Quebec exploring GPS bracelets to keep domestic offenders away from ex-partners

Quebec is studying whether it should introduce GPS bracelets for domestic violence offenders in order to keep them from getting too physically close to their ex-partners.

Spain has been using a similar model for a decade, and France and some American states have also introduced the bracelets, though all with slightly different models. One pilot project has also happened in Canada, in Red Deer, Alberta.

“This electronic bracelet can be maybe a way to give [victims] this peace of mind once this ex-boyfriend… comes out of jail,” said Quebec’s public safety minister, Genevieve Guilbault, on Thursday.

However, she said the idea is “very complex” and deserves further study. A report on it is due a year from now.

Normally, the bracelets or anklets are only used for people who have been convicted of domestic violence and are about to leave prison for the offence.

There are currently around 4,500 men currently serving time under Quebec law for domestic violence, the province says. About a dozen women die in the province each year in a domestic attack.

The device works by having the offender wear a transmitter, while the victim or ex-partner wears a receiver. Police also have a receiver, so both get an alert if the violent ex-partner comes within a certain radius of his ex.

In some jurisdictions, wearing the electronic band is offered as a voluntary option that can earn the offender some benefits if he agrees.

Guilbault said there were several big decisions the province would need to consider if they wanted to go ahead with it, including whether to make it voluntary or not.

She also wondered what it would cost and whther it would give a false sense of security. 

If the bracelet deters the offenders from being near their exes, it could help with the simple fact that “it is very terrifying for some women, the possibility of seeing him around their houses or around the grocery store or anything like that,” she said.

But whether it actually works, in terms of giving police enough notice to intervene in a possible assault, is another question.

“Unfortunately, the police do not have time to act if someone wants to murder their wife,” even if they get an alert, said Melpa Kamateros, the director of the Shield of Athena shelter.

She pointed out several cases in late 2019 and early 2020 “when so many women and their children… were killed by their abusive partners and police did not, in fact, have time to react.”

However, Kamateros said she’s glad the province is looking into the technology.

Quebec first raised the idea as part of the new provincial action plan to fight domestic violence.

Statistics Canada found recently that intimate partner violence accounts for a quarter of all reported violent crime.

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