A most violent year: 2015 saw changes for domestic abuse victims

EDMONTON -- The crooked middle finger on Maria Fitzpatrick's left hand is a reminder of the secret she didn't share with many people.

See Full Article

There were other broken bones, black eyes and bruises that healed. There were the times her husband raped her and threatened to kill her and their two daughters.

Three decades after escaping her violent marriage, Fitzpatrick -- a newly elected Alberta politician -- stood up in the legislature and told her story to the world.

It was time.

With a knot in her stomach, the 66-year-old grandmother brought many to tears with her speech in November. She ended it with an appeal for support of a new law allowing victims of domestic violence to break housing leases without penalty.

In the '70s, an apartment Fitzpatrick shared with her abusive husband was rented in her name and she feared that if she skipped out she wouldn't be able to rent anywhere else. The women's shelters she fled to only let her stay for two weeks. Then she and her children would have to go home again.

"I will be horrified if anybody in this chamber votes against this bill," Fitzpatrick said.

She received a standing ovation and the bill passed.

Several high-profile crimes in 2015 shone a light on the scourge of domestic violence in Canada. Provincial governments across the country have proposed changes to better protect domestic abuse victims and advocates hope that push continues in the year ahead.

Manitoba has introduced new legislation to make it easier for courts to grant protection orders and -- in what it calls a first in Canada -- will confiscate guns from anyone named in such orders. It also plans to change its Employment Standards Code so victims of domestic violence can take time off work without losing their jobs.

The changes came too late to help two women killed in Winnipeg this year.

Selena Keeper had applied in the spring for a protection order against her boyfriend. And, although she told court he regularly beat her -- even when she was pregnant -- she wasn't granted one because it was determined she was not in imminent danger. She was beaten to death in October; her boyfriend is charged with murder.

Camille Runke did get a protection order against her estranged husband, a gun owner. She called police 22 times to report violations of the order and was shot in October outside her workplace. Her husband later committed suicide.

In Saskatchewan, the government decided to start reviewing deaths linked to domestic violence, a process already in place in other provinces.

One of the reviews is likely to be the case of Latasha Gosling and three of her children, who were slain in April in their mobile home in Tisdale, Sask. A friend reported that Gosling had just broken up with her boyfriend, who others described as controlling and jealous with mental issues. Relatives of the woman said her killer took pictures of the bodies and sent copies to the children's biological father before taking his own life.

The worst mass murder in Edmonton's history left eight victims. Phu Lam gunned down his estranged wife, son and others before killing himself last December. Court records revealed that Thuy Tien Truong previously told police her husband had threatened to kill her after finding out his son was not his biological child.

The crime had police and community groups calling for more public awareness of domestic violence.

The latest statistics available show 126 people were killed during domestic violence in Canada in 2013. Alberta's Family Violence Death Review Committee, which is examining the Edmonton mass murder and other cases, counted 97 domestic homicide victims in the province between 2008 and 2014.

"Every time I hear about a homicide related to domestic violence, it saddens me and shocks me," said committee member Debra Tomlinson, head of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Centres. "At the same, I feel encouraged that we're recognizing the death was related to domestic violence."

Tomlinson has seen more awareness of the issue in recent years, and hopes that will lead to more people recognizing abusive relationships and more victims seeking help.

Fellow review committee member Lana Wells, a University of Calgary researcher, said the answer starts with gender equality.

She's recommending Ottawa increase parental leave and make it mandatory for fathers to take it. Men who do more parenting and housework may better appreciate their spouses, she said.

Wells also wants to see more support for fathers and education for boys about healthy relationships. She said Alberta is the first province to specifically include an "engaging men and boys" strategy in its domestic violence plan, which she recently presented at the United Nations.

"When you have healthy dads raising healthy children, they usually end up in healthy relationships."

Fitzpatick, who has received countless messages since her speech, agrees that better parenting and gender equality are key.

"If we can do this, the entire world would be a different place."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • 1 Canadian, 4 Americans killed in private plane crash in Honduras

    World News CTV News
    One Canadian and four Americans were killed after a small plane crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Roatan, a popular island destination on the Atlantic coast of Honduras. Officials initially gave conflicting reports about the victims’ nationalities, suggesting all five of the victims were Canadians; however, the country’s armed forces later said four of the victims were from the United States. Source
  • Bomb hits tourist bus near Egypt's Giza Pyramids; at least 17 hurt

    World News CTV News
    CAIRO -- A roadside bomb hit a tourist bus on Sunday near the Giza Pyramids, wounding at least 17 people including tourists, Egyptian officials said. The officials said the bus was travelling on a road close to the under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located adjacent to the Giza Pyramids but is not yet open to tourists. Source
  • At least 12 hurt in tourist bus blast near Egypt's pyramids

    World News CBC News
    An explosion targeting a tourist bus injured at least 12 people near a new museum being built close to the Giza pyramids in Egypt on Sunday, two security sources said. Most of those injured were foreign tourists, the sources said. Source
  • UN tells Italy port closures would violate migrants' rights

    World News CTV News
    ROME -- The Italian interior ministry vowed Sunday to press ahead with a new decree formalizing the closure of Italian ports to aid groups that rescue migrants, even after UN human rights investigators said it violated international law. Source
  • Another royal wedding — but not so much pomp

    World News CBC News
    Hello, royal watchers. This is your biweekly dose of royal news and analysis. Reading this online? Sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox. There was a wedding in Windsor on Saturday, but there wasn't the pomp and pageantry — or controversy — to rival the other royal nuptials that have played out in the same place over the past year. Source
  • Austria heading for September election after far-right video scandal

    World News CBC News
    Austria's president on Sunday recommended a new election be held in early September, saying he wanted to restore trust in the government after a video scandal led to the resignation of the vice-chancellor. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pulled the plug on the coalition and called for a snap election on Saturday after his deputy, Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party, quit over a video showed him discussing fixing state contracts in return for favours. Source
  • No winning ticket for $5-million Lotto 649 jackpot

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- There was no winning ticket for the $5-million dollar jackpot in Saturday night's Lotto 649 draw. However, the guaranteed $1-million prize went to a ticket holder in Ontario. The jackpot for the next Lotto 649 draw on May 22 will be approximately $7 million. Source
  • Swiss voters approve tighter gun control

    World News CBC News
    Swiss voters agreed on Sunday to adopt tighter gun controls in line with changes to European Union rules, heading off a clash with Brussels, projections for Swiss broadcaster SRF showed. The projections from the gfs.bern polling outfit saw the measure passing in the binding referendum by a comfortable 67-to-33-per-cent margin. Source
  • Joe Biden rejects Democrats' anger in call for national unity

    World News CBC News
    His party may be enraged by Donald Trump's presidency, but Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden insisted Saturday that Democrats will not defeat the Republican president if they pick an angry nominee. Facing thousands of voters in his native Pennsylvania for the second time as a 2020 contender, the former vice-president offered a call for bipartisan unity that seemed far more aimed at a general election audience than the fiery Democratic activists most active in the presidential primary…
  • Welcome to Jurassic Park, where hope springs eternal for Toronto sports fans

    Canada News CBC News
    TORONTO — The amount of heartbreaking moments for Toronto sports fans who gather inside the concrete jungle referred to as both Maple Leaf Square and Jurassic Park is starting to add up. Though, in many ways, being in the square for a Toronto sports team playoff loss is a rite of passage. Source