Residential Tenancies Act

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and also saddened to have to rise in my place today to talk about Bill No. 150, which is the Residential Tenancies Act. I'm pleased because we are making changes to it that will help the lives of people suffering from domestic violence issues, but I'm still very saddened that this is such a huge problem in our society today.

It's interesting that the minister previously mentioned a scourge on our society, because that is exactly the words I had written down. I find that domestic violence is a scourge in North America, in Nova Scotia, in our western civilization. I find that in the 21st Century it is very hard to believe that this is still going on, and unfortunately, although it is not necessarily an accepted practice, something is going on that is making people still act in this fashion and feel that they can actually do it and get away with it, and perhaps get so taken up with their own emotions that their own emotions are more important than the life, feelings or the wishes and desires of another. Perhaps it's the "power over" syndrome which is also part of domestic violence. Oftentimes it's a power play that goes on and unfortunately it is a very, very sad situation.

Knowing quite a bit about domestic violence from my own life and from also people that I know, I believe that this Residential Tenancies Act amendment will be very, very helpful because when people - not just women, mainly women, but there are also men as well that suffer from this - have to face the fact that they need to leave their nest, their home that they have built with their families, with their supposed loved one, the one that they thought they could trust, that they could count on when they first got together with that person and built a life, when they first start to realize that there is a problem and that they need an escape, it's overwhelming, Mr. Speaker.

Many people, especially if they are in a financial situation where they are relying on another for their finances, there are just so many details to think about - how are you going to leave, how are you going to take care of your children, your business, your life - that people put it off. They put it off and they put it off, they don't do anything, they stick around, they think, well, maybe it will get better, maybe they'll change, maybe it's just my imagination, because a lot of the times what happens is a thing called "crazy making" where the person who is actually violent makes the person who is the victim feel that it's all them and it's their fault and that it's all in their head.

After somebody has been in a situation for a long time they start to believe it. They start to believe it's their fault, they start to believe that they feel guilty. I've heard it said that it's very much like putting a frog in a pot of water on the stove because when people say, well, now you're a smart woman, what are you doing in domestic violence, how come you are an abused woman or whatever. If you look at it this way, they say it's like putting a frog in some water in a pot on a stove. At first it's just room temperature so the frog stays in the pot quite happily in the water, but if you start to turn the heat up a tiny little bit at a time, just a little bit, so that the frog is starting to feel comfortable, it's warm, doesn't really notice it bit by bit by bit until finally it is boiling, boiling, boiling hot, the frog will actually die in the pot, it won't get out. This is an analogy that has been used, I've heard in different group sessions as to why people stay in abusive relationships, because they don't notice it happening at first and finally they are almost brainwashed into staying in the relationship.

I've talked to many women and men who don't even know when they are being abused. They feel uncomfortable, they are not happy, they are actually quite miserable in the relationship, but they don't really know until you talk to them what abuse is. So for instance, if somebody is yelling at, snapping at, screaming at, calling names, this is abuse, this is verbal abuse; there is psychological abuse and I would like to say that psychological and verbal abuse are just as bad as physical abuse, and in some cases worse because again, the person doesn't really realize that it's abuse. I've heard some women say, if he only hit me I could leave, if he only did this then I'd know, then I know I can't put up with this anymore but if it's all mental and verbal and psychological then they tend to try to stick it out for the kids or they just think things are going to get better. It's a very sad situation, Mr. Speaker, and that's why I think that Bill No. 150 is good because it takes away one little piece of the puzzle of how people are going to deal with it if they are going to leave and get out while they can.

I would like to say that in a society and in a province where we still have a young woman being found floating down the Mira River in Cape Breton in a gym bag; where we have another young woman found in the trunk of a car in the school where she is a teacher; where we have another young woman found stuffed in the walls of her apartment where she lived with her husband; or four women found drowned in a car in the Rideau Canal in Ottawa supposedly by accident, then we have a serious problem.

One of the things this government did when we first came into office was to talk to our Justice Minister, to talk to the various ministers and say, what are we going to do about domestic violence, and I would say that this bill came out of that. I want to thank the MLA for Kings South, the Minister of Education, for starting it. I want to thank the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations for continuing it and making this become a reality.

I would also like to mention that people are doing things to try to bring attention to this around the province and one thing that I'm doing personally is - Joy Laking is a wonderful artist, a visual artist, in Great Village. She has actually written a play, her first play. It's called Invisible Prisons and it's about domestic violence because she said when you're in a situation of domestic violence, it's like you're in an invisible prison. You don't even know you're in it, but you've got to get out, but you don't know how.

She has written this play and it is 14 different monologues that she has gathered from different women who have suffered from domestic violence issues and two men who were also victims of domestic violence. I like the fact that the men are not the perpetrators, they are also victims too, and I think that there are a lot of men who are in situations where they're ashamed or afraid to come out and speak about it as well. So it is a societal problem.

I'm going to be producing this play as the MLA for Truro-Bible Hill for International Women's Day next year - March 8th - at the Marigold Theatre in Truro. (Interruption) Yes, and who knows, maybe you can come or maybe it will come to a theatre near you shortly afterwards, but we're also going to take it to Nova women's prison. We've asked for permission and we've been given it. So we're going to make it free for students, anybody with a student card. (Interruption) We will have a captive audience, yes, indeed, but I think they will very much appreciate it, especially because when you really think about it, many of the women who are at the prison - why are they there? Many of them are there because they've suffered from abuse and violence. So I think we are going to take Invisible Prisons inside the prison for them to be able to relate to and enjoy.

The more we talk about it - I agree with my compatriot over there - all of us, it's nice to see us all in 'violent' agreement for once, and wonderful to see the House together on this. So again, with those few words, I will take my place and I'm really, really pleased to see this bill, Bill No. 150, come forward.