Saskatchewan to Become First Province to Introduce Clare’s Law

Piles of files

On October 24th, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe gave his first Throne Speech as the fall session of Legislature commenced in the province.  Delivered by Lieutenant Governor W. Thomas Molloy, the Throne Speech outlined the government’s agenda and various priorities for the year.  While the Throne Speech summarised the government’s plan to address an array of issues, one commitment of note for the year is the province’s introduction of Clare’s Law – a domestic violence disclosure scheme.  In doing so, Saskatchewan is set to become the first province to introduce this new policy in Canada.

The adoption of Clare’s Law could aid in the prevention of domestic violence by warning people of an intimate partner’s violent history.  Clare’s Law will provide Saskatchewan police services with a framework to disclose relevant information about a person’s violent or abusive past to intimate partners that may be at risk, thus giving them some knowledge and an opportunity to leave the relationship.

Clare’s Law was originally introduced in the UK following the 2009 murder of Clare Wood in Manchester by her ex-boyfriend who, unbeknownst to Ms. Wood, had a record of domestic violence against women. He ultimately strangled her and set her on fire at her home in February of 2009 before taking his own life.  Since her death, her father campaigned for the introduction of Clare’s Law with the belief that his daughter would still be alive if she had been aware of her partner’s violent past.  With the implementation of Clare’s Law, if one suspects there may be a history of domestic violence, they can approach the police and their partner’s relevant criminal history can be disclosed if the police deem it necessary in the situation.

The implementation of Clare’s Law is particularly significant in the province as Saskatchewan has the highest rate of police-reported interpersonal and domestic violence of all provinces and across all relationships.  The commitment to introduce Clare’s Law has come after the first-ever Domestic Violence Death Review Report was released on May 24th, 2018.  A review panel analyzed domestic violence deaths in depth in the compilation of the report, which ultimately provided 19 recommendations for government consideration.  The panel found that, between 2005 and 2014 in Saskatchewan, among 48 cases of domestic homicide and 9 related suicides, 19 victims were adult women and 15 victims were children.  Each of these cases involved an escalation of domestic violence.  The panel agreed that domestic violence deaths are preventable and the 19 recommendations provided in the report will be used in guiding future actions in the province to combat the issue.  The introduction of Clare’s Law is one way the province is working towards addressing the problem.

In addition to Clare’s Law, the government has also announced some further short-term responses as starting points in addressing domestic violence, including:

  • An expansion of the Kids on the Block/Kids Matter programs in northern Saskatchewan that provide educational programming on family and domestic violence issues to children
  • Funding for additional crisis workers in northern Saskatchewan and the rural south to help meet the demand for sexual assault services
  • Expansion of the Children Exposed to Violence program, which provides children exposed to domestic violence with supports in order to reduce their future risk of becoming a victim or offender

Moreover, Justice Minister Don Morgan has also stated that, in 2018-2019, approximately $19.6 million will be provided to community-based organizations across Saskatchewan for violence support services and prevention programming.

While the Saskatchewan government has committed to introducing Clare’s Law with the hope that it will be one avenue to reduce domestic violence rates, the details regarding who can request disclosures from police and in what circumstances has yet to be delineated.  The government may also have to address the privacy issues involved in the disclosure of one’s personal information.  Saskatchewan’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski has addressed this by explaining that the new policy will involve a balancing act of people’s rights.  Fundamentally, the government is removing some of the privacy rights of a potential perpetrator in order to grant a potential victim knowledge of the risk of harm so that they may opt to get out or avoid situations of violence.

Lastly, it is important to note that the implementation of Clare’s Law is just one of the many avenues that may be taken to address the high rate of domestic abuse in the province.  There is much work to be done in this area for there to be the more deep-rooted societal shift that is required.  This will likely further involve addressing some of the factors identified by the review panel that are often correlated with domestic violence, including mental health and substance abuse issues, financial issues, lack of education on prevention and intervention, and the impact of colonization and the residential school system.  All in all, the Saskatchewan government’s steps here to promote safety and protect people against domestic violence, and even death, are important and noteworthy.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC Rights Watch student.  Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.