Beginning tomorrow, those in a relationship who fear they may have a violent partner can get relevant information from police that could prevent a situation from happening.
The Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence, otherwise known as Clare’s Law, comes into effect Thursday. It will allow people who feel they are at risk of domestic violence to be able to apply for disclosure to find out if their intimate partner has a history of domestic violence or related acts.
Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre executive director Susan White says this is another tool that can be used to help arm those who suspect violent behaviours in their partner.
“One of the things I’ve seen is half of all young women and girls who are victims of domestic violence homicide, so that’s resulted in homicide in canada, they were murdered by someone with prior convictions,” said White.
“So even though this isn’t perfect, it’s another tool, one more thing [to use].”
The bill is named after Clare Wood, a woman from the United Kingdom who was killed by her partner who had a history of abuse in 2009.
Alberta follows Saskatchewan in being the only provinces that have put Clare’s Law into statute.
These disclosures can only be made so a person at risk can make an informed choice about their safety, although under the Right to Ask protocol, someone can apply on behalf of someone else if they have their consent – or without consent, if they are a legal guardian.
Any information released cannot be shared and must be kept confidential, the government says, and the individual whose information is being disclosed will not be informed an application was made about them.
“What this does is it allows the police to be proactive. So if they’re in a situation, they can disclose, if they choose to, that history without an application being made. That part I really like,” said White.
“Also you can, if you have a daughter say, and you’re concerned, you can make the application if you’re concerned about her partner, or someone that she’s getting involved in. It is good. Only relevant details, so it’s not like you get to see their whole criminal record, you would only get relevant. The tricky part there is that the police officer or who you’re applying to, is the one who decides what’s relevant,” she said.
While it’s a step in the right direction, White said there are drawbacks.
Few domestic violence cases are reported to police and so much is situational. Plus, White said Indigenous women are three times more likely to suffer domestic abuse and may not reach out for these supports.
“When a woman makes an application online, the police will also do a background check on her, so this could be generally someone in an abusive relationship that has been– it’s called the course of control–so the abuser, male or female, is going to be saying, well they’ll take your kids away or you’ll get in trouble. So that could be potentially a deterrent for the woman to check.”
The federal government in a press release Wednesday said they have changed some privacy laws to allow the police to give these disclosures.
“Victims and survivors of intimate partner violence now have another ally across Canada,” Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair in a statement.
Domestic violence situations are rising over the past year.
In 2020, Cold Lake Victim Services noticed a 9 per cent increase in domestic and family violence situations they responded to.
“I think it’s an important tool right now because we’ve seen increases in the amount of domestic violence, but also in the severity because of lockdown. Women aren’t able to phone because they can’t get away to call, like they’re not out in the community right now, so they’re not making those connections.”
The Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre is there to support when needed and can make referrals. The Crisis Help-Line is 780-594-3353.