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Recommendation 53: Electronic shackles

Dave Brown

The Ottawa Citizen

Saturday, February 16, 2002

 

Men should be electronically shackled with a global positioning device when they are accused of violence against a woman, and their names should automatically go into a database of abusers without waiting for a conviction.

Those suggestions are among 58 recommendations in the recent report of a coroner's jury in Toronto into a murder-suicide in June 2000 in which a man killed his estranged wife and then himself.

Reports in Toronto papers seemed to mainly praise the recommendations with a tone that said when it comes to ending violence against women, the rights of men aren't part of the program.

To arrive at that attitude, a reporter has to first accept that violence against women is an epidemic, with 29 per cent of those in intimate relationships being abused and in need of rescue. The inquest called for more funding to open more shelters and provide more housing to handle the expected influx as women become confident they can safely seek help.

That such huge numbers exist comes mainly from a 1992 federally funded $10-million study called The Final Report of the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women. Experts challenged that report during the inquest, saying it is without basis and its detail can't be proved.

Defenders of the report, known as the CanPan by insiders, included London, Ont., psychologist Peter Jaffe whose presence in the witness box bookended the inquest. He was the first witness called when the inquest opened in October, and one of the last just before it ended four months and 52 sitting days later.

Jaffe, himself a member of the 1992-93 Canadian Panel On Violence, continues to maintain that domestic violence is widely-prevalent and under-reported. He remained inflexible in his stand that the violence against women issue is of epidemic proportions. He says the true numbers come to him from "frontline workers," mainly shelter staff. Another defender of the CanPan report was lawyer Tom Marshall of the office of the Attorney General of Ontario, who argued that any criticism of the CanPan report trivializes the issue of domestic violence. His wife, Pat Marshall, was an author of the report.

In its recommendations the jury doesn't discuss the possible fallibility of the report. It says Gillian Hadley was shot and killed by her estranged husband, Ralph, who then killed himself.

To protect women from all forms of violence the jury listed 58 recommendations. Mainly they call for more funding for more services, and more controls over accused men. The jury said domestic violence courts should override both criminal and civil laws.

It is recommendation 53 that makes reference to global positioning. Electronic monitoring would be mandatory for all men accused of violence against a woman when released on bail. A tracking device would be locked to them.

Getting bail could be tough, since recommendation 10 calls for a "reverse onus" on bail applications. This could amount to a need to prove one's innocence to get bail.

Items 32 through 36 make leaving a relationship claiming violence an attractive option. There should be an increased housing allowance if the woman says she is fleeing violence. There should be extra money for moving expenses. There would be no need to meet Works Ontario participation requirements (workfare). Those screening applicants for income support should make more of an effort to ascertain whether the applicant is fleeing abuse.

Item 41 mentions support for men and their need to continue their roles as parents, but makes no mention of funding.

Items 19 and 20 would put "abused women's advocates" in controlling roles when weighing the controversial "best interests of the child" issue in domestic violence cases.

Mandatory counseling for abusers is now set at 16 sessions, usually once a week. Recommendation 42 would increase that to a mandatory 52 weeks.

The jury called on the provincial government to initiate more than 100 recommendations from a previous murder-suicide inquest. That would include Bill 117, already passed but not yet implemented. It takes the view women are prisoners of economics and to address that issue would transfer the accused's money and property to the accuser without a trial.

What the Hadley inquest jury didn't address was just what constitutes violence against a woman. As it stands now, the interpretation of violence can be anything that causes fear, including shouting and banging walls.

The Ontario Government already commits annually $145 million to the violence against women issue. The Hadley jury is calling for much more, as is psychologist Jaffe.

His battle cry is for more "services in place." For the most part the services he means are provided by the field of psychology. At one point he told the inquest shelter workers and police are often themselves survivors of violence. When called on to help new victims they often experience a resurgence of angst, and are in need of special counseling through services in place.

The Hadley inquest was the first time a lawyer representing a men's group was given standing to address the violence against women issue. The group was Fathers Are Capable Too, and the lawyer was Walter Fox.

Violence against women groups were represented by lawyer Geri Sanson of the Ontario Association of Interval and Transitional Housing.

Dave Brown is the Citizen's senior editor. Send e-mail to dbrown@thecitizen.southam.ca

Read previous columns by Dave Brown at www.ottawacitizen.com

 Copyright 2002 The Ottawa Citizen

http://www.canada.com/ottawa/ottawacitizen/columnists/story.asp?id=B5228885-8460-4D60-A8AF-3B2332B47E6A


 

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