Victims Bills of Rights

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for raising one of the aspects of this victims bill of rights that is concerning to me and to others, and that is removing the spousal immunity from testimony. As he and others have noted, this could lead to women who are in abusive relationships being afraid to report to police that they have been victimized by an abusive partner for fear they will be forced into testimony with that partner. That is one aspect of the bill.

Another aspect that brings people into close contact with a potential abuser is that the bill does not require that victims use, for instance, at parole hearings, separate entrances and have an ability to be isolated from the accused.

In these two instances, it could actually re-traumatize the victim. In the case of removing spousal immunity, it could result in women choosing not to report crimes when they have been the victim in a marriage relationship.

I would like to hear any comments. I certainly hope we can get this amended in committee.

Philip Toone: Mr. Speaker, that is a very appropriate question. It is worrisome that we could be putting people at risk by changing an element that has been constant in the legal system in our country for many years. Those kinds of changes need to be addressed and need to be studied very carefully before they are put into place. I share the member’s concerns. We need to address this issue at committee.

I look forward to expert testimony. A lot of women’s rights groups are going to have some interesting things to say about that particular aspect.

Again, we need to discuss this bill further. The idea of this bill, in principle, is a good one; however, it seems to lack an awful lot of forethought. We need to develop these ideas further. As the member points out, quite rightly, we might be putting at risk the very victims we are trying to defend.