To: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, House of Commons
Re: Bill C-75 An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
Dear Minister Wilson-Raybould,
The BC Society of Transition Houses (BCSTH) is a provincial umbrella organization providing support and training to over 125 Transition, Second and Third Stage Houses, Safe Homes, and over 86 PEACE programs and Violence is Preventable programs across BC.
We are writing to express our overall support for Bill C-75, as well as to identify its shortfalls. The following provisions are positive steps towards keeping women and their children safer from violence from an intimate partner.
- Rendering assaults involving strangulation a more serious level of assault, equivalent to assault causing bodily harm. This is warranted given that strangulation raises the risk of intimate femicide sevenfold.
- Expanding the sentencing provision that requires judges to treat as aggravating the fact domestic violence was committed against a spouse, to include dating partners as well as former partners. This is particularly important given that women are at greatest risk of lethal violence when they leave a relationship.
- Reversing the onus for bail is justified by the fact that half of domestic violence offenders breach bail and half of these involve assault, criminal harassment and murder. We note, however, that this will not apply to those without a criminal record for domestic violence.
- Replacing ‘spouse’ and ‘common-law partner’ to the more inclusive term ‘intimate partner’ and broadening it to include past partners.
While the increased sentences for repeated domestic violence offences proposed by Bill C-75 may be justified, we note that, currently, maximum sentences are rarely imposed for domestic violence. The proposed legislation takes some positive steps but continues a piecemeal approach to violence against women. In addition to well-trained and responsive criminal justice, legal aid and law enforcement systems, women need meaningful access to safe and affordable housing, social welfare and child care and adequately funded, community based anti-violence services.
Dr. Joanne Baker, Executive Director
Media enquiries: Dr. Joanne Baker, Executive Director, 604 653 9075; Joanne@bcsth.ca