As pundits continue to dissect Justin Trudeau's shoving behaviour in the House of Commons 20 ways to Sunday, family law lawyers are asking themselves this question: during separation, would that act be considered unwanted touching, manhandling or assault?
On Wednesday, May 18, agitated by a vote that was less than a minute late in starting and irritated with the stalling opposition, the PM unexpectedly marched down the House of Commons aisles and "manhandled" Official Opposition Whip Gordon Brown by grabbing his arm and shoving him into his seat. On his way down to Brown, the PM pushed past some NDP MPs and elbowed MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest. Immediately after, he made his way back down the aisles, confronting other members of the opposition party and reportedly telling them to "get the **** out of the way."
Although he said his actions were "accidental" and he has since apologized, the PM's behaviour has provoked concern and anger from MPs and Canadians all over the country.
What are the potential legal consequences of the PM's shoving and manhandling? Well, threatening, hitting, kicking, punching, harassing and shoving another person are all offences punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada.
No one, not even the prime minister of Canada, should be above the law.
Within the family law context, if you accidentally and in the heat of the moment (much like the PM) shove your spouse, it could be considered domestic violence. Domestic violence is not tolerated in Ontario, and a person committing such an act can be arrested, charged, convicted and jailed.
Immediately after a 911 call and the reporting of domestic violence, a variety of extremely inflexible legal processes begin. Under Canadian law, the police are compelled to act. Once police arrive at the scene, the accused person will be handcuffed and taken to jail. Usually, the accused will be placed in a holding cell and appear in court the next day to be charged and hopefully released with a return date.
Once the accused is removed from the family home, the other spouse usually gets de facto custody of the children and de facto exclusive possession of the matrimonial home. Consequently, the accused can no longer return to the family home (except to retrieve their belongings with a police escort). They may also potentially lose their entitlement to custody of their children. Domestic violence can also trigger the immediate requirement to commence paying child support, and potentially spousal support as well.
As if that weren't enough, domestic violence can also seriously and negatively impact one's reputation, often leading to the loss of a job, which affects the ability to pay support. It becomes a vicious circle.
So, whether it's an accident or not, unwantedly touching your spouse or your ex-to-be could have some serious legal consequences.
If shoving and manhandling are so egregious, why has Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not been charged for his actions? No one, not even the prime minister of Canada, should be above the law.
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