April 27th, 2021
Justice Committee Calls for Action to Combat Spike in Violence in Intimate Partner Relationships
OTTAWA, April 27, 2021—The House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has just tabled a unanimous report on coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate partner relationships. The Justice Committee report calls for prompt actions by all levels of government to address coercive and controlling behaviours including using the approach taken in Bill C-247 of adding a coercive and controlling behaviour offence to the Criminal Code.
The full report can be found here https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/JUST/report-9/.
“At the start of pandemic, I heard from both front-line service organisations and police in my riding that there had been a spike in domestic violence calls and that the pandemic posed new challenges in responding as people were forced to isolate and shelter at home” said Randall Garrison, MP for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke and a member of the Standing Committee on Justice. Studies have now confirmed the existence of a shadow pandemic with an increase of more than 30% in intimate partner violence in the last year. “It quickly became clear that new tools and strategies were urgently needed to combat a problem that has been with us long before the pandemic,” Garrison said.
In response Garrison tabled his private members bill, C-247, that calls for the creation on an offense for coercive and controlling behaviour in the criminal code. “Creating this new offence will help stop serious harm already being inflicted on intimate partners and it would also allow police to take action before things escalate,” said Garrison.
“At the Justice Committee as well as during my consultations prior to drafting Bill C-247, we heard from survivors, front-line service providers and police alike that adding coercive and controlling behaviour to the Criminal Code would provide an important tool allowing earlier intervention in problematic relationships and helping to avoid escalation to physical violence,” said Garrison.
Local advocate Marlene Goley, manager of the Cridge Transition House and Outreach Services, supports the addition of coercive control to the criminal code saying, “making coercive control a crime is a good start. If legislation were to be passed, it will become a tool with huge potential to recognize and take seriously the repeated patterns of behaviour that have trapped, terrorized, and, in too many cases, resulted in women’s and children’s deaths.”
Goley and Garrison both agree that legislation that would add coercive and controlling behaviour to the Criminal Code is a good first step. “Legislation like Bill C-247 is a tool with potential. It is not a magic switch that will automatically change the prevailing attitudes and beliefs that have dismissed and minimized women’s disclosures. It will be up to everyone doing anti-violence work to hold up this legislation and insist on it being applied. It will require changing the old attitudes and beliefs – work we’ve been trying to do for decades,” said Goley.
Garrison looks forward to seeing the recommendations being promptly implemented in the House of Commons saying, “this study includes clear recommendations for moving forward in addressing the issue of coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate partner violence. Moving ahead with these recommendations raises public awareness about this deadly shadow pandemic and could save lives.”