Quebec to expand tracking bracelet program for intimate partner violence suspects
Twelve months ago, Quebec became the first jurisdiction in Canada to launch a two-pronged tracking system for domestic violence suspects, and while victims’ rights groups welcome the technology, they want it. know more about its effectiveness.
The tracking equipment consists of a wristband for the suspect and a mobile application that allows the victim to monitor the suspect’s movements. Since the beginning of the program, Quebec authorities have used the bracelets in 20 cases, mainly in Quebec and in a few other regions of the province, excluding Montreal.
Louise Riendeau, spokeswoman for a victims’ rights group that works with women’s shelters, says the bracelets are a tool « but not a magic bullet ».
It’s unclear how often authorities plan to order suspects to wear the bracelets relative to the number of times the devices are used, Riendeau, with the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victims de violence conjugale, said in a recent statement. interview.
« There’s very little information available, » Riendeau said, adding his group doesn’t know if the technology makes victims feel safer.
« We don’t know if the victims felt safer or if there were certain issues; if it put them in a state of hypervigilance or if everything was positive. »
The bracelet uses geolocation and is equipped with a loudspeaker. If a suspect violates its terms – such as being too close to the victim’s home or workplace – they will receive an alert through the bracelet’s speaker. If the suspect does not comply, the police are contacted.
Bracelets can only be used with the victim’s consent. They can be imposed on suspects who are released on bail, who are serving a community sentence or who are conditionally released after serving a sentence in a provincial prison. Suspects of domestic violence may be ordered to wear them by a judge, a prison warden or an officer of the parole board or the Quebec correctional service.
Victim advocates say bracelets shouldn’t replace detention.
In one case in the Quebec City area, shortly after the devices were introduced, a man with a history of domestic violence offered to wear a bracelet while out on bail, but a judge denied the request. The judge ruled that the defendant had a history of breaching bail conditions and ordered him remanded in custody, adding that it was not up to the victim to manage the risk of the defendant violating court orders .
Victim advocates also want to know if the technology can be effective in rural areas, where police often patrol large areas and may not be able to respond quickly.
« The challenge is that Quebec is a big place and cell and internet reception isn’t perfect everywhere, » Riendeau said. “We would like to have more information on the use to make sure it can be effective in less densely populated places than Quebec City.”
Riendeau says groups have requested a meeting with Public Safety Minister Francois Bonnardel to get details on how the bracelet is deployed.
The full deployment of the tracking system is planned for 2023, including in Montreal. A total of about 500 wristbands will be available across the province, and officials said Quebec’s program is expected to cost about $41 million over five years and more wristbands could be added if there is demand.
The bracelet program is one of 190 recommendations in a December 2020 government-mandated report to tackle gender-based violence, a list that includes the creation of specialized courts to deal with cases of sexual and domestic violence. For now, the bracelets are only used for suspects or offenders serving a provincial sentence, as the project is carried out by the Government of Quebec.
“The decision to adopt the bracelet for people sentenced to a (federal) penitentiary is the exclusive responsibility of the federal government,” said Louise Quintin, spokesperson for the Quebec Ministry of Public Security, in an email.
“However, Quebec invites its federal and other provincial counterparts to follow suit with the adoption of such a measure and will be happy to provide them with the benefit of its expertise as needed.
In Ottawa, Bill C-233, a private member’s bill, would amend the Criminal Code to require a judge to consider electronic monitoring devices before releasing suspects involved in domestic violence cases. Conservative Quebec Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, a longtime advocate for victims’ rights, has tabled Bill S-205, which would require a person accused of domestic violence to wear an electronic tracking bracelet upon release on bail.
A spokesperson for the Correctional Service of Canada said the agency also uses tracking bracelets to ensure suspects adhere to curfews and other conditions, but they said the technology is not accompanied by an app for victims.
« CSC continues to monitor the progress of the provincial electronic monitoring program targeting domestic violence in Quebec, » the ministry said in an email.