On March 29, 2021, Quebec Premier François Legault announced that he was personally taking charge of the government’s services for women facing family violence, following a series of tragic events that shook Quebeckers across the province. In eight weeks, eight women—eight mothers—were murdered by a spouse or ex-spouse, leaving behind 20 orphaned children. And we have not seen the last of these brutal murders of innocent women, given that it is only April and that the pandemic’s repercussions are continuing to surface as female victims and male perpetrators are not receiving the help that we have been calling for.
By making this decision, Mr. Legault is sending a crystal-clear message that violence against women is a crucial issue that requires immediate action and decision-making from Canada’s political leaders. It is up to both levels of government to voice their positions and ensure that these are much more than just political commitments. Mr. Legault has shown leadership by making a public commitment to Quebeckers, especially the women who are victims of family and domestic violence and who too often pay the price with their lives.
The issue is of critical importance. The Prime Minister has already denounced the violence of mass killings, such as those of Polytechnique and the Québec City mosque, but his silence regarding the eight feminicides in Quebec is unexplainable and unacceptable, as was his absence in the House of Commons during the March 24 emergency debate on the issue.
On March 30, I introduced Bill S-231 in the Senate of Canada. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that our justice system better protects the women who fall victim to family and domestic violence. Since the introduction of the bill, and before it for that matter, hundreds of women have written to me saying that even though provincial governments encourage them to speak out against their abusers, they put themselves in danger too often when doing so. Furthermore, they all agree that the Criminal Code is not adapted to adequately respond to their needs and their situation when they go to court in order to be protected and stay alive after showing such courage.
On Friday, April 2, I participated in the march in Gatineau to speak out against domestic violence and commemorate the eight victims. I was joined by many people, including Maryse Gaudreault, Liberal MNA for Hull, and Steven MacKinnon, Liberal MP for Gatineau, and we all agreed that immediate action is needed.
I am therefore asking Prime Minister Trudeau to work with Premier Legault and join him in seriously addressing domestic and family violence as a priority. This issue requires a unified response. In addition, all seven provincial ministers of justice that I spoke with during the consultations related to my bill support it.
Therefore, I am calling on Mr. Trudeau to put partisanship aside and support a new bill to address domestic violence that will be introduced in the House of Commons by MP Jacques Gourde in May. This bill is a copy of Bill S-231, which was written with the help of many women in Quebec and Canada who are victims of domestic violence and has since received support from thousands of others.
Too many women have lost their lives, are continuing to suffer, and will unfortunately be murdered. Many children will lose mothers who should have been better protected. The pandemic is impacting far more people than those who have caught COVID-19, and we must do our best to care for and save victims of domestic violence.
Now, it is up to the Prime Minister to officially make this commitment as well and as soon as possible.
Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu represents the La Salle division of Quebec.
A version of this article appeared in the April 14, 2021, editions of Le Droit, La Voix de L’Est, La Tribune and Le Nouvelliste (in French only).