Manitoba wants to include gun bans in protection orders in domestic violence cases
Province also wants to look at expanding use of GPS monitoring
Manitoba's justice minister is proposing legislation that would make it easier for victims of domestic violence to obtain protection orders, as well as ban those who have orders against them from possessing firearms.
Minister Gord Mackintosh said if the legislation is approved, Manitoba will become the first Canadian jurisdiction to have a firearms ban included in protection orders.
"Because Manitoba has the second-highest rate of spousal homicides in Canada, after Saskatchewan, we have to do better, so today we're making our efforts stronger," Mackintosh told reporters in Winnipeg on Monday.
The legislation comes as welcomed news to Maddie Laberge, whose sister Camille Runke was shot to death Oct. 31.
"The status quo needs to change because we can and need to do more," Laberge said.
"Intimidation can no longer be a tool abusers use to scare women into coming back to them. Fear of bodily harm (even death) for oneself or for family members cannot be tolerated. We have an opportunity, and an obligation, to make our communities safer."
The province also wants to make it easier for people to obtain protection orders by streamlining the application forms, offering more support to those who are applying and by broadening the criteria for approval beyond the need for "immediate and imminent protection."
As well, Mackintosh said he wants to see the use of GPS tracking technology expanded in the province. Laberge was the first to suggest the idea to the province.
"Mr. Mackintosh did the research and came to the conclusion that GPS monitoring is, in fact, a method that can be explored further and applied to high risk offenders," she said.
'This is for Selena and Camille'
Mackintosh said the recent deaths of two Winnipeg women, Selena Rose Keeper and Runke, solidified the need to change current laws.
"This is for Selena and Camille and too many other women who deserve long lives and a life in peace," he said.
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Keeper, 20, died after she was found beaten outside a North End home in early October. Ray William Everett has been charged with second-degree murder in her death.
Court records show that Keeper had applied in May for a protection order against Everett, but her application was dismissed.
'We had to take a lesson'
Runke, 49, was found dead at her Winnipeg workplace several weeks after Keeper was killed. She had been shot.
Court documents revealed Runke was granted a protection order in July against her estranged husband, Kevin Runke, who she said had been stalking her for months.
"The situation that Camille Runke found herself in was this: she applied on sworn affidavit evidence to the court for an immediate protection order and she said that the respondent had possession of a firearm, but the court did not grant a prohibition on the firearm. We had to take a lesson from that," Mackintosh said.
"So on a victim's sworn affidavit evidence that the respondent has a firearm, the protection order must contain a firearms prohibition — a prohibition on possession and future possession of a firearm. The respondent must surrender firearms, and if not, the police are given authority to seize [them]."
Under the proposal, all protection orders with firearms bans would be forwarded to the chief firearms officer, who would review cases and potentially revoke Possession and Acquisition Licences (PALs) if necessary.
Laberge said the proposed GPS and firearm legislation is an important step in the right direction and could save lives.
"Anyone with a protection order against them that can be reasonably assessed by a professional to be a danger to themselves and/or others needs to have their access to weapons restricted," Laberge said. "Kevin Runke owned a gun, the gun was not taken away.... Would Camille be alive today if his gun had been taken away? Maybe."
Mackintosh said he wants to make the process of applying for protection orders more user-friendly, in part by offering more training for protection order designates, who help victims prepare their applications, and allowing the designates to take part in court hearings.
The minister added that he wants those charged with domestic violence-related offences referred to evidence-based intervention programs, and he wants police and court officials trained on the dynamics of domestic violence.
Meanwhile, a GPS monitoring expansion team will work on a plan this winter to expand the use of GPS monitoring technology so more high-risk offenders would be tracked, Mackintosh said.
The minister said he wants the province to explore new GPS bracelets that would, for example, transmit information about an offender's location to the victim.