Emerging Issues, In the News

Part 7: Inquest Recommendations — Victim Safety

September 26, 2022

Over the past two months, we’ve been exploring the 86 jury recommendations from the coroner’s inquest into the murders of three Canadian women – Nathalie Warmerdam, Anastasia Kuzyk and Carol Culleton.

Our prior blogs in this series examined:

  • Accountability
  • Agency and government collaboration
  • Funding priorities
  • Public and professional education
  • Perpetrator interventions
  • IPV interventions

Today, we’re highlighting the jury’s recommended measures around IPV victim safety.

The jury recommended studying best approaches for tracking and sharing information about perpetrators, including electronic monitoring to enable the tracking of those charged or found guilty of an IPV-related offence. They also addressed concerns about firearms, recommending that the Chief Firearms Officer be advised of expected and changed residential addresses of individuals who have been placed under weapons conditions. Crowns should know if residential sureties have firearms in their home.

Recommendations to improve police responses included having the OPP conduct a study on improving tactical response times in rural environments, ensuring the OPP provide information about history, safety concerns and known risk factors to Victim Services when making a referral and setting up satellite offices for police officers to spread police resources more evenly over wide rural areas.

Crown attorneys were encouraged to consult with the Regional Designated High-Risk Offender Crown for any case involving a high-risk offender; to actively oppose requests to have firearms returned for any purpose, such as hunting and to strengthen annual education regarding applications for Dangerous and Long-term Offender designations in high-risk cases.

The need to improve supervision of high-risk perpetrators released on probation was a significant focus of recommendations, beginning with a collaborative process to develop a framework for identifying the appropriate conditions based on level of risk. An up-to-date risk assessment should always be in the file and release conditions properly documented. Probation officers need standardized intake protocols and policies regarding victim safety. Risk assessments and risks of lethality should be taken into account when making enforcement decisions or when perpetrators seek to modify conditions that impact the survivor’s needs and safety. Policy and guidelines should require probation officers to follow through on enforcement of non-compliance by giving clear instructions about expectations to supervised offenders in a way that allows for direct and progressive enforcement decisions. Rehabilitation and risk management services should be improved through collaboration and two-way information sharing between corrections and probation staff.

A number of recommendations were directed at supporting survivors, including enhancing court supports, expanding cell service and high-speed internet in rural and remote areas of Ontario to improve safety and access to services and starting a grassroots “Safe Spaces” program for businesses to provide a safe space where survivors can ask for information. Probation officers should maintain regular contact with survivors to receive updates, provide information about the offender’s living situation, any limitations on his activities, and what to do in the event of a possible breach by the offender. They should also seek input from survivors before making decisions that may impact their safety.

The jury recommend two research studies: 1) a comprehensive, independent, and evidence-based review of the mandatory charging framework employed in Ontario, with a view to assessing its effect on IPV rates and recidivism, with particular attention to any unintended negative consequences, and 2) a longitudinal study of judges’ decisions in IPV cases, tracking recidivism, violence escalation, and future victims.

Our next blog — the last in this inquest series — will highlight the jury's specific requests to leadership bodies in Ontario and Canada, including the Chief Firearms Officer and the Government of Canada.

Keep an eye on the NFF blog or follow us on Facebook and Twitter to hear first when we post updates on this series.