The 55-year-old woman killed in a Quebec City apartment earlier this week had previously accused the man charged in her death of assault, forcible confinement and uttering death threats, court documents reveal.
Quebec City police, responding to a call about a domestic dispute, found Nathalie Piché unconscious and showing signs of violence in an apartment in the Limoilou neighborhood early Tuesday morning. She was pronounced dead shortly after.
Just hours later, her partner, 33-year-old Mimouni Noureddine turned himself in and was charged with second-degree murder.
According to court documents, Noureddine was arrested on Dec. 30 last year, following accusations of death threats, forcible confinement and assault toward Piché.
He was acquitted of all charges on Feb. 18 earlier this year, but was ordered to sign a year-long peace bond, agreeing not to contact Piché.
A peace bond, also referred to as an "810," is sometimes used in situations of domestic violence when there isn't enough evidence to proceed to court, often because the victim won't testify against the suspect.
Under those circumstances, the alleged perpetrator won't plead guilty to a charge but still has to admit, in court, that the victim has reasonable grounds to be fearful. The perpetrator also needs to agree to certain conditions, determined by the prosecutor.
Peace bonds do not go far enough, advocate says
Louise Riendeau, spokesperson for the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale, a coalition of women's shelters, says Piché's death is yet another example of why peace bonds don't always work.
"For us, it brings up a lot of questions," said Riendeau. "There were serious accusations here … and all that was dropped in favour of a peace bond."
Riendeau says prosecutors should think twice before agreeing to a peace bond in cases of intimate partner violence.
"Maybe, in some cases, we should be asking the police to do a further investigation," said Riendeau. "Or take the time to explain to the victims the limits of measures like the 810, and see if we can encourage them to collaborate with the justice system."
Peace bonds are handed out with the assumption that the suspect will follow the orders, Riendeau said. There is no follow-up or mechanism in place to make sure that that actually happens.
And if a victim does report a breach of the peace bond, Riendeau says the complaints are rarely taken seriously and seldom bring about consequences for the offender.
Andrea Gunraj, spokesperson for the Canadian Women's Foundation, says that while peace bonds and restraining orders can be a useful tool in some cases, solutions to intimate partner violence need to go beyond the justice system.
"We have a cultural issue, we have a societal issue to address so the legal system can only do so much," said Gunraj. "We need to look at debunking this violence and the misogyny and sexism behind it in a much broader way."
Gunraj says community groups and grassroots organizations across the country need better funding so that they can provide people with educational tools, to help them better understand how to recognize signs of intimate partner violence.
Adding programs about gender-based violence to school curricula is also an important step, she said.
Peace bonds only available option sometimes
Former prosecutor Dominic Bouchard said lawyers often have no choice but to rely on peace bonds in cases of intimate partner violence.
He said the victims often decide not to testify for a number of reasons, leaving prosecutors with insufficient evidence.
"With couples, they could reconcile, there could be secret conversations," said Bouchard.
In other cases, he said, the victim is threatened into not testifying, or is concerned about reliving the trauma of their abuse in court.
"But sometimes, [the peace bond] isn't worth the paper it's written on," Bouchard added. "If he has an idea in his head, it's not the 810 that's going to stop him from doing it."