National Strategy for the Prevention of Intimate Partner Violence Bill

Second Reading--Debate Adjourned

November 1, 2022


Hon. Fabian Manning [ + ]

Honourable senators, intimate partner violence tends to happen repeatedly for some victims. About 3 in 10 women victims of intimate partner violence recorded experiencing at least one type of violence — physical, sexual or psychological — repeatedly, either on a monthly basis or more often in the previous 12 months.

Overall, one in five, or 20% of women who experienced sexual violence committed by an intimate partner in the past 12 months said it happened monthly or more often than that in the past 12 months. The frequency in which women experience this kind of intimate partner violence is notable, as this type of violence is often also considered to be the most severe.

Certain segments of the population are at greater risk of experiencing intimate partner violence. In addition to gender, other individual and socio-economic characteristics intersect to impact the likelihood of experiencing intimate partner violence.

According to the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces, or SSPPS, the prevalence of intimate partner violence over the last 12 months and over a lifetime was notably higher among Indigenous women, LGBTQ2S+ people and women with disabilities. The following groups of people were more likely than their respective counterparts to have experienced intimate partner violence at least once in their lifetime: LGB+ women at 67%, Indigenous women at 61% and women with disabilities at 55%. It is noted that Indigenous women are more likely to experience each form of intimate partner violence and do so multiple times.

The Labrador portion of my province is home to just about 5% of the province’s population, which in 2020 was approximately 27,674 people, with about 43% of those being Indigenous. The latest data from Newfoundland and Labrador’s two police services covers the period from 2016 to 2020. It shows the rate of sexual assault in Labrador was between four to six times higher than on the island during that time.

Deirdre Connolly had seen enough. She opened the Labrador office of the Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, where she works with survivors, in March 2020. She says the level of resources provided to the region with such a high prevalence of sexual violence is unacceptable.

In 2019, across Canada, approximately 800 victim service programs helped approximately half a million victims of crime. Among all females assisted, 84% were victims of a violent offence, 30% were women receiving services related to sexual assault, and 61% were victims of violent offences by a spouse, ex-spouse, intimate partner or other family member.

Police-reported data provided by Statistics Canada for the 2019 to 2021 reporting period showed that approximately 52% of victims of crimes reported to the police were female. The most common offence perpetrated against females was common assault, which represents approximately 48% of all violent incidents reported to police.

A recent report by the World Health Organization states:

Intimate partner violence has been identified as a major global public health concern, linked to intergenerational violence and detrimental physical, emotional and economic impacts on victims, witnesses and society as a whole.

More than 7 out of 10 victims (71%) of police-reported intimate partner violence experienced physical force. Physical assault was the most common offence experienced by victims of police-reported intimate partner violence at 77%, followed by uttering threats at 8% and criminal harassment at 6%.

Police-reported data show that spouses, current or former, and other intimate partners committed approximately 42% of violent crimes involving female victims. Other family members and acquaintances accounted for another 43%.

Police-reported family violence is defined “as all types of violent crime perpetrated by a family member that was reported to the police.”

Colleagues, while it may be difficult for some people to understand, studies have shown that 70% of any type of spousal violence is not reported to police. Many victims of spousal violence experience severe forms of violence; specifically, 25% of all spousal violence victims are sexually assaulted, beaten, choked or threatened with a gun or knife, and 24% of all spousal violence victims are kicked, bitten, hit or hit with something.

A 2017 Statistics Canada information site, Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report, states:

Females were over-represented among victims of sexual assault (88% of total incidents) and victims of “other sexual violations” (83% of total incidents). Other offences reported to police that were committed primarily against females included forcible confinement and related offences (79%), criminal harassment (76%), and making threatening and harassing phone calls (71%). All of the victims (100%) of offences under the “commodification of sexual activity” category were female.

Statistics Canada also reported that:

Rates of almost all types of violent victimization were higher for Aboriginal people . . . . Specifically, the sexual assault rate of Aboriginal people (58 incidents per 1,000 people) was almost three times that of non-Aboriginal people (20 per 1,000), while the physical assault rate of Aboriginal people (90 per 1,000) was nearly double that of non-Aboriginal people (47 per 1,000).

Furthermore:

Aboriginal females reported experiencing violent victimizations at a rate . . . 2.7 times higher than that reported by non-Aboriginal females.

And we can never forget that 1,181 Indigenous women went missing or were murdered between 1980 and 2012.

Half of Aboriginal victims of spousal violence reported experiencing among the more severe forms of spousal violence, such as having been sexually assaulted, beaten, choked or threatened with a gun or knife. This compares with just one quarter, or 23%, of non-Aboriginal victims of spousal violence.

I believe I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to talk about and promote the Moose Hide Campaign. For those of you who may not be aware of the campaign, the inspiration for it came to the co-founders, Paul Lacerte and his daughter Raven, in 2011 during a moose-hunting trip on their traditional territory along the Highway of Tears in British Columbia, where so many women have gone missing or have been murdered.

The Moose Hide Campaign is a grassroots movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and boys who are standing up against violence toward women and children. Wearing the Moose Hide pin, such as I am doing today, signifies one’s commitment to honour, respect and protect the women and children in your life and speak out against gender-based domestic and intimate partner violence.

Since the start of the campaign, in excess of 1 million Moose Hide pins have been distributed throughout Canada, which has generated as many conversations about ending the violence against our women and children. I encourage all of you to support the campaign and take a strong stand against the violence.

Another disturbing statistic is that 60% of women with a disability experience some form of violence. Given that only approximately 10% of assaults are reported, the actual number is much higher.

Almost two thirds of spousal violence victims, or 63%, said they had been victimized more than once before they contacted the police. Nearly 3 in 10, or 28%, stated that they had been victimized more than 10 times before they contacted the police.

The total cost of intimate partner violence in Canada has been estimated at $7.4 billion per year, amounting to $220 per capita. The most direct economic impact is borne by primary victims. Of the total estimated costs, $6 billion was incurred by victims as a direct result of spousal violence for items such as medical attention, hospitalization, lost wages, missed school days and stolen and damaged property.

The justice system bore 7.3%, or $545 million, of the total economic impact: $320 million was borne by the criminal justice system, and $225 million was borne by the civil justice system.

While family violence is a concern for all Canadians, women report intimate partner violence to police nearly four times more than men, and are almost three times more likely than men to be killed by a current or former spouse. Almost half — 48% — of women reported fearing for their lives as a result of post‑separation violence.

Numerous intimate partner violence death reviews, inquiries and coroners’ reports have cited the lack of coordination among officials operating in the family law, child protection and criminal justice systems as a contributing factor in tragic family homicides.

Without mechanisms in place to ensure coordination and communication among these systems, families can be faced with potentially inconsistent or conflicting orders, which may in turn have implications for the safety of family members, including the most vulnerable — the children. This, in turn, can undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.

While there is no universally accepted definition of family violence, the definition developed by the federal Family Violence Initiative describes family violence as:

. . . a range of abusive behaviours that occur within relationships based on kinship, intimacy, dependency or trust.

These abusive behaviours include physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and financial victimization as well as neglect.

When I first contacted the Library of Parliament to develop this legislation, my goal was to develop a law to address intimate partner violence in Canada. I quickly learned it is not that easy to do. At the present time, there is no federal statute nor provincial statute that obliges physicians to report cases of domestic violence to third parties. There are national, provincial and territorial jurisdictions that have to be dealt with as well. The delivery of health care is a provincial or territorial matter.

While some provinces have codes of conduct regarding the regulation of physicians and other health care professionals and most provinces require physicians to report cases of violence when children are involved, no province has made it mandatory to report cases of intimate partner violence.

Tonight, if a woman arrives at a hospital anywhere in our country with a gunshot wound or has been stabbed, it is mandatory to call the police. Currently, hospitals and health care facilities in some provinces — namely British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories — must report gunshot wounds to the police. Although the reporting obligation in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories also includes stab wounds, the legislation in all these provinces is similar. The obligation to report typically falls to the institution or facility, not the individual physician. In some jurisdictions, the obligation placed on facilities to report could also include physicians’ private medical offices and walk-in clinics.

However, honourable senators, if that same woman arrives at a hospital tonight with two black eyes, a broken nose, her front teeth missing or evidence of choking or strangulation from the physical abuse of her partner, there is no obligation or law to call the police.

During the time I have been working on this piece of legislation, I have learned that patient privacy and a victim’s fear of what may happen if a police report is made are important factors that need to be thoroughly discussed as we proceed. I accept that these are not easy conversations, but in order to find possible solutions to this increasing problem of intimate partner violence in our country, we need to begin exploring avenues to find a way to assist those who so desperately need our help.

Let us not lose hope of a better way forward. I have been around the political arena for 30-plus years now, and I fully understand that every journey begins with a single step. That is the way I — with the support of people like Georgina McGrath — through Bill S-249, will begin this journey. I hope I have your support.

Bill S-249 calls on the federal government to provide for the development of a national strategy for the prevention of intimate partner violence following consultations between federal ministers and representatives of the provincial and territorial governments responsible for social development, families or public safety, as well as other relevant stakeholders.

We have to begin somewhere, and I truly believe that Bill S-249 is an important first step. We need consistency across and within jurisdictions in both policies and legislation that address violence against women. We need shared understanding of the root causes of violence against women. We need high‑level commitment, leadership and accountability from government at all jurisdictional levels. We need clearly defined, time-bound goals measured against detailed, baseline data, and we need adequate human and financial resources to support these processes. We need new commitments and clear targets, and we need national standards with equality of access for all women that respect and respond to diversity. We need to consult with all stakeholders, including front-line workers and survivors.

Ongoing and unchecked intimate partner violence can escalate and produce devastating consequences. The people of my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador are all too familiar with the tragic story of a beautiful little girl by the name of Quinn Butt. Quinn’s parents were separated at the time of her death.

In 2019, Trent Butt was found guilty of first-degree murder and arson after the body of his 5-year-old daughter, Quinn, was found in their burned-out home in Carbonear on April 24, 2016.

We also have the incredibly sad story of Chrissy Predham-Newman, who was found murdered in her apartment in St. John’s in January 2007. Her throat had been slashed, and she was stabbed 53 times.

Following a lengthy investigation, her estranged husband, Ray Newman, was charged two years later with her murder. Three years following that charge being laid, a judge ruled Newman’s rights had been violated during a police interview, Newman was found not guilty and walked away a free man. Later in 2018, Ray Newman was back in the courtroom again, and this time was found guilty of assaulting his girlfriend. She testified that Newman punched, choked and dragged her. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

No one has ever been brought to justice for the horrible death of Chrissy Predham-Newman.

Then, we have still have the unresolved mystery in my home province of the disappearance of Courtney Lake, who was last seen on June 7, 2017. She had been involved in a toxic relationship with a man named Philip Smith, who was charged on April 15 of that same year with assaulting Courtney. Despite a peace bond obtained by Courtney, Smith continued in his attempts to contact her.

On June 7, 2017, Smith appeared in court where he admitted to the assault on Courtney for which he received a suspended sentence. Along with numerous other charges he was convicted of that day in court, Smith was sentenced to two days’ time served. Upon leaving the courthouse, Smith was given a probation order to stay away from Courtney and her mother.

Courtney was last seen four hours after Philip Smith left the courthouse on June 7. On June 30, 2017, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary announced they had classified Courtney’s disappearance as a homicide and had referred her case to the Major Crimes Unit. Numerous searches by police services, search and rescue units as well as family and friends have failed to find Courtney Lake.

On October 31, 2017, Smith contacted his family saying he was going to kill himself. Concerned, the family contacted the police, and at 3 a.m. on November 1, 2017, they located the body of Philip Smith in the Bellevue Beach area of our province. The families are left with so many unanswered questions.

Under international law, every nation has an obligation to address violence against women. Currently, Canada has no national plan or strategy to deal with violence against women. With your support, Bill S-249 can be the vehicle that changes the way we deal with intimate partner violence in this country.

If you feel the need to do so, I invite you to offer suggestions on how we can improve this piece of legislation. Canada needs a national strategy to ensure all women are able to live free from violence. We owe it to women like Georgina McGrath and the thousands of others who have felt the pain of physical abuse, suffered the anguish of mental abuse and endured the agony of loneliness and despair.

Canada is a wonderful country in so many ways. We have so much to offer, and we are the envy of the world. Let us work together and support this bill, so that all people who have suffered or are still suffering from any form of intimate partner violence or abuse will have hope for a better and safer future.

Honourable senators, I end my speech today the way I began it, by repeating the quote of Kofi Annan:

Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And, it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.

Thank you for listening.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Senator Manning, there is at least one senator who wishes to ask a question, but you’re out of time. Are you asking for five minutes to answer some questions?

Senator Manning [ + ]

Yes, Your Honour.

Hon. Patti LaBoucane-Benson

Thank you so much, Senator Manning, for that important speech. I look forward to hearing more and seeing what happens in committee.

I wonder if you have had a chance to review the reports of the Family Violence Death Review Committee in Alberta and the many recommendations they made after studying many tragic cases in Alberta. They were looking for patterns across these cases and making recommendations for the prevention of family violence and deaths in particular. I’m wondering if you have had a chance to see those.

Senator Manning [ + ]

Thank you, senator. I apologize; I haven’t had the opportunity. I’ve been bombarded with different statistics from everywhere and trying to fit it all into a 35-minute speech.

But I have spoken to people in Alberta, in many cases they are people from Newfoundland and Labrador who live in Alberta today, and there is no doubt in my mind that the concern with intimate partner violence is very real in Alberta, as it is in every province in our country.

Certainly, I hope that groups such as the one you mentioned will bring forward information to the committee. Hopefully, we will learn not only about the concerns and problems that are out there, but I’m also interested in finding solutions. Through their efforts, I hope we can bring that to committee and that some of these suggestions and recommendations will be formalized into our report.

Hon. Renée Dupuis [ + ]

Thank you, Senator Manning, for this important speech, and thank you most of all for lending your voice to women who have experienced violence, who have found the energy and courage to survive that violence and to help other women.

With respect to Bill S-249, I see in the English version that there is a definition of the term “intimate partner.” I think it’s a very important definition since it seeks to include both current and previous partners. It doesn’t only refer to partners who are currently in a relationship. This definition only exists in the English version of the bill. Could you explain why? It is on the Senate LEGISinfo website. Why not include this definition in the French version of the bill?

Senator Manning [ + ]

Thank you, madam senator, for your question. With regard to the French version, I have to apologize; I’ll have to depend on someone else to explain the French version of my speech.

There has been as much concern raised with me over the past number of years with former spouses and former partners as there has been with present partners and present spouses. It will be incorporated into the discussions without a doubt. They took the podium from me, and my speech with it.

The fact is that I have heard from many people who are in relationships and concerned about someone coming back into their lives in cases, and they have a peace bond against them for whatever reason.

So there is no doubt in my mind that this will be incorporated into the discussions, because we need to look at the whole picture, including former spouses and partners, as well as ones that we are currently dealing with.

Hon. Marilou McPhedran [ + ]

I wonder if I could ask a question.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Senator Manning is out of time again.

Senator Manning, are you asking for more time?

Senator Manning [ + ]

Yes.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Senator McPhedran [ + ]

Honourable senators, my question is related to the release in April 2021 of what was called the Roadmap for the National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Gender-Based Violence.

Senator Manning, I just wondered if you could help us understand the very important points that you have raised with us tonight — and I also want to recognize the years of work and dedication that you have put into this. Can you give us a sense of where your bill would fit within this road map? It is described as requiring a 10-year plan. How does your bill, and the strategy that it focuses on, link with this national action plan?

Senator Manning [ + ]

Thank you, Senator McPhedran. As I met with different groups and individuals and talked to different health care professionals, there doesn’t seem to be any plan in place. While we have recommendations made from different studies that have been conducted across the country and different provinces, there doesn’t seem to be a holistic approach to how we deal with intimate partner violence in the country. I stand to be corrected with regard to exactly what is out there in some areas. We live in a big country.

What I’m hoping to do with my bill is to bring all the players to the table. If the bill is adopted and becomes law, the government would have a certain amount of time to build a national strategy to address some of the concerns I have raised today, as well as concerns I didn’t have the opportunity to raise. Hopefully, through it all, we can develop a strategy that addresses issues that we’re dealing with right across the country.

As I said in my remarks, I welcome all suggestions, whether from fellow senators here in the chamber, different groups and organizations or individuals across the country. My strongest belief is that it is only by working together and bringing all players to the table that we can find a way to address this very serious issue in our country.

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