention Month and the December 6 remembrances in 1999, 16 women were murdered by their partners or ex-partners, and four children, in this province. We know that on average about 40 women a year in Ontario are murdered by their partners or ex-partners. We have a bill before us today that, from the outset, we were prepared to support.
The member for Niagara Centre, who is our justice critic, sat on the committee that looked at this bill. The member for Niagara Centre brought to our attention that there were some serious flaws in this bill. The major serious flaw that the member for Niagara Centre has been talking about repeatedly-he has been much maligned by members of the government. He has been accused, as has our caucus, of not being supportive of a bill that would help women who are in a situation of domestic violence. That is despicable. I think everybody in this Legislature knows that our support for programs for women who are in potentially violent situations is an issue that we bring up repeatedly in this Legislature and we repeatedly ask the government to bring in and bring back programs they have taken away from these very victims.
The member for Niagara Centre has pointed out that there is a clause in this bill that desperately needs to be amended. I want you to picture yourself, I want you-the members of the government-to imagine that you are a woman living with a partner who is bigger than you, stronger than you and has complete power over you and threatens you, say, with a knife; who is bigger and stronger and can completely overpower you physically and threatens you with a knife, perhaps slashes you with that knife.
In a closet in the next room is a gun, or perhaps an arsenal of guns. Imagine yourself in that situation when you are under that kind of threat, and because the abuser does not directly threaten you with that gun or use that gun on you, the gun will not immediately be taken away. The knife will be taken away, but the gun or guns will still be there.
Can you put yourself in that position of living with an abuser and knowing that in the next room, or perhaps the very room you're in, is a gun, and that gun can stay there after you have been directly threatened and abused? Can you imagine the constant fear you would feel, knowing that gun is there?
If it were me in that situation I would want that gun removed from my house immediately. I wouldn't want to rely on the Criminal Code that requires notice and for a date to be set for a hearing and all of that. I would want to know categorically that that gun would be immediately removed.
This is a very serious issue that we're talking about here today. I was pleased to see the government come forward with such a bill and I am very disappointed that the members refuse to make an amendment that would correct that situation.
Valerie Lucas, 23, mother of three children, from Oshawa was shot point blank three times in a parking lot where she had gone to provide child access to her ex-partner.
Mila Luft, 27, and her four children, Daniel, 7, Nicole, 5, Peter, 3, and David, three months, from Kitchener; Mila was stabbed to death and her four children were then shot to death.
Donna Pritloff, 46, from Keswick was shot to death at her home.
These are just some of the very real women, and children in this case, who were shot to death by an abusive partner or ex-partner. I'm reading these names because we have to somehow get beyond thinking about this as just an issue that we're discussing here in Parliament among ourselves in a civilized way. We are talking about women being murdered here.
What does it take to get the government members to understand that this bill needs to be amended? There are other problems with the bill as well, but this is the main issue that we want corrected. The government had an opportunity to do that and refused to do so. I've heard it said time and time again that the member for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey thought it would be grossly unfair to farmers to have to surrender their guns. As far as I know he hasn't denied saying that. I would say in my situation, if it were me-and I again want members to imagine it being them in that situation-I wouldn't care if it were a farmer or anybody else. I would want those guns immediately-
Ms Churley: Or a lawyer-good point-removed from the premises so at least I would go to sleep at night knowing that I wouldn't be shot to death.
That's what this is all about. These names are real. These women were real. They lived, they had children, they had a future, they had dreams, they had hopes and they're now dead, shot to death. Many of these other women were strangled or knifed to death, slashed. All kinds of horrible things happened to them. Children have been abused. Children have witnessed those acts. It is unspeakable that this is still happening in our society.
We know that the government is focusing specifically on law-and-order issues around domestic violence. We support those initiatives. They are important, but we tell you time and time again that only about 25% of women who are experiencing violence in the home go through the criminal justice system. That's 75% of these women who don't go through that system, and that is why we urge the government repeatedly to bring back the community supports that used to be there to help these women escape those situations.
Second-stage housing: one of the first things this government did was cut second-stage housing. I remember when it happened. I was the women's issues critic for the NDP at the time and I toured some second-stage housing that was still at the time functioning. They have now closed down some of them. This government stopped funding second-stage housing. Second-stage housing is the next stage beyond a shelter and, let me tell you, the shelters are overflowing. We need more funding for shelters but we desperately need, these women and their children desperately need, what we call second-stage support. They need housing. Often the children have witnessed the abuse or may have been abused themselves and they need counselling. They need special services, and the success rate is well documented.
That is one thing we've been repeatedly asking this government to reinstate, and I believe deep down that they know that was a mistake. I wish the minister or the Premier would stand up tomorrow and say they're going to do that, and that they're going to bring back real rent control. One of the problems that has been documented now is that since this government got out of housing completely, they are not building affordable housing any more, and because rent control has been virtually destroyed, women are having a harder and harder time, particularly in areas like Toronto and other urban centres. They're having a very hard time if not an impossible time finding a place to live. We are hearing more and more that women are either not leaving because they can't find a place to live or they leave and find that they can't survive on their own because of the welfare cuts and, because rents are so high, they end up going back, in desperation, to their abuser.
This is not acceptable. It really isn't acceptable. We are in boom times in Ontario. We had the finance minister get up yesterday. We've had tax cut after tax cut and we had the finance minister get up and talk about how the economy is booming, but I want to remind the government of the people who have been left behind.
You know, I don't think there is any argument through all segments of our society, no matter what their political beliefs are-I don't think there's anybody who does not support programs for victims of what we call domestic violence. I call it male abuse because the majority is male abuse. I don't think there is anybody in Ontario who would object to this government's reinvesting in these programs once again to help women and their children who are in these situations. We desperately need these programs, and I would urge the government not to just rely on the rhetoric that we hear time and time again. When I asked the Premier a question in the House about it yesterday, he talked about getting people back to work, making them more independent. He said throwing more money at it isn't the answer. I'm saying this is not about throwing money at it; this is giving money so that important community supports and programs can be put back in place to help these women and their children escape from unbelievable hell that most people in this Legislature couldn't even begin to imagine. I think it's time that we all began to imagine.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): I have to say how disappointed I am again to have to speak to yet another-one of the many closure motions that have been brought by this government. It really did strike me as strange when we got the sermon from the member for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey, who felt somewhat wronged that his time was taken away from him. I would only suggest that maybe now he knows how we feel when closure motions are imposed on us, when we're not provided with the opportunity to make our points as we would like and should have the opportunity to do.
I would like to make some comments with respect to the member for Perth-Middlesex, who said that the closure motion came to the floor because nothing was happening. I would say that nothing was happening because the government did nothing. This bill went to committee. There were five amendments presented at the committee and the members of the government did nothing with those amendments. They died at committee. So when I hear members of the government say that nothing was happening, whose fault is that? Certainly we, as the opposition, did what we thought was our responsibility, to focus on those parts of the bill that could be strengthened, that should be changed, that should be corrected, and nothing happened. Your government chose not to pay attention to those very worthy amendments that were brought for debate. So I say to the members opposite who would say, "Nothing was happening so we have to bring closure," nothing has happened because you have done nothing in a responsible fashion to address some of the very worthy issues that came to the committee table for discussion.
The member for Perth-Middlesex also made reference to the fact that, "Well, this government is doing what it can with the resources it has." It may not be enough-and he even recognized in his own riding it wasn't all that he thought it should be, or indeed what the people needed-but, "This government is doing what it can with the resources that it has." That statement really strikes me as strange today, the day following a statement by the Minister of Finance where he boasted about the $1.4-billion surplus revenues that the government will have. Yet not one of those dollars will be directed toward resources that will save the lives of abused partners. That is very sad to me. So when a member would say, "You know, we're doing what we can with the dollars we have," I say, no, you're not.
I have proof in my own riding where resources are not well-managed. In this particular case in my riding there's a women who-the example is this: she's in a violent situation. She has been advised by the Ontario Provincial Police not to stay alone at night in her residence. That's how serious it is. She has found accommodation to spend nights in a safe place. As it turns out, that location is outside the county boundary, so Ontario Works has said to her that because she does not sleep in the county at night, she is going to be cut off. That's how this government is supporting victims of violence in my riding. That's a fact my office is trying to deal with, trying to help this woman. The community and social services rule would say that because she is not sleeping at her place of residence-she is able to return there and feels reasonably safe through the day, but because she is not able to spend the night there and the location she has found to be safe and manageable is not in her county jurisdiction, her support from this government is being pulled away.
There's a great deal more I could say. I look forward to opportunities over the next few days. I'm sure we'll pay tribute and remember women who have fallen victims to violence. Over the course of this week I know I will have an opportunity to further address concerns in my riding in terms of how this government is not protecting victims of violence.
This caucus has decided we will support the bill, because it's a small step. We have offered some significant ways the government could protect victims of violence. They have chosen to ignore them. That is regrettable. I certainly cannot support the time allocation motion. Thank you for this time this afternoon.
Mme Claudette Boyer (Ottawa-Vanier) : J'aimerais encore une fois donner mes commentaires sur le projet de loi 117 et dire ma grande déception de voir que ce soir c'est la dernière chance qu'on a, la dernière occasion de parler du dossier sur la violence domestique.
Le procureur général propose encore une fois d'ajouter des mesures punitives pour faire en sorte que les abuseurs soient punis de façon beaucoup plus sévère. Bien sûr, Dalton McGuinty et le caucus libéral appuient ce projet de loi car nous croyons qu'il est nécessaire que les abuseurs soient punis. Mais ce que le gouvernement propose ne va pas assez loin. Il faut essayer de légiférer de façon positive pour prévenir la violence domestique au lieu de simplement punir les abuseurs après le fait.
It is important to understand that the entire Liberal caucus of course is in favour of stricter punishment for abusers, but we on this side of the House also know that punishment after the fact does nothing to prevent the abuse from happening in the first place. I am sure the Harris government would be very proud to say that Ontario is a province that punishes abusers the most, but even if this were true, it would still not mean that Ontario is the province with the least cases of abuse. This government unfortunately, and I'm not saying this in a partisan manner, is constantly reacting to problems rather than seeking to prevent them.
If the government were truly, and I mean truly, concerned about victims, it would strive to ensure that Ontario's women do not become victims in the first place. Rather than focusing solely on harsher punishment, why not restore the money it has already cut from women's shelters? Why not expand helpline services so that women, not just in cities but throughout the province, may have access to counselling? Sure, the Harris government tripled the number of domestic violence courts, a measure I applaud, but unless women have the community supports they need to leave their abusers, the abusive men will never reach the courts in the first place.
There is very little vision and very little logic to this government's approach to domestic violence.
Nous entendons plusieurs experts parler de la stratégie du gouvernement face à la violence domestique. L'association ontarienne des maisons de passage sont de l'opinion que depuis que le gouvernement Harris est au pouvoir, nous avons vu une transition claire de l'attention du gouvernement allant de la prévention vers la punition.
« Bien sûr, » dit l'Association, « les services policiers doivent être inclus dans le processus », mais il faut se demander à quel point nous devons nous fier entièrement à eux, les policiers, lorsqu'il est reconnu que la grande majorité des femmes abusées-et je dis plus de deux tiers-ne font même pas appel aux policiers. Une des raisons, c'est qu'elles sont en position de dépendance économique face à leurs abuseurs. Elles n'ont nulle part pour se réfugier et ce, en grande partie, dû au fait que le gouvernement Harris a coupé dans les subventions aux maisons de transition en Ontario.
I know that it is sometimes difficult for us, but I am honestly convinced that this government has work to do in the area of domestic abuse.
Il y a vraiment des victimes qui ont besoin d'aide et qui n'ont personne vers qui se tourner ; elles sont vulnérables. J'aimerais pouvoir leur dire, à ces victimes, que le gouvernement de l'Ontario sera là pour elles. J'aimerais pouvoir dire à ces victimes que le gouvernement de l'Ontario s'assurera qu'elles ne seront pas laissées en arrière à souffrir seules. J'aimerais pouvoir dire à ces victimes que le gouvernement de l'Ontario éliminera l'ombre de la peur à laquelle ces femmes abusées sont assujetties tous les jours. J'aimerais pouvoir leur dire que le gouvernement de l'Ontario y mettra le financement nécessaire pour essayer d'enrayer la violence mais je ne suis pas certaine de pouvoir l'affirmer. Je me demande si je dirais vraiment la vérité.
The opportunity is there. Ontario is currently enjoying one of the largest economic expansions in its history. If Mr Eves's budget surplus predictions are accurate and we are currently sitting on a $1.4-billion surplus, then what better opportunity to send a message to victims of domestic violence that indeed this government wants to protect them from domestic violence.
Au lieu de parler uniquement aux groupes policiers pour trouver des moyens de punir davantage les abuseurs, nous devons encourager la participation des groupes intéressés au dossier de la violence domestique pour qu'ils puissent partager leurs idées et leurs inquiétudes. C'est seulement lorsque nous aurons écouté les gens qui sont affectés par le problème social qu'est la violence domestique que nous pourrons commencer à l'éliminer.
The Deputy Speaker: The time for debate is complete.
Mr Klees has moved government notice of motion number 79. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All in favour will say "aye."
All opposed will say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members. This will be a 10-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1749 to 1759.
The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour will please rise one at a time.
Baird, John R.
Harris, Michael D.
Molinari, Tina R.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Stewart, R. Gary
Tascona, Joseph N.
Tsubouchi, David H.
The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please rise one at a time until recognized by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Cleary, John C.
Conway, Sean G.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 49; the nays are 29.
The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
It being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 6:45 of the clock.
The House adjourned at 1802.