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Virtual panel discussion on the criminalization of coercive control in Canada


CAEFS hosted a panel discussion on October 31, 2023 on the criminalization of coercive control in Canada. The panelists, Pamela Cross and Leigh Goodmark, were in conversation with Emilie Coyle – Executive Director of CAEFS .

Criminalization of coercive control in Canada The creation of a new coercive control offence in the Canadian Criminal Code is being explored following the tabling of two private member’s bills as well as the consideration of information and testimony shared during the study by the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on controlling or coercive conduct within intimate relationships, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women’s study on intimate partner and domestic violence in Canada and the Mass Casualty Commission’s Final Report. Over the past few weeks, several organizations from the feminist community have also been asked to participate in Justice Canada’s panels to explore the specifics of the proposed new offence. It is the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies’ (CAEFS) statement of purpose to address the persistent ways in which criminalized women and gender-diverse people are excluded from community and denied their humanity. This overarching purpose and the experience of the Elizabeth Fry Societies across the country who work with women and gender-diverse people who have been criminalized using laws that are often meant to protect them, has guided our opposition to the creation of a new law of coercive control. Other organizations and individuals have also shared their concerns that a new law of coercive control could be more harmful to the people that we work with who are made vulnerable by the very systems that purport to keep them safe. It has become clear that further opportunities to explore the complexities around intimate partner violence and the creation of a new offence of coercive control in Canada were warranted.

In her recent book “Imperfect Victims: Criminalized Survivors and the Promise of Abolition Feminism”, Professor and Lawyer, Leigh Goodmark exposes the ways in which “greater state intervention in cases of intimate partner violence, rape, sexual assault, and trafficking, has led to the arrest, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration of victims, particularly women of colour and trans and gender-nonconforming people”. Leigh will bring her decades of experience working with survivors of intimate partner violence and criminalization to the panel.

Pamela Cross is a well-known and highly-respected Canadian feminist lawyer and an expert on violence against women and the law. She is currently working as the Advocacy Director at Luke’s Place Support and Resource Centre in Durham Region and will bring the perspective of her years of working in the Canadian family law context to the panel.