‘Today was emotional’: Waterloo MPP fights back tears after sex assault bill sent to committee

Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife was fighting back tears at Queen’s Park after her sex assault survivors’ bill was pulled from debate and sent to committee.

Her bill, Bill 189, also called “Lydia’s Law”, was up for a second reading Tuesday and the third reading today.

When she tabled it in April, Fife said her legislation seeks to bring accountability and transparency to the handling of sexual assault cases in Ontario, as she noted that in 2022 alone, there were 1,326 cases of sexual assault withdrawn or stayed before trial.

But instead of discussing the bill in the second reading on Tuesday, the Ford Conservatives used their majority to vote the bill to committee discussions, where the opposition fears it will simply linger and never be dealt with.

Fife was in tears during scrums with reporters after the legislature session, and tweeted around 9:00 that night, “Today was emotional.”

She said, “It is challenging to deal with a government that demonstrates such disdain for survivors of sexual violence. They will not silence women in Ontario’s Legislature. They will not silence Lydia. This is our promise to women in Ontario.”

A formal statement from Fife sent out by the Ontario NDP reads in part, “This is a slap in the face to the hundreds of survivors and advocates we are expecting in attendance at Queen’s Park tomorrow for this incredibly important debate. This bill will introduce measures to help the survivors of sexual assault seek justice. And the PCs don’t want to hear it? If they think they can silence the voices of survivors – they need to think again.”

During a press conference on Wednesday morning, Fife said she found out that her bill would not be debated on when she got to Queen’s Park yesterday. She adds it is a “new trend” from the Ford government, citing four bills in the last six months that have been sent back to committee from members of opposing parties.

“I’ve been here for 12 years, and I’ve never had a PMB moved to committee without debate, especially less than 24 hours before it was to be debated,” said Fife.

Kitchener South-Hespeler MPP Jess Dixon said in a social media post that it is great that the bill is coming to committee. She said she was made the governmental lead of the Subcommittee on Intimate Partner Violence/Gender-based Violence/Violence Against Women, and it gives a chance to hear from witnesses and advocates and “potentially expand the scope.”

Conservative government house leader, Paul Calandra, said in the scrums Tuesday, that there are “a lot of good pieces within this bill,” and if the committee recommends it back to the legislature it will be debated, adding, “That is how legislation works.” CityNews 570 has reached out to Minister Paul Calandra’s office for comment.

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