Advocacy for system change has been a key part of our work since our doors opened in 2003.

Women leaving abusive relationships encounter many systems, including the family law/court system, that do not fully understand the dynamics of abuse or the structural framework within which much family violence occurs.

Luke’s Place was born from advocacy in response to the death of Luke Schillings, who was killed by his father during unsupervised access time shortly after his mother, taking Luke with her, left the abusive marriage. The Durham community came together to advocate for changes to systemic responses that put women and their children at risk of ongoing, sometimes lethal harm.

Advocating for individual women

We advocate for the women we serve on an individual level in Durham Region:

  • With Legal Aid Ontario, when a woman has trouble getting a certificate
  • With lawyers, if women have challenges communicating effectively with them
  • With court services, when women encounter barriers to accessing those services

Systemic advocacy

We identify trends – both positive and negative – from the experiences of women in our community and their workers, and use these trends as the jumping off point for our systemic advocacy work.


We advocate for system change in our local community of Durham Region:

  • As a member of Durham Region's Violence Prevention Coordinating Council to raise systemic issues faced by the women we serve
  • Through close communication with the Durham Regional Police Service to address women’s safety concerns and issues
  • With the local family law bar
  • Through regular consultations with regional politicians, MPPs and MPs
  • By raising awareness about violence against women and family law in area media and at public events


We advocate for system change provincially:

  • Through case interventions at the Ontario Court of Appeal
  • Through leading our provincial Feminist Law and Policy Reform Coalition
  • By our membership on the province’s Violence Against Women Roundtable (no longer in existence)
  • Through submissions to legislative committees
  • Through ongoing consultation with the Attorney General and the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Associate Minister of Women’s and Children’s Issues, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, the offices of the Chief Justices and other key decision makers
  • By providing frequent commentary on the issue of violence against women and family law with provincial media, including the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Global television and CBC radio and television


We advocate for system change nationally:

  • By sitting on and sometimes leading national law and policy reform advocacy efforts
  • Through submissions to parliamentary committees
  • Through ongoing consultations with the Department of Justice and the Women and Gender Equality Canada
  • By working in coalition with other gender-based violence and women’s equality organizations across the country
  • By providing frequent commentary on the issue of violence against women and family law with national media, including Chatelaine Magazine, the Walrus, the Globe and Mail, Global television, CTV, Bellmedia and CBC national radio and television

Law and policy reform

We have been involved in a number of law and policy reform advocacy initiatives, including:

  • LEAF and Luke's Place collaborated to develop a policy brief on criminalization of coercive control for Canadian Women's Foundation
  • Our staff team came together for a group discussion about whether or not we think coercive control should be criminalized. While perspectives differed widely, we reached a common ground that forms the basis for the position Luke’s Place is taking with respect to the criminalization of coercive control. Read our written submission to the Department of Justice on the criminalization of coercive control
  • Ahluwalia v. Ahluwalia: Luke’s Place intervened along with the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic at the Ontario Court of Appeal to argue that the tort of family violence should be upheld – Factum of Intervenor
  • Bill C-233: Luke's Place presented before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and submitted a discussion paper in support of this legislation
  • Bill C-21: Luke's Place joined other feminist organizations in opposing this legislation, calling on parliament to enact legislation to adequately address gun control in cases involving intimate partner violence
  • Bill 207: Luke's Place wrote a brief which was endorsed by more than 25 organizations and made a submission to the Justice Committee on this bill that would bring provincial laws into alignment with the federal Divorce Act
  • Bill 161: Luke's Place presented to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy regarding Bill 161: The Stronger and Smarter Justice Act
  • Bill C-78: Luke’s Place and NAWL (National Association of Women and the Law) led a national coalition of women’s equality organizations to respond to this legislation, which proposed significant reforms to Canada’s Divorce Act. We wrote a discussion paper and a Brief, met with senior Department of Justice staff, and presented the Brief to the House of Commons and Senate Committees
  • Through the VAW Roundtable and discussions with the Attorney General, we stopped a plan by the provincial government to increase family court fees
  • Ongoing consultations with provincial governments with respect to provincial family laws, including issues relating to women’s safety and the best interests of children
  • Expansion of financial eligibility for victims of domestic violence by Legal Aid Ontario
  • Ensuring the safety of women and the best interests of children were front of mind in public policy decisions made during COVID-19
  • Signatory on NAWL-prepared Brief on Bill C-5 (mandatory sexual assault education for judges) to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights