Toronto, Ontario: July 7, 2023 – Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic is encouraged by the Ontario Court of Appeal’s recognition that “it is axiomatic that intimate partner violence must be recognized, denounced and deterred” and that “society, the legislature, and the courts have come to recognize the reality of intimate partner violence and the need to condemn it.” The court also ruled that claims for compensation for intimate partner violence can be made in a family law proceeding. However, the Clinic is disappointed that the court missed an important opportunity to recognize a new tort of family violence.
The Clinic along with Luke’s Place intervened in this case to bring a contextual and intersectional perspective to the court about the prevalence and nature of family violence and the experience of survivors of patterns of abuse.
Family Violence is abuse directed against one or more individuals that is perpetrated by a family member. It is characterized by a pattern of long-term and repetitive abuse, often in conjunction with coercive and controlling behaviour, which may include harassment, manipulation, economic abuse, physical violence, and psychological abuse. The overarching goal of this abuse is to exert control and domination by one family member over another.
Intersecting experiences of oppression, racism and marginalization can increase barriers to safety and independence and must be accounted for when accessing services or resources, as well as when assessing financial compensation.
In 2021, women and girls represented 69% of family violence victims1 and rates of family violence appear to be on the rise.2 “In the Clinic’s experience of working with women and gender diverse people for over 38 years,racialized and marginalized women have compounding and interrelated individual, immigration status, social and systemic level risk factors which can aggravate the magnitude of coercive control and experience of harms.” says Deepa Mattoo, Executive Director of Barbra Schlifer Clinic.
The court failed to address the gap in the law which only offers redress for individual incidents of physical or psychological harm, with distinct actions for assault, battery and intentional inflictionof emotional distress. In the family law regime family violence must be considered when contemplating the best interests of children but is not taken into account in the sharing of family assets or spousal support for the less financially secure spouse.
The new civil remedy would have addressed the harm and violation experienced not only during an incident of abuse but also in the period between the discrete instances of abuse, as well as the overall breach of trust and complex impact of systemic violence on the lives of survivors.
Although the court did not advance the law by recognizing the tort of family violence, it did award the abused wife compensatory and aggravated damages. It reduced the amount that was awarded at trial from $150,000 to $100,000. While this is not the outcome the Clinic was hoping for, the Clinic is thankful to the survivors, like Kuldip Ahluwalia in this case, for bringing their stories forward. The Clinic remains committed to supporting the fight to protect survivors by recognizing and condemning family violence and its impacts. We are hopeful that the law will develop further to compensate survivors of family violence.
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic is a specialized clinic for women and gender-diverse people experiencing violence, established in the memory of Barbra Schlifer. The Clinic is a multidisciplinary, front-line service provider that assists more than 4,000 women a year to build lives free from violence through counselling, legal representation, and language interpretation.
Please contact Shalini Devarajah for media interviews and quotes on 647-264-7134 or [email protected]
1Statistics Canada, Victims of police-reported family and intimate partner violence in Canada, 2021 (Ottawa:
Statistics Canada, 2022), online: Statistics Canada.
2Shana Conroy, “Family Violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2019” Juristat no. 85-002-X (2021), online: Statistics
Canada; Adam Cotter, “Intimate partner violence in Canada, 2018: An overview” Juristat no. 85- 002-X (2021), online: