Canada's NDP


July 8th, 2024

Bill Criminalizing Coercive Control Can Help Protect Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence remains a shameful and under-discussed issue in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, between 2009 and 2022, 18 per cent of solved homicide victims were killed by an intimate partner. This is also a problem that disproportionately harms women, with 46 percent of solved homicides of women and girls being perpetrated by an intimate partner (men killed in solved homicides by an intimate partner is a still significant, but much lower rate of six percent.) The rate of police-reported intimate partner violence is more than three times higher among women and girls than among men and boys, and it’s increased by an astounding 19 percent between 2014 and 2022.

Intimate partner violence can end in tragedy, but it often doesn’t start that way. 95 percent of victims of domestic violence have reported experiencing coercive and controlling behaviour from their partner. It can often start as something small, a comment about what a person is wearing or asking to see a partner’s private text messages, but then, over time, can evolve into threats, humiliation, depriving the person of independence, or worse. It may mean preventing a person from contacting family members, controlling their finances, and spending by taking their credit and debit cards. It may mean sharing or threatening to share intimate photos, electronic stalking, or even gaslighting a person to confuse or emotionally manipulate them.

Bill C-332, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (coercive control of intimate partner), is a Private Member’s Bill that creates an offence to engage in controlling or coercive conduct that has a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of a person in an intimate relationship. It includes criminalizing behaviour such as controlling a partner’s finances, tracking them, preventing them from accessing transportation, not allowing them to see friends or family, and other significant issues that encompass controlling or coercive behaviour in a relationship. It’s modelled after similar legislation that has been passed in the United Kingdom.

The bill, presented by NDP MP Laurel Collins, came forward following a recommendation from the Justice Committee two years ago. That report, titled The Shadow Pandemic: Stopping Coercive and Controlling Behaviour in Intimate Relationships, sought to provide guidelines on how the Federal government could do more to end such practices. When presenting the bill, she told the House about a personal instance of her sister being involved in coercive control from a former partner. It was a personal matter for MP Collins, and unfortunately the story she recounted was not an isolated incident.

When it was brought to the floor of the House, it was one of the rare instances where a Private Member Bill was passed unanimously, uniting New Democrat, Liberal, Conservatives, Bloc, Green, and independent MPs. The bill has been sent to the Senate where it has received First Reading with the hope that the Senate will also ensure its quick passage.

Bill C-332 encompasses just part of the committee recommendations on coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate relationships. The Committee also recommended that “the federal government consider increasing its funding for Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence to assist organizations working to support victims of coercive and controlling behaviour to deliver adequate levels of support services, such as counselling, housing, and other services aimed at helping victims in re‑establishing their lives.” Intimate partner violence is complex, and we need a robust support system that will allow people to seek mental health, housing, and other forms of support to ensure they can leave those potentially tragic circumstances behind them. Criminalizing coercive behaviour is vital, and so is ensuring that the support component is accessible if we are to reduce intimate partner violence.