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The Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol (Clare’s Law) Act came into force in Saskatchewan on June 29, 2020. Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to enact legislation allowing police to disclose information to individuals who may be at risk of violence. Since June 29, 2020, requests under Clare’s Law could be made at municipal police stations—as of April 1, 2021, RCMP in Saskatchewan are also participating in Clare’s Law.
Clare’s Law is meant to be proactive, as opposed to reactive. It provides potential victims with important information, allowing them the opportunity to make an informed choice, before violence happens. This legislation is not designed for individuals that are already in established relationships where abuse is occurring, as they already know they are at risk. Rather, it serves to interrupt the impact of repeat perpetrators of intimate partner violence by informing subsequent and/or potential partners of the risk posed by the individual they are becoming involved with. Domestic homicide reviews consistently show that a history of domestic violence and other related criminal activity are major risk factors for re-occurring violence. Therefore, Clare’s Law is an evidence-based approach used to reduce incidents of intimate partner violence and decrease the risk of intimate partner homicide.
Saskatchewan’s legislation is named after The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), also known as Clare’s Law, which was enacted in England and Wales in 2014. The DVDS, as well as Saskatchewan’s legislation, are named after Clare Wood who was murdered in 2009 by a former partner who had a history of violence. Police were aware that Clare’s former partner had a record of violence, but that information was never disclosed to Clare, despite her seeking help from police for stalking and harassment from the man who would later brutally murder her. Following her death, Clare’s father advocated for the creation of the DVDS in the United Kingdom, firmly believing that if Clare had known about her partner’s history of violence towards women, she would have made different choices and would still be alive today. Read more about Clare Wood’s story here.
Saskatchewan’s Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol (Clare’s Law) Act is accompanied by the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure (Clare’s Law) Regulations and the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol that legally authorizes the disclosure of information by a police service to current or potential intimate partners for the purpose of informing and protecting individuals who are at risk. There are two routes to access Clare’s Law: 1) “Right to Ask,” triggered by a member of the public applying to a police service for a disclosure and 2) “Right to Know,” is triggered by the police service making a proactive decision to disclose information to protect a potential victim. Individuals who feel they may be at risk are eligible to make an application requesting disclosure information (“right to ask”).
The Clare’s Law protocol is a four-part process. The first step in the process is for the individual who feels they may be at risk to fill out a Clare’s Law application at a police station (RCMP or municipal police). In the context of COVID-19, it is also possible to make this initial application over the telephone. A police officer or civilian member will request some information to ensure that the request fits with the intent of Clare’s Law. For example, requests that are seeking information about a former partner or in an attempt to gain information for reasons other than safety may be denied. An initial check will be conducted to ensure that the individual filling out the application is not in immediate danger. If it is determined that the individual is in immediate danger, safeguarding actions will be taken by the police. If the initial discussion with the applicant reveals that a chargeable offence has recently taken place the police must pursue it, but this does not mean that the request for disclosure of past police involvement or convictions cannot move forward.
With the approval of their employer, designated professionals (including shelters and other intimate partner violence services, social workers, psychologists, and others) may assist with or make an application on behalf of an applicant, with the applicant’s consent. Parents or guardians may also fill out an application on behalf of an individual under the age of 18 or someone who does not have capacity to fill out an application on their own. It is important to note that protocol also allows for individuals with a close personal knowledge of someone with a history of using violence in relationships to apply under Clare’s Law. In other words, former partners of abusers can initiate the process so that a new partner may receive disclosure information, warning them that they may be at risk.
After the initiation of the process (the first of the four steps), either by an individual applicant or by a police service, an assessment of risk will be conducted, which occurs through police record checks and gathering information from the applicant. The third process involves the Multi-Sector Review Committee (MSRC) reviewing the available information and making a recommendation.
The MSRC is made up of representatives from community (PATHS), Victims Services, and law enforcement that have expertise relating to intimate partner violence. The MSRC reviews relevant anonymized information relating to the individual in question and provides a recommendation to the police service regarding the disclosure of information.
The fourth process involves disclosure to the individual that is at risk. Individuals who receive a disclosure under Clare’s Law must sign a confidentiality agreement in which they agree that they commit to only using the information provided within their circle of care to keep themselves and others, including children, safe; to ask what support is available and who to contact if they believe they or others are at risk; and to ask for advice on how to keep themselves and others safe. The disclosure is verbal, nothing concerning the disclosure is given in print.
A domestic violence advocate or victim services worker will be present when police provide disclosure information to the person at risk, whenever possible. These professionals can conduct risk assessment and assist with safety planning. Click here to find a domestic violence shelter or service in your area.
To find out how to apply for Clare’s Law in Saskatoon, click here. For other communities, please call the municipal police service or RCMP detachment nearest to you.
Find the Act, protocol, and additional questions and answers about Clare’s Law on the Government of Saskatchewan’s website here.
This article provides more background on the refusal of Michael Jackson to return his 7-year-old daughter, including the documented history of domestic violence. https://leaderpost.com/news/local-news/allegations-of-abuse-custody-battles-led-up-to-man-fleeing-with-daughter