Domestic violence discussion met with laughter in House

Josh Pennell
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An incident in the House of Assembly Thursday raised the ire of some people over how the government responded to NDP MHA Gerry Rogers’ presentation of a petition.

Rogers asked the government to reinstate Family Violence Intervention Court, which was eliminated with the 2013-14 provincial budget.

“I called out to the premier and I pleaded with him, on behalf of the women of the province and the families of the province, to reinstate the family violence court and to do this as an act before he stepped down as premier,” Rogers told The Telegram Thursday evening.

Heckling ensued — not exactly uncommon in the House. But what sparked debate among some people was that Rogers was discussing domestic violence. Comments on Twitter noted how inappropriate it was for heckling and boisterous laughter to be going on while the serious issue of domestic violence was being discussed.

After Rogers sat down and another speaker took the floor, she could be heard continuing to respond to comments being made to her from other government members.

In an email response to The Telegram, Premier Tom Marshall addressed the question of whether he thought the government’s interruptive response to Rogers’ presentation was appropriate.

“From time to time members on all sides engage in side discussions during House proceedings and, sometimes, in the emotion of debate, decorum can be forgotten. We all must strive to do better in this respect,” Marshall said.

“However, this lapse in decorum should not be equated with disregard for the importance of an issue. All members care about preventing and dealing with violence in our society.”

Rogers told The Telegram Thursday evening that what was being said after she sat down was an exchange between her and Marshall, during which he accused her of not caring about people elsewhere in the province because Family Violence Intervention Court had been based in St. John’s.

“I was surprised, actually, by the premier’s response,” Rogers said. “He said that I don’t care about the people of Labrador and Corner Brook.”

The Telegram asked the premier if he truly thought Rogers felt this way.

“This particular pilot project was experiencing a decline in numbers (just 21 people completed the program in 2012-13, down from 39 in the previous year) and was not offered provincewide,” Marshall said of that particular court.

“This year, government is funding a provincewide, preventative program and has committed to a new courthouse in Stephenville.”

Rogers said the family violence intervention program has been praised by law enforcement, lawyers and anti-violence groups and should be implemented provincewide.

Marshall said the government has provided provincewide programs other than domestic violence intervention court.

 “In 2012, 21 people completed the program, a significant decline from the 39 who had completed it in the previous year. This year, government made the decision to implement a provincewide measure addressing (domestic violence), with the joint RNC-RCMP unit focused on identifying and helping high-risk women and families.”

Despite those other measures, the special court was the most effective, Rogers contends.

“It was one of the most effective tools that dealt with the root causes of domestic violence,” she said.

Rogers has been advocating for the return of the program, which had a bail supervisor keeping in contact with offenders and provided counselling for victims since it was eliminated. One of her biggest issues is that the government has given different answers as to why it was eliminated at different times — saying it wasn’t being used, it wasn’t effective and that the budget wouldn’t allow for the $500,000-a-year cost.

Rogers said she has been ridiculed in the House before for fighting for the court’s return, but the mood on all sides was more intense that day.

“I think it was heightened, because I was heightened today in the House, as well,” she said Thursday.

Organizations: RNC-RCMP

Geographic location: Labrador, Corner Brook, Stephenville

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Recent comments

  • Yo mama
    June 01, 2014 - 16:11

    Quit wasting money on this nonsense, St. John's needs just ONE judge, one with balls enough to hand out proper sentences, by proper I mean whippings and allowing police to put petty criminals in ICU like they do in civilized countries. Watch the crime rate disappear.

  • Arnold Murphy
    June 01, 2014 - 12:18

    It is a sad day when the legislators of a province sink so low as not to recognize the reality of a problem. That they somehow think they are above their own neighbors, to laugh at such a serious issue. It is indeed so low a reaction as to surmise them sociopathic.

  • Arnold Murphy
    June 01, 2014 - 12:15

    It is a sad day when the legislators of a province sink so low as not to recognize the reality of a problem. That they somehow think they are above their own neighbors, to laugh at such a serious issue. It is indeed so low a reaction as to surmise them sociopathic.

  • Janet Merlo
    May 31, 2014 - 14:38

    Perhaps those who giggle , heckle and show such ignorance should be forced to go ride with their local police sometime and see the seriousness of domestic violence . Until you have seen a woman with head injuries sustained in a brutal beating or a child covered in their parent's blood , perhaps you cannot understand that this is not a topic to be heckled . There are many families out there , rich and poor struggling from the horrible effects of domestic violence . In my 20 years of policing I saw the full range of violence ,from minor assaults to homicide . For those of you who giggle and taunt , shame on you . Perhaps your views will change one day when a member of your family falls victim to this horrible reality .