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Intimate partner violence could be declared an epidemic in Ontario after Ford government backs NDP bill

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An NDP bill that calls for intimate partner violence to be declared an epidemic in Ontario will be backed by the Ford government, House Leader Paul Calandra confirmed Wednesday.

Bill 173, named the Intimate Partner Violence Epidemic Act, is expected to be introduced in the legislature on Wednesday afternoon.

Bills introduced by members of the opposition rarely receive government support and Calandra’s confirmation at Queen’s Park on Wednesday was met with a standing ovation from MPPs of all political stripes.

“There are not many days that we do something like that so I want to thank the government for agreeing today,” NDP Leader Marit Stiles said during Question Period.

“I always say it is privilege that we are able to be the ones to be here to advocate and I do want to thank the government.”

Calandra said while there are “a number of supports” in place, “we continue to hear more that we have to do even more in terms of responding to this.”

As recently as June, the province indicated that it would not declare intimate partner violence an epidemic in Ontario as it is not an infectious or communicable disease.

Advocates have previously said that while a declaration may be primarily symbolic, it would allow for the use of a public health framework to support survivors.

Last summer, the City of Toronto joined dozens of other Ontario municipalities that have made their own declarations, including the regions of Peel and Halton.

The city’s motion, which was introduced by Mayor Olivia Chow, urged the provincial and federal governments to implement recommendations from an inquest into the 2015 deaths of Nathalie Warmerdam, Carol Culleton and Anastasia Kuzyk, three Ontario women who were killed at the hands of their former partner.

In late June, the province indicated that it would not move forward with such a declaration and also rejected proposals to establish an intimate partner violence commission and create the role of a survivor advocate.

At that time, the province said it had accepted or was working to accept other recommendations, including one to explore ways to allow people to learn if their partner has a history of intimate partner violence.

Anuradha Dugal, the vice-president of community initiatives for the Canadian Women’s Foundation, said a declaration is a starting point for next steps.

“The global rate, according to the World Health Organization, is that more than 40 per cent of women will experience gender-based violence in their lifetimes. That’s why we need it declared an epidemic because the numbers are so serious,” she told CP24.

“It takes the idea that intimate partner violence is a private affair out and away from families and makes it a public health priority.”

She said it will allow for increased funding for supports and more government attention that will be “ongoing and long term.”

“It also means that it understood that it is something that has prevention measures attached to it,” Dugal said.

“Very often we are faced with the crime after it happens. By putting a public health lens on it and making it an epidemic in Ontario, (it places) importance on prevention that starts young and goes on all through our lives, just as if it were a health issue such as smoking.” 

With files from The Canadian Press 

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