Coercive Control is Not an Offence in the Criminal Code of Canada

wcc Coercive control (1)

Nova Scotia must lobby that Canada’s Criminal Code be amended to recognize Coercive Control as a Crime.

Coercive control is a series of actions where the perpetrator threatens and intimidates their victim to instill fear. A perpetrator may demonstrate this kind of abuse by restricting social engagements, gaslighting, removing financial stability and freedom, and threatening to harm loved ones if orders and instructions are not followed.  What has made this form of abuse difficult to define is that the pattern of abusive behaviour increases subtly over time; instead of as an acute assault that can be defined with a date and likely physical proof. Yet it is an equally dangerous form of abuse as it slowly and purposefully steals away individuality while eliminating access to support.

Coercive control is not an offence in the Criminal Code of Canada.

While Canada has criminalized certain types of abuse including harassment and stalking. However, coercive or controlling behaviour is not included. One of the tools offered by justice departments in reported coercive control situations is peace bonds. In reality, peace bonds are only enforceable for 30 days and apply when a person is afraid of physical assault because of events that have happened within the previous six months. This makes peace bonds ineffectual against the slow, degrading abuse that happens with coercive control. In many of Canada’s peer countries, coercive control has already been added to their Criminal Codes including the UK, Australia and France. Organizations in Canada have been lobbying for similar legislation for several years but to no avail.

The 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia is an extreme tragedy that has brought coercive behaviour to the forefront of local policing, governments and women’s advocacy groups. If there was ever a time and topic to unite Community, Justice and Government organizations it could very well be to demand the criminalization of coercive control in Canada. Therefore, Women’s Centres Connect, calls on the federal government to amend the Canadian Criminal Code to include coercive control.