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Peterborough City Hall. Photo: Elisabeth Mill.

Council Ratifies Decision to Declare Intimate Partner Violence an Epidemic, Approves Inspection By-Law

Written by
Sebastian Johnston-Lindsay
and
and
November 28, 2023
Council Ratifies Decision to Declare Intimate Partner Violence an Epidemic, Approves Inspection By-Law
Peterborough City Hall. Photo: Elisabeth Mill.

Peterborough City Councillors re-affirmed their support at the November 27th Council Meeting for two initiatives previously given approval at General Committee after hearing delegations from community members. 

Beyond the giving the go-ahead for Trent to move forward on an application for an energy storage system on lands the university owns north of its Symons Campus, Councillors unanimously ratified Councillor Joy Lachica’s motion to declare Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and Domestic Violence (DV) an epidemic

In doing so, Peterborough becomes part of a growing list of over 70 Ontario municipalities who have done so following the release of a 2022 Coroner’s Inquest following the murder of three Renfrew County women, Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam, by their former partner in September of 2015. 

The motion invokes the Mass Casualty Commission, which brought forward 130 recommendations including that the Federal Government amend the Firearms Act to revoke the firearms licences of individuals convicted of domestic violence or hate-related offences. Additionally, the Commission recommends that the Act be amended to allow for the suspension of the firearm licences of those who were charged with such offences and that “the suspension should remain in place and the burden of proof should be on licence holders to demonstrate they are not a risk or a threat to others.”

Speaking in support of this declaration to Council was Executive Director of the Peterborough-Kawartha YWCA, Kim Dolan, and Brittany McMillan, Executive Director of the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre. 

Speaking in their capacity as part of Peterborough Domestic Abuse Network, a group of more than 30 organizations that work to support survivors in the City and County of Peterborough, Dolan and McMillan noted the importance of the City taking this step in making this declaration. Together, they emphasized that their group and the agencies that constitute it are already “actively responding to incidents of violence, including the physical, emotional, financial, sexual, and other forms of violence that women identified people and children are experiencing in our community every day.”

“We are collectively asking you to recognize that a large number of your constituents are being impacted by violence,” McMillan stated. 

During the presentation, Dolan and McMillan also invited Councillors and members of the public to a vigil to be held in front of City Hall on December 6th at 5:00 PM as part of The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women.

The motion, which passed unanimously, also calls for the Renfrew County’s Coroner’s Inquest to see how the recommendations it contains might be integrated into Peterborough’s existing Community Safety and Well-Being Plan. Additionally, a copy of this motion will be sent to Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Health Sylvia Jones, and Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith. 

To date, the Province has refused to follow the majority of the recommendations found in the Coroner’s inquest, and has consistently rejected the idea of declaring IPV an epidemic.

“Inspection By-Law” Passed: 

Delegations were also heard on the matter of a new by-law for Peterborough. By-Law 23-112, or the “Inspection By-Law” allows that “an Officer may enter on land and into a Building at any reasonable time for the purpose of carrying out an inspection” in order to determine whether or not municipal by-laws and orders under the Municipal Act, 2001 are being complied with. 

In the by-law, Officers are defined as certain City employees such as Chief Building Officer, Fire Chief, or Manager of Municipal Enforcement, as well as those employed as Municipal Law Enforcement Officers, and Police Officers whether Municipal, Provincial, or Federal. 

In a report submitted by Commissioner of Legislative Service, David Potts, staff note that a 2007 amendment to the municipal act allowed for municipalities to to enter properties to inspect and determine compliance with their own by-laws. The “Inspection By-Law” has been framed as bringing Peterborough in-line with what provincial legislation has allowed for 16 years. 

The staff report also notes that “the authority to enter on land does not include the authority to enter any room or place actually used as a dwelling unless such entry is pursuant to the consent of an informed occupant or pursuant to other conditions specifically set out in the Municipal Act, 2001.”

Speaking to Councillors and encouraging them to vote against this by-law was community member Matt Ganzeboer, who stated his belief that Section 435 of the Municipal Act “already grants powers of entry specifying reasonable notice should be given except in cases of public safety.”

“This is not my attempt at a legal argument, I’m aware these powers are well established,” he continued. “It is just meant to impress the true weight and value that I and most people put on privacy and the contempt we have for anything that can erode it.”

Ultimately, the report concerning the adoption of  By-Law 23-112 was passed with only two Councillors, Don Vassiliadis and Alex Bierk, voting against. Later, when Councillors were asked to vote on the adoption of this and another by-law regarding the CAO’s powers, the motions passed unanimously, 10-0.

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