Keira’s Law has officially been passed by the Senate.
Bill C-233, more commonly known as ‘Keira’s Law,’ is meant to expand the training judges receive on cases surrounding domestic violence, coercive control and the ability to consider risk factors when issuing decisions.
The bill was named after Keira Kagan, a four-year-old girl who was found dead with her father at the bottom of a cliff outside of Toronto in 2022, believed to be the case of a murder-suicide.
Jennifer Kagan-Viater, Keira’s mother, describes her as a fierce, spunky girl who could one day change the world.
And ever since her death, Kegan has been fighting for change in the judicial system.
“The time is up in terms of domestic violence victims not receiving the protection that they need,” Kagan-Viater said. “We need to see a change in the way judges understand domestic violence.”
She believes the bill will have a positive effect going forward for all Canadians.
“I believe in the ripple effect and this is going to save many, many lives and is the start of many conversations that are going to take place in Canada,” Kagan-Viater said after the bill passed the third reading in the Senate.
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Additionally, justices are now expected to consider whether a release order for an accused is in the interests of safety and security. Electronic monitoring devices can now be a condition of release.
While the bill applies to federal judges, provinces could also look at the framework for their own decisions.
In Saskatchewan, organizations have already begun advocating for action to take place that would introduce similar practices to Keira’s Law.
“If judges don’t have a full understanding of how (intimate partner violence) works, they’re not going to recognize it and they’re not going to recognize the level of risk,” said Jo-Anne Dusel, the executive director of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS).
Dusel said historically, judges have been reluctant to accept training from outside organizations to avoid any bias in their decision-making, but argues the bill is a step in the right direction.
“It feels very personal to us,” Dusel said. “It feels like something we’ve worked hard for and we know from speaking to survivors in Saskatchewan that this is a really important thing for them.”
Dusel said while the potential changes to a courtroom are important moving forward, more needs to be done to prevent domestic violence in the first place.
“What are we doing to prevent intimate partner violence from happening?” she questioned. “Are we doing public education, working in the schools and working as a society to change the attitudes that normalize abusive and violent behaviours. I would suggest we aren’t doing enough.”
Kagan said the bill solidifies Keira’s legacy.
“Keira wanted to change the world and in this way through this bill, she will,” Kegan-Viater said. “It means a lot to us that we you know that this has been successful and that … we’ve now solidified Keira’s legacy in Canada as a beacon of protection and safety for others.”