Saskatchewan to let police release domestic violence records to people at risk

By Canadian Press
November 5, 2018 - 4:58pm Updated: November 6, 2018 - 6:34am

REGINA — Police in Saskatchewan could soon be allowed to release information about someone's abusive past if they believe that person's partner may be at risk.  

Dubbed Clare's Law, the proposed legislation is said to be the first of its kind in Canada and is aimed at reducing the province's high domestic violence rates.

The legislation would allow a partner, friend or relative to request background information, but only the person potentially at risk would be allowed to see it.

An umbrella group of women's shelters and support services says it has questions about what kind of information a person would be given.

The Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan wonders, for instance, whether they would be told if an individual had charges dropped in the past.

"Not all the details have been worked out in terms of what sort of information will be accessed," association executive director Jo-Anne Dusel said Monday.

Dusel said a committee is being set up to decide which cases would warrant information be released. Domestic violence advocates along with representatives from Indigenous groups and police forces are to be on the committee.

She said she's not sure how many cases the committee would hear. Dusel said her association is continuing to consult the government and doesn't expect the legislation to come into force until the spring. 

Justice Minister Don Morgan said it would not be mandatory for police to give the information requested.

"What we've done is we've created a protocol which allows them to do it," he said.

The idea behind the law started in Britain after Clare Wood was murdered by her former boyfriend in 2009. Wood was unaware of her partner's violent past and, after her death, her father advocated for more disclosure from police.

Criminal records are currently confidential and can't be shared without consent.

A report released earlier this year says Saskatchewan has the highest rate of police-reported interpersonal and domestic violence in the country. An interim version last year said there were 48 domestic-related homicides and nine related suicides in the province between 2005 and 2014.

Opposition NDP critic Nicole Sarauer said there's still a lot to be defined in the legislation and more to be done for survivors of domestic violence.

"Although the marker has been moved today, by far this is not the end or the solution to the problem."

— Follow @RyanBMcKenna on Twitter

Ryan McKenna, The Canadian Press

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