New Bill Takes Aim at Do­mes­tic Tor­ture

Herizons - - Nellie Grams - By De­bra Huron

Two women who have worked for 24 years to per­suade law­mak­ers to make tor­ture in the pri­vate sphere a crim­i­nal of­fence are op­ti­mistic that their ef­forts may soon pay off.

Jeanne Sar­son and Linda Mac­Don­ald first met in 1992 as nurs­ing col­leagues at a pro­vin­cial health of­fice in Truro, Nova Sco­tia.Both had heard from sur­vivors who ex­pe­ri­enced se­vere and long-term vi­o­lence in the form of emo­tional, men­tal, sex­ual and phys­i­cal abuse.The abuse sto­ries they heard in­cluded reports of peo­ple who had been forced into pros­ti­tu­tion, pornog­ra­phy or hu­man traf­fick­ing and most had come from women.

Sar­son and Mac­Don­ald say they were shocked.“We knew we were lis­ten­ing to crimes—grave crimes—and that they were hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions,” re­called Mac­Don­ald.

Such forms of pro­longed vi­o­lence, or tor­ture, were al­ready on the radar of other women’s ad­vo­cates.Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ex­perts, lawyers and those who work with abuse sur­vivors had been aware, too.

Canada out­lawed state tor­ture in 1985, which means that the only form of tor­ture rec­og­nized in the Crim­i­nal Code is that per­pe­trated by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the state—po­lice or se­cu­rity per­son­nel, for ex­am­ple.The in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights con­cept of non-state tor­ture has not come be­fore Canada’s House of Com­mons.

Un­til now.In Fe­bru­ary, a pri­vate mem­ber’s bill to rec­og­nize non-state tor­ture was in­tro­duced by rookie Lib­eral MP Peter Fragiskatos.The Lon­don, On­tario MP wants Canada to de­velop a le­gal re­course for vic­tims who have ex­pe­ri­enced heinous vi­o­la­tions.Bill C-242 deals with tor­ture in the pri­vate do­mes­tic sphere and in the com­mer­cial un­der­world of pornog­ra­phy and pros­ti­tu­tion.Such tor­ture can in­clude pro­longed sex­ual abuse (of­ten in­volv­ing mul­ti­ple per­pe­tra­tors), phys­i­cal abuse and brain­wash­ing, elec­tric shocks, as well as be­ing im­mo­bi­lized or suf­fo­cated and be­ing de­prived of food, drink and sleep.

Sar­son, Mac­Don­ald and Fragiskatos say the bill would mend a big hole in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem—one that has al­lowed per­pe­tra­tors of non-state tor­ture to go un­pun­ished.Af­ter it passed sec­ond read­ing in April, Bill 242 went be­fore the stand­ing com­mit­tee on jus­tice and hu­man rights.It de­fines tor­ture as “the in­ten­tional and re­peated in­flic­tion of se­vere and pro­longed pain or suf­fer­ing onto an­other hu­man be­ing for the pur­poses of in­tim­i­da­tion or co­er­cion.”

Women’s or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Cana­dian Nurses As­so­ci­a­tion, the Na­tive Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada and the

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