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Support Within Rural Ontario Communities

Between 20 and 30% of Canada’s population lives in rural areas, yet public policy and community services all too often focus on the needs of those living in urban areas.

The rate of domestic violence in rural, remote and northern areas is notably higher than in urban areas and women are at a much higher risk of experiencing intimate partner violence than similarly-situated urban and suburban women.

Despite the increasing diversity of rural communities, there are a number of ways in which rural living is very different from urban living. These factors can have a significant impact on how women who live rurally are subjected to abuse and the options that are available to them.

In the country, women and children often are not aware of services that are available to them for lack of promotion and awareness as well as difficulty in finding services. Small communities do not offer the range and diversity of services that are available in urban centers.

Within Huron County there is only one shelter for women and children experiencing violence. This shelter has one main location and 2 satellite offices within the county.

In addition, the Courthouses are not equipped with Duty Counsel for every self-represented matter and the percentage of women that are forced to become an incognizant self-represented litigant within a discommoding justice system is severe. In a recent study from the University of Windsor, 54.9% of parties in Ontario family law are self-represented litigants. This is in addition to Ontario being one of the least streamlined and user-friendly court systems in Canada.

The lack of available services and being faced with entering the family law court system alone is continuing to set women and their children up for failure. Women are being betrayed as malicious liars and conducting in “parental alienation” when attempting to protect themselves and their children.

In a recent case, a mother who attempted to seek support from Bill C-233 also known as Kiera’s Law was completely dismissed in her relief sought and it was submitted by the justice in the endorsement that the mother “has taken up a disproportionate amount of limited court resources to the disadvantage of other parties who have important family and civil matters to address.” This is a mother who has now been found in contempt for trying to protect her child from violence at the hands of the other parent. This is a mother that is told her concerns and fears are not important. This is not an isolated case either.

The Order for contempt is expected to be “a remedy of last resort,” but has continued to become a more common theme in family law with destructive penalties such a fines, imprisonment and pleadings struck. These penalties are very dangerous especially for a victim of IPV. This is further taking away their voice and ensuring they lack trust and confidence in a system presumed to protect them.

The court states that members have been trained to recognized that most family violence goes unreported and that such allegations are notoriously difficult to prove, yet they continue to dismiss concerns brought forth and the evidence brought forward negligently.

These women are trying to make their voices heard and trying to fight to protect themselves and their children and are continuing to be treated feloniously. The courts dismissal of victims of IPV is continuing to have severe consequences. Women are being labelled destructively and undermined for actions such as filing complaints against agencies for their misconduct and attempts at equality within the justice system. The Courts continue to use a shared parenting regime as the “best interest of the child” regardless of the circumstances and provide outdated and detrimental caselaw to support their ruling. In S. v. A., 2021 ONSC 5976, the court continues to penalize IPV victims and give their perpetrators all relief sought plus more. Women and their children need to be supported and provided encouragement to speak out. They deserve the protection and support their abusers currently receive if not more.

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