Advocates renew call for intimate partner violence declaration ahead of Queen’s Park recess 
The Pointer Files

Advocates renew call for intimate partner violence declaration ahead of Queen’s Park recess 

“How many more lives must be taken before the Ontario government recognizes the epidemic proportions of this violence?”

The words of Erin Lee, the executive director of Lanark County Interval House and Community Support—spoken at Queen’s Park ahead of an NDP proposal to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic in Ontario—have turned out to be tragically prescient.

On May 20th, Rihab El-Mahdi was allegedly murdered by her 25-year-old son Waleed Osman inside a Mississauga hotel room. 

According to a press release from Peel Regional Police, officers arrived on scene just before 9:30 a.m. following calls regarding a stabbing. El-Mahdi was pronounced dead at the scene. Osman has been charged with second degree murder. 

While the PRP are not considering the murder a case of intimate partner violence, The Peel Committee Against Woman Abuse (PCAWA) states it is the latest example of violence against women in the region, a crime that is becoming tragically common. 

“We know that femicide is not an isolated incident but the result of systemic inequities and patriarchal systems that condone, normalize and encourage acts of violence towards women and gender-diverse individuals,” a PCAWA press release states. “It is a systemic public health issue being experienced across the province at an alarming rate.”

The PCAWA is demanding the provincial government immediately pass the NDP private member’s Bill 173 requesting intimate partner violence be declared an epidemic in Ontario. To date, 95 municipalities, including Mississauga, Brampton, Caledon and the Region of Peel, have made such declarations. 

Between 2015 and 2020, Peel Regional Police saw the number of domestic violence calls increase by 74 percent. In 2019, over 40 percent of homicides that year were related to family or intimate partner violence. 

According to Region of Peel data, between 2016 and 2021, there was a 3.5 percent increase in the rate of intimate partner disputes reported to Peel Regional Police. In 2021, Peel police responded to more than 17,000 incidents of family and intimate partner violence, averaging nearly 45 disputes each day or roughly two every hour. Of the charges that were laid for intimate partner violence related incidents in 2021, 78 percent of the victims were women. 

In 2022, PRP reported 9,242 reported occurrences of intimate partner disputes. This number includes interactions where criminal behaviour has likely occurred and others where abuse or harassment cannot be proven. 

According to PCAWA data from Peel service providers, 13,933 survivors of intimate partner or gender-based violence accessed support in 2023; and 7 femicides occurred last year. 

“We need the government to act now to pass the bill and send the message to all Ontarians that the Legislature is serious about bringing an end to gender-based violence,” the PCAWA release states.

Making this official declaration was the first of 86 recommendations to come out of a Coroner’s Inquest into the murder of three women in Renfrew County. Carol Culleton, 66; Anastasia Kuzyk, 36; and Nathalie Warmerdam, 48; were murdered on September 22, 2015 by Basil Borutski. He had previously been charged with intimate partner violence against both Kuzyk and Warmerdam and appeared to be threatening and harassing Culleton.

The PC government has refused to take this step, stating the violence does not qualify as an epidemic under the definition. 

“What they’re saying to us is this issue is not a priority for them,” they said. “They can continue to do absolutely nothing by saying absolutely nothing,” NDP MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam said last month. 

Advocates and survivors have urged the provincial government to finally accept the difference that could be made by making the epidemic declaration. While unlocking certain types of government funding for organizations across Ontario that are desperate for help dealing with surging numbers of victims and survivors in need of help, it would also send a statement to these vulnerable individuals across the province. 

While the PC government surprised the NDP on April 10th by agreeing to support Bill 173, the decision was made to send it to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy instead of passing it immediately. The PCs claimed they wanted to form a task force to consult with survivors and service providers across the province to get a better idea of what actions need to be taken ahead of making the declaration. 

Advocates have criticized the move, labelling it a delay tactic, stating the research, recommendations and next steps are clear from the numerous studies and consultations that have already been completed. 

“Survivors need action, not more research,” the PCAWA states. “We are confident that the many studies, inquests, inquiries and commissions that have already made hundreds of recommendations to the government about what is needed is more than sufficient in moving forward with an action plan to end gender-based violence.”

Speaking on The Pointer’s Ballot Vox podcast, Wong-Tam, one of the sponsors of Bill 23, along with NDP MPPs Peggy Sattler, Lisa Gretzky and Jill Andrew, said she was happy the PC government didn’t immediately kill the bill using its majority vote in the Legislature. 

The need for further study raised eyebrows.

“We know that this issue of intimate partner violence, as well as gender-based violence has been the subject of many significant academic studies as well as legislative policy documents,” Wong-Tam said, adding it is being viewed by many advocates and survivors as a delay tactic. 

The PCAWA contacted all of Peel’s MPPs, requesting their support in moving the bill forward ahead of the summer recess which is set to begin on June 14. 

According to Rebecca Pacheco, PCAWA Coordinator, no response has been received. 



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