MONTREAL — Quebec will begin requiring some domestic violence offenders to wear electronic tracking bracelets beginning next spring, the province's public security minister announced Wednesday.
Geneviève Guilbault said the $41-million program, which will be rolled out gradually across the province, is designed to give victims a better sense of security and ensure offenders better comply with the conditions of their release.
"One thing that is priceless is the peace of mind and safety of women, and that is something that is stolen from them" when they are subjected to violence at the hands of a intimate partner, Guilbault said at a news conference.
The devices usually consist of an ankle bracelet worn by the offender, as well as a second element in the victim's possession.
Authorities are alerted when the two devices begin to come too close together, and police can be sent out if the distance between them continues to decrease.
Christine Giroux, a domestic violence survivor who was present at the news conference, said the initiative could "completely change" her life.
The mother of two said that for more than 20 years, she's lived in fear of her ex-husband, who has been able to track her down several times even after she's moved homes.
She said a tracking bracelet system could finally allow her to sleep in peace without fearing a nighttime break-in.
Quebec has experienced a spate of femicides since the beginning of 2021, with an unofficial count putting the number at 18.
Guilbault said the devices have been successful in reducing violent incidents in countries such as Spain.
She said judges, Quebec's parole board commission and detention centres can all order offenders to wear the devices, but they won't be imposed without the victim's consent.
She said judges would decide how long the bracelets would need to be worn.
Electronic monitors for people convicted of murdering their partners were a key recommendation of a coroner's report into the death of Marylène Levesque, who was murdered in a Quebec City hotel room in January 2020 by a convicted killer out on parole.
Coroner Stephanie Gamache concluded in her report in November that bracelets were an "additional measure of support" that makes it possible to "validate the statements of an offender who would like to use subterfuge to ignore his conditions of release."
She said the presence of a bracelet would also signal to potential victims of the wearer's criminal past.
Levesque's killer, Eustachio Gallese, was serving time for the 2004 murder of his wife, for which he was sentenced in 2006. At the time of Levesque's murder, he was residing at a halfway house under conditions that included no drinking and reporting to his parole officer all interactions with women.
The report found that Gallese flouted the rules imposed on him by continuing to see Levesque, who was a sex worker, after his permission to visit erotic massage parlours was revoked.
The investigation found that Levesque did not know about Gallese's murder conviction or the conditions under which he was released from prison.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2021.
Clara Descurninges, The Canadian Press