June 15th, 2024

This MP says hundreds shared stories of coercive control, asks House to pass bill

By Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press on June 4, 2024.

NDP MP for Victoria Laurel Collins makes her way to the podium to speak during a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – An NDP MP says she hopes the polarized House of Commons will continue to put partisanship aside to pass her bill to criminalize coercive control this week, after hearing hundreds of personal stories about intimate partner violence.

Laurel Collins says legislators from across party lines have supported her private member’s bill, which seeks to criminalize the type of behaviours experts say abusers often use to isolate and instil fear in their victim.

“The House of Commons has gotten incredibly divisive and this has been an example of MPs putting their partisan politics aside to try and make the lives of survivors and victims of intimate partner violence better,” she said in a recent interview.

“This is what politics should be.”

Collins, who represents Victoria, shared some of what her own sister endured when introducing her bill last November. She recounted how her sister had turned up at her door in tears after her partner had taken away her cellphone, bank cards and keys to try and stop her from leaving.

The MP said she’s heard from hundreds more people who have shared their own experiences or those of someone they love.

“The thread that I hear again and again is that survivors of coercive control and intimate partner violence do not want this to happen to other people,” she said.

“It’s been really emotional hearing their stories and the devastating impacts that this has had on their lives.”

Collins’s bill was amended following a study by a parliamentary committee earlier this year, which featured testimony from legal experts and advocates.

It seeks to define coercive control as patterns of behaviours that range from threatening to use violence against a partner, or their child or pet, to trying to control a partner’s job, their appearance and what opinions they have.

Threatening suicide or self-harm was another flagged behaviour.

“It is such an insidious form of violence,” Collins said.

Many fail to recognize coercive control, and experts say it’s one of the most common factors in cases of physical abuse and domestic homicide, she said.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has previously said laws that are used to prosecute domestic violence are focused on physical incidents and do not allow police to intervene in cases of coercive control.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba had the highest rates of police-reported intimate partner violence in 2022, Statistics Canada reports.

Federal statistics from 2018 show 44 per cent of women who have been in relationships reported experiencing some form of abuse from a partner.

Collins brought forward her bill after fellow New Democrat Randall Garrison introduced his own private member’s legislation two years ago.

She said she’s been working to garner support from other parties to speed it along in hopes that it can be passed quickly and head to the Senate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2024.

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