An Alberta MLA earned a standing ovation in Question Period after sharing her emotional account of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband during a second reading of Bill 204, a private member’s bill focusing on helping victims of abuse. The disturbing description included beatings, rape, and threats against Maria Fitzpatrick and her daughters at gunpoint.
“I rise in support of Bill 204 and say: it is about time,” said Fitzpatrick in Edmonton Monday afternoon.
“September 5, 1972—five days after I was married, I realized there was a problem but could not put my finger on it. …I didn’t know it then, but the trap was being set and I was the game.
“The trap was released to some degree on Sunday July 19, 1981 – almost nine years later—when my daughters and I got on a Greyhound bus for a very difficult 62-hour journey across the country ending in Yellowknife,” she continued, as her voice wavered and a colleague offered a pat on the arm.
“The trap was finally broken in May of 1992 when I learned my ex-husband was dead and I could stop looking over my shoulder.”
Fitzpatrick detailed a long, painful past: she left her home on three occasions with her children. Twice, she went to shelters but said she was forced to return or live on the street. She said both times she returned, the violence got worse and threats became more frequent and intimidating.
WATCH BELOW: Fitzpatrick’s gripping speech to the Legislative Assembly on Monday.
The MLA detailed broken bones, black eyes and two miscarriages, which finally pushed her to go to a women’s shelter.
“The limit at the shelter was two weeks, and I had nowhere else to go,” she said.
“I thought I would be killed, especially when I woke from…sleep with a gun to the back of my head and the clicking sound of the trigger as it was pulled. There were no bullets … He beat me, he raped me and he threatened the next time there would be bullets and he would kill our daughters first to hurt me, and then kill me.”
Fitzpatrick said she called police and her husband was arrested—but released with a restraining order. She said she begged family and friends for money to leave, and had to call police 16 times in two weeks before he was arrested again.
“Not so much for assaulting me, but because he broke the restraining order,” she said.
She said he was tried in court, found guilty and sentenced to a year in jail.
“As he was leaving the courtroom, he said he would kill me…The judge said to me: ‘it’s a marital issue; get a divorce and leave.’ He gave me a lecture on how much it would cost to keep him in jail.”
Fitzpatrick said when she returned to her house, he was there, holding her children and mother-in-law at gunpoint. He later ran from the house, where she spent days barricaded before she could get on a bus and leave.
“This should never have happened to me or these situations to anybody else. My children have been scarred for their lives and I will be horrified if anybody in this chamber votes against this bill. Thank you.”
Bill 204 was put forward by Independent MLA Deborah Drever. It aims to amend the Residential Tenancies Act so that victims of abuse who can show they or their children are in danger can break a lease early without suffering a penalty. A victim could also remove his or her attacker’s name from a lease.
The bill unanimously passed second reading Monday.
WATCH BELOW: Fitzpatrick sits down with Global News to talk about her past