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Brad Johns (Source: Nova Scotia Legislature)

Justice minister resigns over downplaying domestic violence after Portapique

By Steve MacArthur Apr 19, 2024 | 7:52 PM

Justice Minister Brad Johns has handed in his resignation after controversial comments around domestic violence on the anniversary of the murders in Portapique.

During a media conference on Thursday, when responding to a question from a reporter, Johns stated domestic violence is not an epidemic in the province.

He told reporters there were bigger problems such as drugs and guns. Those comments prompted calls for his resignation from women’s groups across the province and both the Liberals and NDP.

Four years ago, Gabriel Wortman began a murderous rampage which began after assaulting his common law partner, it ended with the death of 22 people and became the largest mass shooting in our country’s history.

An inquiry into the devastating events that unfolded over 13 hours in 2020 called for intimate partner violence to be declared an epidemic among 130 recommendations.

“I accepted the resignation of Brad Johns as a minister in my cabinet,” said Premier Tim Houston. “Domestic violence is an issue our government takes very seriously.”

“We will continue to work with partner organizations to do everything we can to support the important work being done in response to the Mass Casualty Commission’s final report and in response to the ongoing epidemic of domestic violence across Nova Scotia and Canada.”

Johns later apologized for his remarks but many women’s advocacy groups had already expressed hurtful feelings about the situation.

“Only the first step” NDP Leader 

Claudia Chender feels his resignation was the only acceptable response.

“Nova Scotians were angry and hurt by the Minister’s callous statement regarding his disagreement with the Mass Casualty Commission’s finding of an epidemic of gender-based violence,” Chender offered in a statement on Friday night. “The next steps for the Houston government are to fully support the organizations doing the work on the ground every day and to advance the work needed for the societal change called for by the Mass Casualty Commission.”

Women’s Shelter responds “words matter”

The leader of a women’s shelter in Halifax summed it up by saying “words matter”.

Sheri Lecker is the executive director of Adsum for Women and Children and for all levels of government to declare domestic violence as an epidemic.

“Gender-based violence and intimate partner violence warrant a meaningful and sustained societal response,” she said. “We need leaders who understand that.”