Victory Against Coercive Control: MP Laurel Collins’ Bill Moves Forward in Parliament

We are thrilled to see that Victoria MP Laurel Collins has managed to push through a private member’s bill criminalizing coercive control. And with unanimous support in the House of Commons! As this CBC story notes, the bill criminalizes behaviours like attempting to control an intimate partner’s movements, where they work, money and property. MP Collins put forward the argument that such behaviours are part of a larger pattern of abuse meant to limit a victim’s freedom and choices.

Such behaviours are typically precursors to increasing physical violence in the relationship. Now that they have been criminalized, women with abusive partners will have an important new mechanism to help extricate themselves from abuse before the violence intensifies. Every six days in Canada, a woman is murdered by her intimate partner.

The Senate still needs to debate and study the bill before it becomes law, but the unanimous support in the House last week certainly bodes well for that next stage.

It has been more than two years since a parliamentary committee recommended that the government criminalize coercive control to strengthen support for victims of intimate partner violence. And it’s been more than four years since another Greater Victoria MP, Randall Garrison, put forward his own private member’s bill on this matter.

Garrison, MP for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, introduced his bill in 2020 in response to reports of rising intimate partner violence during the pandemic. It died on the order paper when the government called a snap election in August 2021, but Garrison then re-introduced the bill in November 2021. Unfortunately, it did not get past the first reading.

Collins took up the challenge after that, and this time the bill got the all-party support it needed.

“Coercive control is abuse, but historically it’s been overlooked and downplayed – which as a whole hurts women,” said Collins in a November 2023 news release. “It’s not only dehumanizing and hurtful, but it is one of the most common precursors to physical abuse and femicide. Without it being a part of the Criminal Code, there’s very little women experiencing this form of abuse can do until it escalates.”