Saskatchewan explores new law that could warn victims of partners’ violent past

Original article: Katelyn Wilson, Global News | Dec. 12, 2017

A new law is being explored by the province that, if enacted, could go a long way in protecting those affected by domestic violence.

Since 2014, the Regina Police Service has responded to an increasing number of police-reported cases of domestic violence.

“In 2014, we were responding to about 14 calls of domestic conflict a day and in the last few years. 2015 into the first half of 2017, we’ve seen an increase to about 17 calls a day,” Elizabeth Popowich, spokesperson for the Regina Police Service, said.

But it’s not just Regina. According to Statistics Canada, in 2015, Saskatchewan had the highest rate of police-reported intimate partner violence among the provinces.

Now the province is exploring a new law that would allow police to disclose information about a partner’s history when it comes to domestic violence.

“They (police) would be authorized to release that information to the victim so the victim could say ‘Oh jeez, I don’t want to be with that person anymore, or I need to take some other steps for protection,” Justice Minister, Don Morgan said.

It’s an approach already in effect in the United Kingdom, known as Clare’s Law. But some organizations like the YWCA say it’s a complicated issue.

“We often see women who return to their perpetrators because it’s a complex issue and not just because they didn’t know their partner was violent,” Melissa Coomber-Bendtsen, CEO of the YWCA in Regina, said.

She adds that while the law could be used as a tool, it shouldn’t just be seen as a way of eliminating domestic violence.

“It also assumes that people are going to go to the police to report and to have that conversation, which we know does not happen,” Coomber-Bendtsen said.

Currently, the Ministry of Justice has reached out to police and community partners to start discussions and obtain input.

While the government still has to work out who could request disclosures and in what circumstances, if enacted Saskatchewan, would be the first province in Canada to adopt this law.

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