Peace Bonds and Violence Against Women: A Three-Site Study of the Effect of Bill C-42 on Process, Application and Enforcement

10. Winnipeg

10. Winnipeg

The provincial capital of Manitoba, Winnipeg is located at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, almost at the geographic centre of North America.With an ethnically diverse population, Winnipeg is characterised by slow but steady growth. It is the eighth largest city in Canada and dominates the Manitoba economy. Originally a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, Winnipeg has become the grain centre on the American continent owing to its geographical position. Current estimates place the population of the city of Winnipeg at 629,700 inhabitants. The Winnipeg Police Service employs 1,179 officers and 299 civilian staff. In 2000, the police service responded to 13,547 ‘domestic calls.’

Winnipeg is also known for being home to one of the most comprehensive family violence response systems in Canada, including the Family Violence Court from which much of the data and analysis for this section is based.

10.1 Context, Processing and Enforcement

Zero tolerance towards violence against women in the home in Manitoba has resulted in less use of peace bonds in cases of domestic violence. The preferred course of action is for the police to arrest for assault where reasonable and probable grounds exist. Only if grounds are absent will the police officer consider referring the victim to a peace bond, or more likely, a restraining order:

…if we can lay a charge, we prefer to lay a charge, it’s not to be used as an option. Our domestic violence policy is zero tolerance, ok?But we still have to have probable grounds to believe that an offence occurred. No matter whether it’s zero tolerance or not. If it’s one of these ones where the likelihood of prosecution is next to nil, let’s go for the 810, ok? (MB Police officer)

…laying peace bond applications arising from domestic disputes or stalking situations, you know, where a person fears for their personal safety as opposed to related to property. If we can’t lay a charge, if there’s not enough, but there’s enough to go before a Justice to get an 810, then by all means let’s get an 810, lets get something in place. (MB Police officer)

As with both Ontario and Nova Scotia, when an assault charge is laid, the offender is released on conditions and this acts as a temporary restraining order until trial:

Well, not many. I guess the other thing too is in Manitoba when a person is charged with an offence, an assault or threatens this type of offence, there is an automatic no contact order, there is a restraining order or conditions attached to their release from custody. So they get those, you know that type of protective order just on the basis of the charge being laid. (MB Shelter worker)

The most common use of peace bonds in cases of domestic violence reportedly occurs at trial. The defendant enters into a section 810 peace bond voluntarily as part of a mediated solution or as part of a sentence:

They will use a peace bond under certain conditions where and if a complainant is agreeable to that the charges are stayed and then both parties enter to a peace bond for a period of a year. Peace bonds are limited in their duration. (MB Shelter worker)

In many cases where peace bonds are selected as a remedy for domestic violence situations, the procedure seems common to all three jurisdictions, including Winnipeg:

You bring an application in provincial court before the magistrate, have the information sworn and then the respondent is served with the peace bond application and if the person doesn’t contest it that’s the end of it, the peace bond is in effect. If the person contests it then there is a hearing in provincial court before a provincial court judge to determine whether the peace bond application will be granted or not. (MB Crown Attorney).

With us the minute we hear it the minute a disclosure is made. The Crown becomes the complainant. (MB Police officer)

So long as the peace bond is not contested, a battered partner may get an order issued on their behalf within a couple of weeks. However, if the respondent cannot be located or decides to contest the recognizance, the process slows considerably:

Well they don’t live there, or we can’t find, or they’re abating service, if we think they’re abating service we’ll show warrant for their arrest. If, they’re severed, and they don’t attend in court, then it’s either struck off for personal service, it hasn’t been personally served, or a warrant goes out for their arrest. (MB Justice of the Peace)

In cases of domestic violence, obtaining a peace bond might involve referral to either the police or having both the applicant and respondent engage in mediation:

What happens is mediation services attend the court, the accused is summoned to appear in court and we type up an information, and get the informant to swear the information. What we do is after we read all the particulars we shorten it up to what we feel should be said in it. And get them to swear it so that it goes into court within two weeks as long as the summons actually gets served on the respondent or the accused.Once it’s in court mediation services meets outside of court, they try to mediate it before it actually, they actually go into the courtroom to see if both of them will enter into mutual peace bonds, so no contact, communication, not attend, the usual. If one party refuses to do that then what happensthey go into court. The judge tries once again to mediate it. (MB Justice of the Peace)

… there is some kind of a situation that, needs to be resolved, and um, sometimes we’ll refer them back to the police if they’ve had contact with the police, because sometimes the police will go out and just talk to people and that will kind of settle things down.Uh, or sometimes people go through mediation, that sort of thing. (MB Justice of the Peace)

In any case, the use of section 810 peace bonds in cases of domestic violence in Winnipeg is not a preferred course of action, especially as an initial point of contact with the justice system. Peace bonds in Winnipeg (as in both Halifax and Hamilton) are primarily seen as helpful in neighbour dispute situations:

… my first experience with peace bonds were actually situations involving neighbours or involving disputes at bars between people that are in non-domestic relationships.Actually I found those to be quite useful. I can’t say the same success can be applied to domestic situations … (MB Police officer)

In cases of partner violence, peace bonds are perceived to be far less useful. Instead, there is a far greater reliance on domestic violence emergency protection orders obtained under Manitoba’s Domestic Violence and Stalking Prevention, Protection and Compensation Act (1999):

No, I would never advise somebody to go get a peace bond. The only time I see a peace bond being used is in the case in which they are looking at staying the charge and then entering both parties into a peace bond. That’s the only time I see a peace bond being used. (MB Shelter worker)

Exactly, a protection order is primarily a domestic violence tool and that’s what it is used for whereas a peace bond would sort of cover the whole thing. But now if you try to go into the courts and say I want to get a peace bond against my husband you wouldn’t get it you would get a protection order. (MB Police officer)

But even before the recent provincial domestic violence legislation, most Manitoba shelter workers report that battered women used provincial non-molestation orders provided by family courts:

So, peace bonds aren’t orders that most of our women use, most of our women if it is for protection purposes then they would either go with what used to be, some of them might still have the non-molestation orders or the restraining orders that were in place, others might be going for the new protection orders or going to their lawyers for a prevention order. The peace bond is usually, the only time that we’ve ever seen it used is if it was a family member, or someone that they weren’t living with as opposed to a spouse. If it’s a spouse we always would refer them to either get the new protection order or prevention order. (MB Shelter worker)

… it is rare that we’ve seen peace bonds, most of our clients are in need of a good protection plan and a peace bond wouldn’t be something we’d suggest unless it was say a far removed family member or somebody was coming in about a gang member, you might be able to take out a peace bond on that. (MB Shelter worker)

Finally, a recent trend in the use of peace bonds in Manitoba (also echoed in Ontario) is the increasing use of peace bonds for tracking and controlling soon to be released high-risk offenders:

… it’s a group, it’s run by the province and it’s got to do with sexual offenders and it’s a community notification group headed by the province and this is what we used to do if there’s a sexual offender being released back into a neighbourhood and they felt that he was as risk to re-offend, and he had uh, a package was put together and posters to be broadcast, whatever. Well because of all the various problems that we have, being in the RCMP with the federal privacy act, we’re now looking at 810's and we go and speak to them if we can, prior to their release and quite often they consent to the 810 before they get out of jail on statutory release. (MB Police officer)

We do have a High Risk Offender Unit that prosecutes high-risk offenders of all sorts and what they will often do is bring a peace bond application if the person is coming out of jail for instance and hasn’t had any treatment. (MB Crown Attorney)

We’re getting more the aspects of high-risk offenders.Our purpose here, once we’re up to full purpose power, is to implement a provincial flagging system.And the people we’re putting on peace bonds are high-risk offenders.That doesn’t negate domestic assault and some of them fit into that category, but we really haven’t had many. (MB Crown Attorney)