Bill C-75 reforms too little, too late to respond to domestic violence

Posted
April 24, 2018
Article Source
Toronto Star

From a Toronto Star opinion piece: A woman is killed by her current or former partner every six days in Canada. Indigenous women are killed by their intimate partners at a rate eight times higher. Domestic violence is a national crisis.

The federal government's Bill C-75, introduced last month, proposes changes to the criminal law response to domestic violence. But the bill will do too little, too late. What we need is a comprehensive, integrated strategy to prevent and respond to domestic violence, and resources to support women extricating themselves from violent relationships.

What would Bill C-75 do?

It reverses the onus for bail. A person charged with an offence involving violence against an intimate partner, who has a record of such offences, will now have to show cause why they should not be held in custody. This provision is justified by the fact that half of domestic violence offenders breach bail and half of these involve assault, criminal harassment, and sometimes even murder.

This provision is narrow, however, and will not apply to those without a criminal record for domestic violence, including convicted persons who received absolute or conditional discharges.

Bill C-75 would render assaults involving strangulation a more serious level of assault, equivalent to assault causing bodily harm. Strangulation raises the risk of intimate femicide sevenfold and is thus a significant warning sign. The provision relieves the prosecutor of the burden of proving bodily harm, which is not always detectible in spite of the serious risk to life that strangulation poses.

The bill would also expand 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.

Bill C-75 would allow a court to raise a maximum sentence for a domestic violence crime for someone with a record of such offences. Canada, however, does not have a problem of low maximum sentences constraining judges who want to sentence men harshly. In fact, maximum sentences are rarely imposed for domestic violence.

Read more: Bill C-75 reforms too little, too late to respond to domestic violence