MONTREAL — Quebec will distribute more than $3 million over three years to 11 police forces across the province to help them support victims of domestic violence and enhance surveillance of offenders, Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said Monday.
"Our objective is clear: to save lives," Guilbault said in a news release. "The lives of women, victims of violence, and of their children."
The money to help victims will be directed toward hiring social workers who will work with police, Guilbault added. Police forces in the cities of Bromont, Châteauguay, Mascouche and Repentigny are among those that will get the new funding.
Sgt. Ginette Séguin, with the police in Châteauguay, southwest of Montreal, says her force's mandate is to reassure women that they will be supported after they come forward.
"Victims will be at the centre of our actions," Séguin said in an interview Monday. "We want to follow up with them directly."
The minister's announcement followed news over the weekend about the deaths of two couples in separate incidents, in Laval, Que., north of Montreal, and in Dunham, Que., in the Eastern Townships. Police in both cases said they believed the deaths involved a murder followed by a suicide.
Statistics from the Quebec government indicate 21 women and girls were killed by men in 2020, while an unofficial count puts the number of femicides in 2021 at 18.
Quebec's government has invested more than $509 million since 2020 in the fight against violence toward women. Included in that funding package is a $41-million project that would require some people convicted of domestic violence to wear tracking bracelets. The electronic devices, which consist of an ankle bracelet worn by the offender, as well as a second element in the victim's possession, would alert police in the event an offender approaches his or her victim.
Guilbault officially introduced a bill for the program on Feb. 2, and if adopted, the government would start by testing 16 bracelets, before expanding the system to about 500 devices.
Public Security Department spokesman Louis-Julien Dufresne said the money announced Monday is separate from the tracking bracelet system. He said the new funding would instead be used by police forces for interventions.
"It could mean to add more officers in the field, to do more home visits … it depends on each police force to determine how to proceed," Dufresne said in an interview.
Steve Toupin, spokesman for the police in Repentigny, east of Montreal, said the funding will help fund a five-year pilot project to promote better communication between victims, social workers and police officers.
"We care about fully understanding their realities in order to provide them with adequate support and ensure constant follow up of the case with both the victim and the suspect," Toupin said in a statement.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Feb. 21, 2022.
Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press