Coercive control: Should it be criminalized?

pensive woman looking out window

Coercive control is now included in the definition of family violence in both the federal Divorce Act and Ontario’s Children’s Law Reform Act. 

This important step makes clear the significance of non-physical abuse in intimate relationships. Many women describe this type of abuse as being worse than physical abuse because it is hard to make people understand how serious it is. Now, judges are required to consider it, along with other forms of abuse, when making decisions in family court about parenting arrangements for children after their parents separate.

Canada is considering the possibility of following the lead of some other countries and criminalizing coercive controlling behaviours. While this might be helpful for some women, there are also possible unintended negative consequences.

During her fellowship with Luke’s Place last summer, Allana Haist, a law student at Ottawa University researched and wrote a thorough analysis of the pros and cons of criminalizing coercive control in situations of intimate partner abuse and its implications for women’s family law cases.

Download Allana’s paper: Stopping Coercive Control by Criminalization: The Implications for Family Law.