Questions remain over Quebec’s GPS electronic tracking project for domestic violence offenders

Barely a month after a Quebec coroner recommended that people convicted of murdering their partners be compelled to wear electronic tracking devices when released from prison, the provincial government announced that some conjugal violence offenders could be ordered to wear tracking bracelets beginning next spring.

The $41-million project, which will begin in Quebec City next spring before being rolled out across the province over the course of two years, is the latest initiative the Quebec government has launched to fight domestic violence at a time when the province has been unnerved by an outbreak of feminicides since the beginning of the year. Only six countries, including Australia, England, France, Portugal, Spain, and the U.S., have implemented a GPS tracking device system to thwart domestic violence.

The GPS tracking system will be composed of two units, a bracelet for the offender, which must be worn at all times, and a notification device for the victim. When the two devices are too close in contact with each other, the person in need of protection is notified as are police.

Quebec coroner Stéphanie Gamache, following an investigation into the death of Maryléne Levesque, concluded that a GPS electronic tracking bracelet would have “probably” prevented the murder of the 22-year old woman. GPS tracking devices ensure public safety and promote better risk management of domestic violence perpetrators, said Gamache in her nine-page report. These devices should be the “primary condition” for the release of any person convicted of killing their partner, concluded Gamache.

According to a voluminous study conducted Jean-Pierre Guay and Francis Fortin, professors of criminology at the Université de Montréal who were mandated by the Quebec government to study the use of electronic tracking devices, the bracelets increases victims’ sense of safety and spawn a “feeling” of empowerment and autonomy in victims, while “allowing for a more focused and optimized police response.” In Spain, where tracking devices have been used in conjugal violence cases since 2009, a study to determine its efficacy has yet to be conducted but Guay and Fortin point out that 45 women were killed by their partners in 2020 compared to 72 in 2004. “The program suggests some effectiveness, at least among program officials,” noted the professors. A pilot project conducted in Australia provides more conclusive evidence over its effectiveness, affirming there was an 82 per cent reduction of high risk incidents.

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This story was originally published in The Lawyer’s Daily.

 

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