It’s a regrettable fact that that violence occurs between intimate partners, such as married or common-law spouses/partners. Arguably, this gets far too little attention in Canadian society – especially by judges and others who are tasked with making decisions within the Family justice system.
The good news is that this widespread lack of attention will hopefully change soon.
Last week, the Ontario legislature took an affirmative step: It unanimously passed a motion supporting the federal government’s Bill C-233 – also known as “Keira’s Law” – which has already been passed in the House of Commons. That motion also calls for a dedicated consultation process to be set up, with a view toward establishing a similar law in Ontario.
“Keira’s Law” was proposed two years ago, after a tragic incident in Milton, Ontario. Keira Kagan, then four years old, initially went missing while in the care of her biological father. Sadly, they were both found dead at the base of a cliff at Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area, with injuries that were consistent with a fall. Her mother suspects the father committed a murder-suicide.
What makes the story even more tragic, is that Keira’s mother had previously warned the courts about the father’s propensity for domestic violence and controlling behaviour. It was part of her evidence in their acrimonious separation and subsequent custody proceedings. She had even filed a motion with the court for an order formally denying the father access, but it was not heard in time to save Keira’s life.
The tragedy of Keira’s story – and that of other young children like her – was what prompted the federal government’s introduction of Keira’s Law under Bill C-233. It aims to ensure that certain stakeholders and especially decision-makers in the Canadian Family court system get an education and training on the important topics of intimate partner violence and coercive control.
It’s primarily aimed at judges, justices of the peace, Crown attorneys, social workers, and court assessors – basically anyone who is entitled to decisions affecting parties with matters proceeding through the system. The high-level goal is to foster awareness around recognizing patterns pointing to family violence and control, and how it impacts custody/parenting time determinations.
It’s a worthwhile federal initiative, without a doubt. And now, with the resounding and unanimous support by the legislature, it seems Keira’s Law is on-track to be adopted in Ontario as well.