The Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act: A Small Step in the Right Direction
Warning: This article’s subject is Intimate Partner Violence (more commonly referred to as domestic violence)
A rarely discussed problem is the alarming rate of intimate partner violence within Canada. Intimate Partner violence is categorized as a person with whom someone has or has had a close personal relationship who through physical, sexual, emotional, financial or neglect has abused their partner. What might seem at first as very insignificant instances escalate to other harmful actions that lead to harm against the partner. Research focusing on intimate partner violence presents the danger that many Canadian women are in. Although intimate partner violence is at the hands of all genders, approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner, and, out of the 83 police-reported intimate partner homicides in 2014, 67 of the victims—over 80%—were women. There is a distinct problem within Canada where intimate partner violence victims are predominantly women. Many organizations in Canada sole purpose to address these issues. However, is the Canadian government doing something with regards to legal measures to prevent intimate partner violence in Canada?
Yes and No. Not a clear-cut answer; the government of Canada has been what can only really be categorized as flaky in trying to prevent intimate partner violence. While some funding does go into resources, these resources are either for a multitude of different issues or the funding is not enough. Organizations rely on individual contributions and are often overwhelmed with people trying to get assistance and access their resources. On any given night in Canada, 3,491 women and their 2,724 children sleep in shelters because it isn’t safe at home. Yet sadly, about 300 women and children are turned away because shelters are already full.
However recently, the province of Saskatchewan created provincial legislation called The Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act sometimes referenced as Clare’s Law. It was initiated on June 29th, 2020, making it the first province or territory in Canada to do so. The legislation allows people to request information from the police if they are at risk within their relationship. There are some guidelines in place, however, to protect the identity of all parties involved.
How it Works:
The process of how the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Act works in a Canadian legal setting is outlined by the Saskatoon Police as having two sections: The Right to Know and The Right to Ask.
The Right to Know is when the police decide to provide information to what they perceive to be potential victims of violence depending on the information they have on past cases. This is a very rarely utilized part of the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act.
The Right to Ask is when applicants that believe they are potentially at risk can ask to know if there is violence in their partner’s past.
Currently in Saskatchewan, if an applicant asks for information regarding their partner, their application is sent to a review board who gathers information on the partner. Due to the confidentiality of both the partner and potential victims, no information is given to the applicant on what information the police have on this person. They are only given a rating of high, medium or low risk. They receive this information in 30 days unless police departments determine the applicant is at immediate risk. Even if there is no data available on the person, the Regina police chief acknowledges that "[The person] still made the application for a reason, they still had a concern, and so it's important that that follow up conversation happened to help them understand what options they have to stay safe,"
It is important to highlight that the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Act is reactionary legislation to an ongoing problem in Canada. Yes, it does provide people with knowledge on their level of intimate partner violence risk. They can then take steps to prevent themselves from experiencing escalated violence on their own terms. However, it does not provide any support programs to those experiencing violence. Although the Regina Police Chief expresses that ‘meaningful support’ will be given to those who apply for help, it is not preventive legislation on the province of Saskatchewan’s part. There is no community outreach program involved, no educating the public through advertisements on the new resources they have, and no funds are being given to shelters and organizations that focus on survivors of intimate partner violence.
Due to a variety of very personal reasons, those experiencing intimate partner violence choose to remain silent. A majority of those who stay silent feel the lives of themselves or their children are at risk if they try to reach out for help or leave the situation. According to a 2018 report by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, 70% of intimate partner violence is not reported to the police. By remaining silent, they do not report those inflicting the violence and therefore no police records are on file for perpetrators of intimate partner violence. For the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act to successfully protect potential victims, there needs to be police records on file. This begs the question: what is the true purpose of the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act?
Although the impact may not be as widespread as what is needed, the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Act is a step in the right direction with regards to intimate partner violence in Canada. If one person chooses to utilize the new service available to them, finds that they are at risk, and chooses to remove themselves from the situation, that is one person that does not have to experience intimate partner violence. Most importantly, the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Act starts a much-needed conversation about the alarming rate of intimate partner violence occurring in Canada. By legally acknowledging that people are at risk of this type of violence, people who have never experienced or known someone to experience intimate partner violence are now becoming aware of the unspoken problem in Canada.
The emphasis of providing those at risk with support is brought to the forefront of the conversation with the passing of the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act. It presents the need for action to prevent intimate partner violence instead of reacting to it occurring through legislation, funding to organizations with the intent to educate the public, and sponsoring funding treatments for violent individuals. As well, an important next step would be to pass the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act throughout all provinces and territories in Canada. If the province of Saskatchewan can do it, the rest of Canada can as well.
If you or someone you know is experiencing or at risk of experiencing intimate partner violence, please reach out to the resources below for information on where to find support.
Want to do more? Sign this petition on beginning the process of instating the Violence Disclosure Protocol Act in Ontario.
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