Following an 11-day trial on various issues, in Ahluwalia v. Ahluwalia, 2022 ONSC 1303 (CanLII), Mandhane J awarded $150,000 in compensatory, aggravated, and punitive damages for the tort of family violence. Her Honour recognized at the outset that “…making such a significant damage award is well-outside the normal boundaries of family law. In the typical marriage, characterized by economic interdependence and mutual support, the family law statutory framework will be a complete code that allows for the fair, predictable, and efficient resolution of the parties’ financial issues post-separation.” (at para 4)
This family, she found was not typical, but “characterized by the father’s abuse, and a sixteen-year pattern of coercion and control” and “on the rare and unusual facts before me, the Mother is entitled to a remedy in tort that properly accounts for the extreme breach of trust occasioned by the Father’s violence, and that brings some degree of personal accountability to his conduct.” (at para. 5)
The parties were married in India in 1999. They immigrated to Canada in 2001 and had two children. Their roles from the beginning of the marriage were traditional, with the mother focused on caregiving and the father earning income outside the home. They were both highly educated and immigrated on the points system but found work in factories, and the husband ultimately developed a trucking company that became lucrative. After living in Edmonton for a few years, they returned to Brampton and bought the matrimonial home. They separated in 2016.
The litigation was commenced in 2016 by the father. The mother alleged physical and emotional abuse as a well as a pattern of financial control. She alleged three specific instances of physical abuse in 2000, 2008 and 2013. The father denied these allegations. In May 2021 the mother was granted leave to amend her Answer, which she did, adding a new claim for “general, exemplary and punitive damages for the physical and mental abuse suffered by the Respondent at the hands of the Applicant.” (at para. 27)