N.S. justice minister resigns after controversial comments on domestic violence

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Brad Johns stepped down from his cabinet post Friday, a day after he outraged survivor advocacy groups by saying he doesn’t believe domestic violence is an epidemic.Premier Tim Houston said in a brief news release that he accepted Johns’s resignation as a minister in his cabinet on Friday evening.”Domestic violence is an issue our government takes very seriously,” said Houston.Houston’s chief of staff said there would be no further comment, but did say Minister of Environment and Climate Change Tim Halman will serve as acting minister of justice.Johns made the controversial comments Thursday on the four-year anniversary of the Nova Scotia mass shooting, a tragedy that resulted in the deaths of 22 people. The rampage began with the shooter assaulting his common-law wife.The final report of the Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission described domestic violence as an epidemic, a position Johns said he disputed.”An [epidemic], you’re seeing it everywhere all the time, I don’t think that’s the case,” Johns told reporters following a cabinet meeting in downtown Halifax. Apology issued hours laterJohns apologized for his comments hours later on Thursday afternoon, saying they “were wrong and have caused pain.” He subsequently contacted several women’s shelters across the province to personally apologize.In a post to its Instagram page Thursday, Adsum for Women and Children said it was “shocked and angered” by Johns’s initial comments. The organization, which operates shelters in the Halifax area, said there were 18 calls for its program that helps women experiencing domestic violence in the first two weeks of April.Anita Stewart, executive director of the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association, expressed disbelief over what Johns had said.”I honestly can’t believe that someone in his place and in his position as a justice minister would make those comments,” Stewart said in an interview with CBC NewsNova Scotia Liberal Leader Zach Churchill, who along with NDP Leader Claudia Chender had called for Johns’s resignation on Thursday, told CBC News on Friday that resigning was the appropriate thing to do.”We have to have a minister of justice that knows how terrible the situation is with domestic violence,” Churchill said. “We know in speaking with law enforcement agencies and the incredible community organizations that support women and survivors of domestic violence how much this actually goes on in our province.”‘Tone-deaf to the reality’Chender said she would have liked to see Johns step down earlier.”I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me in the last 48 hours full of concern, full of questions, triggered, frankly, in many ways by a government that seemed so tone-deaf to the reality for so many people and a reality that is not often visible,” she said.In his statement Friday, Houston reiterated his government’s commitment to support those impacted by domestic violence.”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,” he said. 

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