Private member’s bill to expand protections for people in abusive relationships 

On May 18, 2023, NDP MP Laurel Collins (Victoria) introduced a private member’s bill to provide more legal protection for individuals experiencing coercive control.

Read the announcement here.

“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their own home,” said Collins in the NDP release. “But there are people, particularly women, who are living with the constant threat of violence or living with someone who uses all kind of tactics to make them feel unsafe. Although this isn’t physical abuse, it impact’s the victim’s physical and mental health, and it is often an early indicator of relationships that will escalate into physical violence or homicide.”

Coercive control is a pattern of behaviour used to regulate and dominate another person’s daily life. It can include emotional, financial, physical and sexual abuse. It is a form of domestic abuse that is often subtle and hidden, making it difficult for survivors to seek help. 

Bill C-332 proposes that a person who engages in coercive control against a partner or family member could be charged with an offense punishable by up to five years in prison. 

Sagesse welcomes this important initiative to address the insidious and harmful effects of coercive control. As an organization that has been working to prevent domestic abuse and support survivors for more than 30 years, we know firsthand the devastating impact that coercive control can have on individuals and families. 

“Coercive control strips away a person’s freedom and sense of self, leading to lasting harm to the survivor and far-reaching consequences for families, communities and society as a whole,” said Andrea Silverstone, CEO of Sagesse.  “With this bill, survivors will have legal protection and people who use coercive and controlling behaviours can be held accountable.”  

The proposed legislation aligns with Sagesse’s commitment to promote healthy relationships and prevent domestic abuse. Through our work, we aim to empower individuals and communities to recognize domestic abuse and take action to prevent it. 

“Criminalizing coercive control sends a clear message that abusive behaviour is unacceptable and won’t be ignored. With increased awareness about the realities of coercive control, and a justice system equipped to address it, we can better prevent escalation to more severe forms of violence, including homicide.”  

Sagesse encourages all Canadians to support this bill and join the effort to end domestic abuse. We urge the federal government to take swift action to pass this bill and ensure that coercive control is recognized as a serious form of abuse. 

Quick Facts 

  • In one study, over 95 per cent of victims of domestic abuse reported experiencing coercive control (Myhill, 2017). 
  • Statistics Canada found that 60 to 80 per cent of abuse reported to services involve non-physically abusive tactics (Statistics Canada, 2014). 
  • Relationships with coercive control result in greater injury to the victim and are characterized by more frequent and severe violence which are less likely to desist (Myhill, 2015). 
  • According to a 2019 report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, coercive control was a common precursor to domestic homicide (Dawson et al., 2019). 
  • Coercive control legislation has been enacted in jurisdictions including England and Wales, followed by Ireland and Scotland and some U.S. states.
  • Within the first three years of implementation of the working definition of coercive control in the UK, calls for support to the police went up 31 per cent (Stark & Hester, 2019). 

For more information and resources related to coercive control, click here