Education a priority as St. John’s lawyer prepares for Nova Scotia shooting investigation

Advocacy groups are pushing for school-aged children as young as five to learn about safe and healthy relationships as the Mass Casualty Commission in Nova Scotia is due to start next week.

St. John’s lawyer Erin Breen represents a coalition of women’s groups – the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund in Toronto, as well as Halifax nonprofits Avalon Sexual Assault Center and Wellness Within – as the commission is preparing to examine the link between intimate partner violence and mass shooting in Nova Scotia.

Breen said the group’s ideas won’t come as a surprise — they’re the same recommendations that have been echoed for years by advocates.

“It’s not anything new, but hopefully if you knock on the door enough times something will give,” Breen said. “People now know what we need to do.”

Twenty-two people, including a pregnant woman, were murdered in several Nova Scotia communities on April 18 and 19, 2020. The shooter’s spouse was also shot and physically assaulted when the violence began in Portapique. (Radio Canada)

One of the main points of importance is the need for compulsory education starting in kindergarten, on issues related to gender-based violence, she said.

“I think you can start teaching children about basic human rights and the fact that there are power imbalances in our society, which have been reinforced by our institutions and in our laws, that we really need to reverse, and counter. a lot of subliminal messages that exist in our society,” Breen said.

The Mass Casualty Commission will investigate and make findings into the causes, background and circumstances that led to the deaths of 22 people in April 2020. In addition to reviewing responses from the RCMP and support agencies, the commission will consider also related issues such as the role of gender and domestic violence.

According to search warrant documents, the man responsible for the killings in rural Nova Scotia attacked his common-law wife while she was in bed and fired several shots in her direction before the locked in his replica of the RCMP police car. She managed to escape into the woods, where she would hide until morning.

In the woman’s statement to the police, she said her spouse had been violent towards her in the past, but she never reported it. Other sections of police documents refer to people recounting the shooter’s abuse of his longtime partner.

Where are the Atlantic provinces?

CBC News reached out to education departments in all four provinces of Atlantic Canada to see where each stands on early education for healthy family relationships.

All programs and the age at which they start vary.

Education about safe and healthy relationships begins in elementary school and continues every year thereafter in Nova Scotia, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia’s Department of Education and Child Development said. -Scotland.

Gender-based violence education is introduced in grade 4, and in grade 8, students learn about domestic violence.

The province also notes several programs focused on family health, including the development of a provincial plan called Standing Together that aims to prevent and respond to family violence. This plan includes a curriculum for male students in grades 5-10 that teaches “healthy masculinity and addresses the complexities of domestic violence.”

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said children should start learning about domestic violence and healthy relationships from an early age. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Dominic Cardy, New Brunswick’s education minister, said his province is beginning to teach students about domestic violence in kindergarten in the French stream.

“We’re starting to talk about the issues of consent, violence, and those core issues as early as possible,” Cardy said in an interview with CBC News.

“The more you can make them as normal as possible for kids to talk about, the more likely they are to share stories with adults and raise issues that you would want to bring to the attention of schools or responsible adults.”

Obviously, the best way to deal with problems – unsurprisingly – is talking about it.– Dominic Cardy, NB Minister of Education

In the Anglophone sector, the college curriculum addresses healthy relationships and aims to encourage students to identify, report and prevent sexual and relationship violence.

Cardy said his department wanted to align the Anglophone sector with the Francophone stream by introducing the subject in kindergarten.

“Obviously the best way to deal with issues – unsurprisingly – is to talk about them…to talk about them in a structured way throughout school, so that’s absolutely something we’re pursuing.”

In Newfoundland and Labrador, intimate partner violence does not have a specific program plan.

A ministry spokesperson mentions the grade 1 health curriculum, which includes a section on relationships, and a high school course that deals with issues of power and control.

The English school district of Newfoundland and Labrador is about to launch a pilot program called Kids in the Know, which has been endorsed by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. The program emphasizes consent, not intimate partner violence.

PEI students learn about healthy relationships in the health course, but don’t begin to focus on family relationships until grade 5. High school students are required to take a wellness course, which teaches personal approaches to conflict and examines legal rights regarding relationships.

1 woman or girl killed every 2.5 days

A report to guide the implementation of a national action plan on violence against women and gender-based violence was presented to the federal government in April 2021. The plan was led by Shelters Canada and aims to eliminate centuries of injustice and violence against women and girls. According to the report, it would cost billions to bring the whole plan to fruition. Early education is one of the recommendations.

All provinces and the federal government are committed to ending gender-based violence within 10 years.

A woman or girl is killed every 2.5 days in Canada, according to the report. He said the number of deaths had increased since 2019 and the forced isolation of COVID-19 had accelerated his work.

Breen said many of the points she will raise during the investigation will mirror the contents of this document.

The first phase of the investigation has been delayed twice and is now expected to start on February 22. The role of gender-based and domestic violence is expected to be addressed in the second phase of the survey, which is scheduled for the spring.


Support is available for anyone affected by domestic violence. You can access support services and local resources in Canada by visit this site. If your situation is urgent, please contact the emergency services in your area.

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