Strangulation law in Ontario targets domestic violence in Waterloo region


Photo by Tim Harrison

In 2019, strangulation was added as a separate offense under the Criminal Code and there have been over 200 strangulation-related charges in Waterloo region since then. 

This year has had an increase of cases with 120 laid, 10 of those being in November. 

Sergeant Jamie Brosseau, who is in charge of the Waterloo region police’s intimate partner violence unit, cites many factors that could have contributed to this, including an increase in crime and an improvement in detecting, investigating and laying charges for criminal offences. 

The amendment to the law is also helping raise awareness of domestic violence.

Peter Jaffe, director emeritus at the Ontario-based Centre of Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, said that strangulation poses a risk for future strangulation – an increased risk of domestic violence.

“I think a number of organizations [including] police services across Canada, domestic violence advocates, domestic violence services within the hospitals, all were seeing this as an emerging issue,” he said.

“Recognizing the strangulation in law leads to changes in terms of education of police, education of health-care professionals who may see these victims in the emergency room … so it raises awareness that the issue is important enough to be taken seriously. [It’s] an important step forward.”

Two years ago, WRPS officers were trained on identifying, investigating, and persecuting domestic violence cases that involved strangulation. 

“Anytime you have something new in the Criminal Code, you are creating an avenue of investigation, prosecution and ultimately at the end of that, jurisprudence. And so we’re trying to build a professional method of investigation when it comes to these offences, hoping that obviously offenders will be held accountable,” Brosseau said.

Armin Sethi, a crown attorney in Waterloo said that this issue has since been highlighted in the justice system. 

“We know that a significant percentage of the victims of intimate partner violence do not come forward to police,” Brosseau said. “By releasing information in the community on a very serious and risky criminal offence, we want to make sure that victims understand that strangulation can be a life-threatening event and encourage them to seek help and resources.”

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