Conservative MP urges feds to respond to ‘non-state torture’ in Canada

Conservative MP urges feds to respond to ‘non-state torture’ in Canada

OTTAWA — The Canadian government has to answer to the findings of two nurses who told a United Nations committee this week that women and girls in Canada are facing abuse so extreme it amounts to torture, Conservative MP Arnold Viersen says.

Linda MacDonald and Jeanne Sarson, nurses and human-rights advocates from Nova Scotia, appeared before the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva earlier this week in hopes of pressuring Canada to amend the Criminal Code to include “non-state torture” as a distinct crime.

“What they’re seeing demands a response from the government,” said Viersen.

MacDonald said she read the committee an account from a woman who reported having been trafficked by her parents to friends and strangers from the time she was a child.

“On the boat he would get the shock things out (electric shocking), throw you down … hits you, make all kinds of bruises with tools like whips, chains, knives, and guns (physical torture). He blindfolds you so you don’t know what he’s doing (psychological torture). He sticks a broken bottle in your ribs and sucks the blood. He says ‘smile’,” the woman’s story said.

The abuse they’re talking about is protracted and often perpetrated by victims’ relatives, friends of family members, human traffickers, and johns who want very violent sex. MacDonald said that because non-state torture is not identified as a separate crime, there is no data to show how widespread the problem is.

Some cases have been heard in court: an Ottawa public servant who died after her husband poured boiling water over her after months of physical and emotional abuse; a teenage boy shackled and starved in a basement by his father; a woman trafficked for the sex trade in Winnipeg, locked in a freezer repeatedly until she passed out.

Felice Gaer, an independent expert member of the UN committee and an American human-rights activist, told Canadian officials appearing in Geneva that the committee had heard “rather gripping information” from MacDonald and Sarson about the forms of abuse that children have endured and questioned whether anyone is responsible for collecting formal data.

Viersen, an Alberta MP, said he supports the nurses’ work and that what they have witnessed among victims is the result of a “lack of value in humanity.”

The federal government’s position is that expanding the Criminal Code to include “non-state torture” would conflict with Canada’s obligations under international laws that specify that torture is a crime carried out by a government.

Viersen said the argument has merit, but he’s not convinced that MacDonald and Sarson are dogmatic about exactly how the law changes.

“As long as we can get the idea of what they’re trying to grapple with — that there is something that goes beyond assault that is torture,” he said.

Viersen has been pushing for legislation to control violent pornography and advocates say the issues are related: perpetrators of extreme long-term abuse are often consumers of violent porn.

Viersen said if the government is opposed to expanding the Criminal Code to include “non-state torture,” it should consider an alternative word that would capture what women say they experience.

“I like the word ‘torture’ in the fact that it elicits a response — we all know what that means. Every time you get the lawyers involved they’ll tell you that a particular word that you think means one thing actually means something else,” he said. “But I applaud these ladies and I would like to see the government have a response to them.”

Celia Canon, a spokeswoman for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, said her office had nothing to say following the nurses’ testimony.

Earlier this week Canon said creating the offence of private torture could “seriously weaken” Canada’s contribution to the international effort to prevent torture under the Convention against Torture, because it could confuse the existing definition of torture as an act carried out by someone working for a government.

She also said the Criminal Code already contains numerous crimes of assault, including sexual assault.

“In other words, the Criminal Code already contains crimes that capture the kind of conduct associated with private torture, most notably the crimes of aggravated assault and aggravated sexual assault, while existing sentencing provisions already provide a range of aggravating factors that could apply in a case of private torture,” Canon said.

Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dwayne Buckle, 40 of Red Deer finished a 1,638-kilometre walk, in honour of his family. The 12-week, 82 day-journey wrapped up in Port Hardy, B.C. on Monday. Facebook photo
Red Deer man completes 1,638 km hike for cancer research

Dwayne Buckle, a Red Deer firefighter returned home Friday after his 12-week journey

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

Two inmates at Bowden Institution have tested positive for COVID-19. (Black Press File Photo)
2 Bowden inmates test positive for COVID-19

A pair of inmates at Bowden Institution have tested positive for COVID-19.… Continue reading

Salons and barbershops are able to open on Monday, the Government of Alberta announced this week. (Photo courtesy Pixabay)
Red Deer salon owner “relieved” business can re-open next week

The owner of a Red Deer salon says she’s “definitely relieved” her… Continue reading

Red Deer Valhalla Pure Outfitters owner Darren Schaedeli has seen a significant increase in those looking to tackle winter experiences. Some are trying their hand at "hot tent camping" as he did in the West Country several weeks ago.
Photo contributed
Central Albertans enjoying the great outdoors this winter

Stir crazy and beach-deprived central Albertans are embracing the great outdoors this… Continue reading

Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn. (Facebook)
Updated: Jason Kenney kicks Lesser Slave Lake MLA out of caucus

Pat Rehn will not be permitted to run for UCP nominations

One way to get infloor heating is with electrical cables installed underneath ceramic tiles. Here DITRA-HEAT cables are snapped into an uncoupling underlay that goes down before tiles. (Photo by Robert Maxwell)
Houseworks: Heating a basement under renovation

Q: Will DITRA-HEAT electric infloor heating be enough to make my finished… Continue reading

Super Valu has experienced an increase in demand for products such as toilet paper as people prepare for the coronavirus. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Hints from Heloise: Stock your closet

Dear Heloise: If this year has taught me anything, toilet paper, wipes,… Continue reading

Manchester United's Tobin Heath celebrates scoring against West Ham United during the FA Women's Super League match at Victoria Road Stadium, London, Sunday Oct. 18, 2020. (John Walton/PA via AP)
Double 1st: Man U men, women leading 2 leagues, play champs

Double 1st: Man U men, women leading 2 leagues, play champs

A group of Buffalo Bills fans from Toronto pose for a photo while tailgating in the parking lot of New Era Field before an NFL football game between the Bills and the New York Jets, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Adrian Kraus
Being unable to attend Bills playoff games due to pandemic pains Canadian fans

Being unable to attend Bills playoff games due to pandemic pains Canadian fans

FILE - Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant runs the bases after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning during a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland, in this Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, file photo. Bryant is among roughly 125 players who entered Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, eligible to exchange salary arbitration figures with their teams. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
Lindor, Bryant, Bellinger, Seager get big-money deals

Lindor, Bryant, Bellinger, Seager get big-money deals

Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash points during the third quarter of the team's NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in New York. (Brad Penner/Pool Photo via AP)
More NBA games off, as league continues struggles with virus

More NBA games off, as league continues struggles with virus

Washington Capitals' Jakub Vrana (13) is congratulated for his goal during the second period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Vanecek makes 28 saves in NHL debut, Capitals sweep Sabres

Vanecek makes 28 saves in NHL debut, Capitals sweep Sabres

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Collin Delia (60) makes a save after Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) fell down during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Stamkos, Palat lift Lightning over Blackhawks again

Stamkos, Palat lift Lightning over Blackhawks again

Most Read