SACHA on Parliament Hill Today

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IMAG0283Lenore Lukasik-Foss, SACHA’s Director and President of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres will be speaking to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities about Bill c-591.

This is a bill to amend the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security Act would not allow a victim’s benefits be paid to the person who has been convicted of their murder.

Here’s more information on the amendment – http://openparliament.ca/bills/41-2/C-591/

Good afternoon Honourable Members, staff and guests. Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee on Bill c-591. Today I am speaking on behalf of the Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton and Area) and the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres – also known as the OCRCC. OCRCC is network of 26 sexual assault centres from across Ontario. We offer counselling, information and support services to survivors of recent and historical sexual assault.

The Sexual Assault Centre and OCRCC agree with most of the proposed components of Bill c-591: An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (pension and benefits), and recommend that it is accepted, with the addition of manslaughter as grounds for which to revoke benefit eligibility.

Our thoughts are as follows:

1. It is critical to apply a gendered lens to Bill c-591. Lethal incidences of violence, perpetrated by known offenders – particularly spouses, ex-partners and family members − continue to impact women differently than men.

Domestic violence is a social issue that affects a large number of Canadian women. Further, the link between domestic violence, lethality and women’s victimization is consistent. The most recent Domestic Violence Death Review Committee Annual Report, issued in February of this year, notes that women are most commonly the victims of lethal domestic violence in Canada[1] .

In 2012, 20 reviewed cases included 14 homicides and six homicide-suicides, resulting in 32 deaths (26 homicide victims and six perpetrator suicides). Of the 26 victims, 77% were female; and 90% of the perpetrators were male[2]. These findings are consistent with earlier Domestic Violence Death Review Committee reports, which found that, overall, 73% of all lethal cases reviewed from 2003-2012 involved a couple where there was a history of domestic violence; as well as a majority of female victims[3].

It is important to note that a woman is most likely to be harmed − including lethally harmed − by an offender that is well-known and close to her. A recent Canadian report notes that when it comes to women’s experiences of violence, overall, men were responsible for 83% of police-reported violent crime committed against women. Most commonly, the accused was the woman’s intimate partner (both spousal and dating) (45%), followed by acquaintances or friends (27%). This contrasts violent crimes against men, where intimate partners were among the least common perpetrators (12%)[4].

Certainly, these examples of gender-based crimes mean that particular types of violence continue to impact women and their extended families disproportionately to men. Women’s vulnerability to domestic and sexual violence by spouses and partners, in particular, means that women’s experience of these crimes is different than that of other populations.

We imagine, for example, based on the above statistics that it is very likely that women’s extended families have been largely impacted by the current gap in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and the Old Age Security (OAS) Act.

For this reason, we contend that any discussion on Bill c-591 must include a gendered analysis of lethal violence in Canada.

2. We also ask that manslaughter be added as grounds to revoke eligibility for pension and benefits. There are cases where a spouse or parent, through the plea bargaining process, is convicted of manslaughter as opposed to 1st or 2nd degree murder. Although the overall number may be small; is it unconscionable to allow anyone to collect pension or benefits after a conviction of this nature. We firmly believe that the spirit of Bill c-591 is fully realized when this loophole is closed.

The amendments in c-591 indicate our government’s increasing awareness of the broad implications of gender-based crimes in Canada. This includes the financial implications of violence for women and their families.

In recent years, Justice Canada studies have examined the economic cost of crime in Canada. Gun crimes, in 2008, for example, were found to cost $3.1 billion. Spousal violence, measured in 2009, cost $7.4 billion[5]. Financial impacts can include healthcare costs, lost wages to the victim and her support persons, public spending in the justice system and social services[6].

We do not wish to see more costs and dollars misdirected. The Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security Act can better support the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law for women though the changes proposed by Bill c-591.

Certainly, Canada’s courts, systems and social policies, including CPP and OAS, have an important role in supporting victims of crime. Bill c-591is one example where the needs of women facing violence, and their loved ones, see recognition.

Lastly, the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres and the Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton and Area) recommend that the government consider taking further fiscal and legislative measures to address the serious issue of domestic violence before it results in the death of a spouse or parent. Bill c-591, while important, impacts a small number of Canadians; while domestic and sexual violence impact numerous people across our country – particularly women.

Repeated studies and reports have shown us what is truly needed to address issues facing victims of domestic and sexual crimes.   We also know that much can be done to prevent all forms of gender-based violence. We urge you to undertake the necessary systemic and comprehensive work required to end all forms of violence against women in Canada.

In Closing

Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today and for giving recognition to the expertise and work being done by sexual assault centres in Ontario. The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres has a 30-year history of working in Ontario and Canada to address and end sexual and other forms of gender-based violence in our communities. The Sexual Assault Centre in Hamilton has been serving our community since 1975. Thank you.

—————

[1] Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario. Domestic Violence Death Review Committee 2012 Annual Report. February 2014. Online: http://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/stellent/groups/public/@mcscs/@www/@com/documents/webasset/ec165340.pdf

[2] Ibid, 3

[3] Ibid.

[4] Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. February 25, 2013. Measuring violence against women: Statistical trends. Online: http://www.springtideresources.org/sites/all/files/Measuring%20Violence%20Against%20Women%20-%20Statistical%20Trends%202013%20Stats%20Canada.pdf , 8.

[5] The Star. Published on March 2, 2014. Violent crimes in Canada cost nearly $13 billion in one year. Online: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/03/02/violent_crimes_in_canada_cost_nearly_13_billion_in_one_year.html

[6] Ibid.

 

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