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N.S. justice minister apologizes for domestic violence comments

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Brad Johns, the Nova Scotia minister of justice, has apologized for saying he does not think domestic violence is an epidemic in the province, a statement that has prompted calls from other politicians for his resignation.

Minister Johns made the comments when asked at the cabinet about the inquiry report on the 2020 mass shooting — which occurred four years ago Thursday — and its recommendation domestic violence be treated as an epidemic.

“No, I don’t because I think epidemic…you’re seeing it everywhere all the time,” Johns said. “I don’t think that’s the case. Personally I think this was an issue and is an issue.”

Johns said he thought there were bigger problems contributing to societal woes, such as drugs and guns.

Claudia Chender, leader of N.S. NDP, said the Mass Casualty Commission specifically chose the word “epidemic” to describe the domestic violence issue in the province.

“For the minister of justice, who is in charge in many ways for implementing these recommendations, to deny the notion that an epidemic exists says that he’s not fit to lead that office any longer.” Chender said.

In a statement later on Thursday, Johns said his comments “were wrong and have caused pain.”

“Domestic violence is a serious issue in Nova Scotia,” the statement reads. “I want survivors of domestic violence to know that they will be supported when they come forward and have confidence that when they do, they will be believed and treated respectfully.

“The pervasiveness of domestic violence and the harm it causes in our communities is not something that should ever be minimized and I am truly sorry that my words did so. This government, my department and I agree that domestic violence is an epidemic. “

Johns further noted in the statement domestic violence is a “pressing issue” and one that continues to be a top priority.

Premier Tim Houston also commented on the incident.

“As the Mass Causality Commission included in their report, domestic violence is an epidemic in Nova Scotia and in Canada," Houston said. "The commission was also clear that it played a role in the tragedy that occurred in 2020 and we will do everything we can to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again. This very much means addressing domestic violence in communities."

In a written statement, Adsum for Women and Children said it was “shocked and angered” by Johns’ remarks, noting it sees domestic violence on a daily basis.

“In the first two weeks of April, just one of our programs received calls from 18 women experiencing domestic violence,” the statement reads. “And like an iceberg, we only see the very tip of this epidemic.

“We call for an immediate retraction of Minister Johns’ comments and a recommitment by the Premier to his promises he made on the day the Mass Casualty Commission released its final report.” 

In a social media post, Liberal leader Zach Churchill criticized Johns’ earlier comments.

“If he doesn’t believe domestic violence and gender-based violence are serious issues, he should resign or be removed from his post,” the statement reads.

-With files from the Canadian Press

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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