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Posts tagged domestic abuse

An Interview with Dr. Alok Mukherjee, Chair, Toronto Police Services Board

Elizabeth Mandelman | Posted August 3rd, 2009 | North America

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Dr. Alok Mukherjee is the current Chair of Toronto’s Police Services Board.  He joined the board in 2004, having been appointed by the City Council, and was elected by his colleagues as Chair in 2005. 

Prior to his service with the Board, Dr. Mukherjee served as Acting Chief Commissioner and Vice Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and was also a member of the Ontario Civilian Coalition on Police Services.  Additionally, he was an instructor of South Asian studies at York University.

The Toronto Police Services Board has many responsibilities, including determining the objectives and priorities of their municipalities police services in conjunction with the Chief of Police, establishing policies for the effective management of their police services, and establishing guidelines for the administration of the public complaints system. 

Despite his very busy schedule, Dr. Mukherjee spent time with me talking about the usefulness of the Firearms Act not only in combating domestic violence, but also other problems such as gang violence. 

According to Dr. Mukherjee, because police officers are the individuals that actually utilize the measures included in the Firearms Act, they are best equipped and most able to comment on its effectiveness.  The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Association of Police Boards, and the Canadian Police Association all publicly support the Firearms Act.  Dr. Mukherjee feels that this should carry more weight with policymakers and the public than it currently does.

Dr. Mukherjee thinks that there is a direct parallel between gun control, crime, and quality of life.  With gun control measures in place, fewer domestic disputes turn deadly, and fewer mentally ill individuals gain access to firearms and use them during psychotic episodes. 

In addition, a reduction in gang violence results (which is a significant problem in Toronto), and even rare situations, like guns being pulled during bouts of road rage, decrease.  In other words, gun control correlates with safety, and when individuals and communities are safer, there is an increase in quality of life. 

In fact, although the Police Services Board supports the Firearms Act, they think that it should go even further to protect society.  Among the changes the Board believes need to be made to the Firearms Act are stricter enforcement measures at the borders, and clearer marking of stolen firearms.  By marking seized firearms that may lack serial numbers, the government and police would have a clearer idea of the total number of guns in Canada.

Additionally, the current loophole that allows manufacturers to slightly alter a firearm and market it to the public as a new model not needing to be registered (because the list included in the legislation it out of date and contained no measure to regularly update it) needs to be corrected. 

Lastly, although there has been no consensus on this, as it is more of a ‘big city’ issue, the Board believes that handguns should be banned.  They are often used in instances of gang violence, and are not used for sporting purposes.  As a result, Dr. Mukherjee asserted that civilians should be banned from acquiring handgun, and that only police officers should have access to them.  

Coming from a human rights background, Dr. Mukherjee understands the importance of equality.  He recognizes that there are many gun owners in Canada that use their firearms for sporting purposes, and do so safely.   

However, gun control measures established by the government must take into account the objectives of public safety, the protection of marginalized communities (such as those who are domestically abused), and the reduction of crime, before catering to the opponents of gun control.

By filling out paperwork and answering questions related to relationship status and mental well-being, taking safety training courses, and registering their firearms, law-abiding citizens are helping to keep themselves, and their country, safe. 

In the following, Dr. Mukherjee shares his thoughts on the Firearms Act.

An Interview with Detective Rick Hawes, Peel Regional Police

Elizabeth Mandelman | Posted July 26th, 2009 | North America

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This week I was lucky enough to meet and talk with Detective Rick Hawes of the Peel Regional Police in Ontario.  Detective Hawes has been a police officer since 1978 and for the last four and a half years, has been the Coordinator for the Family Violence Unit.

As part of his position, Detective Hawes holds multi-day classroom seminars for officers on how to properly handle domestic dispute calls, as they are much different from other situations to which officers respond. 

Talking with Detective Hawes solidified for me many of the things I have learned and heard during my weeks in Canada.  For example, knowledge of a firearm in the home makes it more difficult for a victim of domestic abuse to seek help and leave their abuser, as firearms act as tools of intimidation and work to induce fear.  In fact, on the question form victims are asked to complete when officers respond to a domestic call, six out of the twenty-eight questions are related to firearms and licensure.

In addition, exiting an abusive relationship is not as simple as just making the decision to leave and leaving.  Often times, there are elements involved in abusive relationships that prevent victims from seeking help, such as children, housing, or financial dependency. 

When I asked Detective Hawes about the registry included in Canada’s Firearms Act, he asserted that it is helpful in eliminating the guessing game of whether or not households to which officers respond have firearms. 

Although cautious officers responding to calls never assume that a home is free of firearms even if the registry has nothing on record (especially with the rise of unregistered firearms by once legal owners), Detective Hawes views the registry as a very useful safety tool for both officers and victims.  The only substantial argument Detective Hawes has heard against the Firearms Act relates to cost and according to him, it is hard to put a price on public safety.

Detective Hawes also views the Firearms Act as an aide to the Justice of Peace throughout the court process against perpetrators of domestic abuse.  During the bail hearing, if it is revealed through the registry that more firearms are registered to the perpetrator than officers were able to seize, the perpetrator will be held until they are all accounted for.  

Additionally, during the court process, the firearms license of a perpetrator is seized and put on review, prohibiting the individual from owning or acquiring any type of firearm.  Clearly, these measures act to safeguard victims from further violence through the use of a firearm.

I stated above that I was lucky enough to spend time talking with Detective Hawes; this is because during my time in Canada, I have not met anyone more dedicated to tackling the issue of family violence.  Not only does Detective Hawes work with officers to help them understand the complexities of domestic abuse, but he also works with the community to help prevent abuse from ever taking place, and prioritizes victim safety.  I am very grateful to the time Detective Hawes was willing to spend with me, and find his commitment to prevent and end domestic abuse admirable.   

Fellow: Elizabeth Mandelman

Project Ploughshares in Canada


Bashari Film Productions Inc. Canada Canada's Firearms Act CanadianGunNutz.com Candice Hoeppner censorship Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women & Children Coalition for Gun Control Disarming Domestic Violence Disarming Domestic Violence Campaign domestic abuse domestic violence Donna Carrick Dr. Alok Mukherjee Dr. Barbara Kane First Annual Conference on the Prevention of Domestic Violence gang violence Garry Breitkreuz gun control IANSA Interim Place mental illness Montreal Massacre MP Candice Hoeppner MP Garry Breitkreuz Peacebuild police protection Project Ploughshares Shelley Saywell small arms small arms trade Toronto Police Services Board Wendy Cukier women's rights




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