Toronto Star

June 28, 2000

$50 million targets home violence

Queen's Park plan misses mark, advocates say

By Dale Anne Freed and Philip Mascoll
Toronto Star Staff Reporters

Victims of domestic violence need more protection than the Conservative government is offering, say advocates for battered women.

Tighter restraining orders, more shelters and more community-based services are needed, advocates said yesterday after the Ontario government announced it would spend $50 million on a ``victims' justice action plan.''

The money will help link shelters and rape crisis centres electronically with the justice system and will pay for community pilot projects, Attorney-General Jim Flaherty said.

The announcement came a week after 35-year-old Gillian Hadley of Pickering was shot dead by her estranged husband, despite a court order requiring him to stay away from her - and a day after Zahra Zeinali, 39, was shot in the face by her estranged husband, Javad, who later killed himself.

Zahra Zeinali is recovering in Sunnybrook hospital.

Court documents obtained by The Star yesterday show Javad Zeinali, 49, was released from custody in December, 1997, after being held six months on two charges of attempted murder of his wife and their daughter.

After he pleaded guilty to lesser offences - two counts of aggravated assault and one of possessing a dangerous weapon - Zeinali got a 20-month conditional sentence.

Under terms of his release, he was to stay away from his wife and daughter and vacate any residence at his wife's request. He was ordered to obtain written permission to see them.

Javad Zeinali had been sleeping on the couch in his wife's condominium, police said.

``It's unlikely we'll ever eradicate domestic violence,'' Flaherty said, ``but that doesn't mean you don't do everything you can.''

He reminded reporters of a $200 million integrated justice system project set to be implemented by 2001. It features a computer system that will link lawyers, police and correctional services to track domestic abusers and get paperwork to people who need to see it.

Flaherty said a task force studying restraining orders has preliminary recommendations he will see over the summer.

``Restraining orders are a huge issue,'' said Vivien Green, of the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto. ``Currently, they are totally non-enforceable.''

NDP women's issues critic Frances Lankin welcomed the initiative but said ``it misses the mark - so much so we can't help but feeling our issues are being paid lip service.''

Beth Bennet, of the Assaulted Women's Hotline, agreed.

``There was no mention of a commitment to community-based services, no direct commitment to infuse much-needed operating money into community-based violence against women services.''

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