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The Tort of Family Violence

Domestic Violence Theme with Dirty Teddy Bear

What is a notable recent case in family law?

In the world of family law, an important new case was decided in February 2022 called Ahluwalia v. Ahluwalia, 2022 ONSC 1303. This case has the potential to create large ripple effects in the practice of family law for some time to come because a new tort was formed.

In this case, Justice Mandhane created a tort called “the tort of family violence”. This tort resulted in an award of $150,000.00 to the wife for compensatory, aggravated and punitive damages against the husband of an approximately 16-year marriage with two children.

The behaviours that were deemed by the Court to amount to the tortious conduct included the following: three incidents of physical violence and long-standing coercive and controlling behaviour, which caused mental and physical harm to the wife.

The Court took the opportunity to describe how the creation of this tort was a step in the right direction based on Canada’s international obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Further, it follows suit with changes to other laws such as the newer ability to terminate a tenancy on shorter notice when seeking to leave a violent relationship in the Residential Tenancies Act and the ability to bring forward some claims against a violent spouse that would have previously been barred for a time limitation under the Limitations Act.

The Court described how there is a practical gap between women being able to leave a violent situation versus staying, which is attributed to financial inability. In the decision, the Court went so far as to say that through the creation of this tort, the legal system can attempt to provide financial compensation in a way that could bridge that gap and allow women the opportunity to leave violent situations.