Implement Keira's Law in the Yukon - a law to teach judges and other front line justice staff about coercive control and ensure that gender-based violence is considered in custody cases.
What is the challenge?
Many women, trans, non-binary, intersex and agender folks are co-parenting with their abuser. Even if they leave, the violence continues through every-day interactions that are mandated by the courts if joint custody is granted. Every communication about pick-up and drop-off, every communication about medical care for children, every communication about extra curriculars is an opportunity for an abuser to use coercive control to continue to abuse. This type of situation exposes children to the ongoing violence they witness between their parents, but also puts children at risk of ongoing violence with the abuser (if this is something they were experiencing). Abusers can also use children as part of the abuse, asking them to report on the activities of another parent, and manipulating them during custody.
Coercive control is a particular kind of abuse that is used by abusers to undermine the confidence, self-esteem, rights and control of a victim. Examples include stalking or monitoring whereabouts, threats of violence, humiliation like name calling, limiting access to finances, controlling who a victim can see or how they dress. In co-parenting situations, it can be used to manipulate the mental health of a victim and make them appear unfit to parent alone and can also be used in the court room to continue to humiliate and abuse the victim.
One report estimates that 95% of domestic violence victims in Canada experience coercive control.
Coercive control is a kind of abuse that is challenging to spot, especially in heterosexual relationships. Sexism normalized a dominant male in relationships and teaches women to put the needs of others before themselves. Many of the tactics look like what we are taught to understand by movies and stories as heterosexual love when it is in fact, not.
If we don’t consider coercive control and an understanding of domestic violence in custody court cases, we cannot provide justice and safety to women and children who are fleeing violence. It is absolutely crucial that judges, RCMP, Justices of the Peace and others who” enforce” family law understand coercive control and how it impacts their decision making.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN:
Keira’s Law is a law that was created after a judge refused to acknowledge that domestic violence and coercive control were relevant to parenting and custody outcomes. As a result, the violence that Keira’s mother experienced increased after she left her relationship, and ultimately Keira was killed by her father in a murder suicide. Keira’s Law seeks to ensure that all Judges and enforcers of family law are educated on coercive control so that they can provide better justice to folks fleeing violence.
Bill C-233 to amend the Criminal Code and Judges Act is in second reading by the Senate at the federal level.
WHAT CAN YOU DO:
- Call on Senator Pat Duncan to support this bill in it's final stages
- Call on Yukon Government to implement this law as soon as it is federally mandated and to create education programs for Judges, RCMP, Justices of the Peace and other front-line justice team members to learn about coercive control and domestic abuse.
- Learn more about coercive controls as a form of abuse so that you can spot it in your own relationships and in your friends. And stop the violence early.