EDMONTON, AB: United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney announced that if elected, a UCP government would introduce a bill allowing police to warn partners of someone’s violent or abusive past.
Modelled on Great Britain’s ‘Clare’s Law,’ the new legislation is the centrepiece of a UCP commitment to better protect women from domestic violence. Also included in that commitment are measures to increase funding for law enforcement agencies focused on stalking, child exploitation and intimate partner violence, as well as initiatives intended to deal with the particular vulnerability of rural women.
Clare’s Law is named for Clare Wood, murdered by her boyfriend, who had concealed from her a six-year jail term he served for holding a woman captive at knifepoint for 12 hours.
UCP leader Jason Kenney commented, “Had she known about her partner’s violent past, her murder could have been prevented. It was utterly tragic. Our goal is to prevent similar tragedies here: Unfortunately, there are enough instances of domestic violence in Alberta– it’s more than 11,000 a year according to a recent study – that legislation like this could save lives here, too.”
Last year Saskatchewan, which has the highest rate of intimate partner violence among the Canadian provinces, became the first Canadian province to adopt a similar law. Alberta has the third highest rate of intimate partner violence. On average, a dozen Alberta women are killed every year in domestic disputes.
Added Kenney, “Our legislation would allow the person at risk and family members to apply for this information, although only the at-risk woman would receive it.”
Applications would be reviewed by a panel to determine whether the risk warranted disclosure.
As a further measure to protect women from domestic violence, Kenney also promised $2 million to expand the use of specialised electronic monitoring technology.
Kenney commented that women are rightfully concerned about lax sentencing and personal security issues, especially in rural areas.
“To better serve rural women, I am also pleased to announce that a UCP government would immediately review what improvements to medical and forensic evidence gathering might be necessary in rural communities.”
Finally, to help the criminal justice system function better, a UCP government will develop and implement a specific Repeat Offender Policy with both provincial and federal components, said Kenney.
Funds for these and other justice-related initiatives would come from redirected program spending, including government advertising budgets.
Kenney recently announced the UCP’s commitment to new laws against human trafficking, the overwhelming victims of which are women.
“I said then that I wanted Alberta to be in the forefront of that fight and I feel the same about domestic violence, stalking and the exploitation of children,” said Kenney. “The protection of the those at risk is the first job of government and on the eve of this year’s International Women’s Day, I am proud to commit the United Conservative Party to protecting those at risk.”
Protection for women
Among all Canadian provinces, Alberta has the third-highest level of reported domestic and intimate partner violence: According to Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, over the five years between 2008 and 2013, there were on average 11,000 reported cases annually. On average, a dozen Alberta women are killed every year in domestic disputes.
A United Conservative Party government will if elected, pass two measures to improve protection for women against domestic violence.
- Pass an Alberta version of ‘Clare’s Law’ that will ensure that in defined circumstances, people at risk of domestic violence may have fuller awareness of an intimate partner’s previous history of domestic violence, or violent acts.
- Invest $2 million in expanding the use of specialised electronic monitoring technology, to more fully prevent those serving sentences in the community from having contact with those they were convicted of victimising.
Clare’s Law is named for Clare Wood, a British woman murdered and set on fire by her boyfriend in 2009.
Neither she nor her family were ever aware that before she met him, he had accumulated an extensive record of abuse which included repeated harassment, threats and the kidnapping at knifepoint of one of his ex-girlfriends, who he held for twelve hours.
For that, he was given and served a six-year jail sentence.
Clare’s father later successfully lobbied the British government to pass legislation that, had it been in place earlier, would have allowed Clare to learn of her partner’s violent past.
Saskatchewan, which has the highest rate of domestic and intimate partner violence,adopted similar legislation last year. It allows police services to disclose information to an at-risk-person about their intimate partner.
An application may be made by the person-at-risk, or with the person’s consent, that person’s family, shelters, local police, lawyers, psychologists, social workers or nurses. Only the person-at-risk receives the information.
Alberta’s legislation would be modelled on that of Saskatchewan.
“Claire’s Law is a formal mechanism that can be used to reduce barriers that victims or potential victims of domestic violence face when making informed decisions about their safety. The Law ensures that services and systems communicate with each about a victim’s risk and an individual’s criminal past with abuse, which allows for appropriate supports and services to be put in place. This Law, if established in Alberta, would be an effective means to empower individuals, communities and organization to work together toward ending domestic violence.”
Andrea Silverstone: Executive Director of Sagesse
Electronic monitoring, usually performed with devices known as ankle bracelets, was introduced on a trial basis in the Red Deer area in 2009. Considered a success, it has allowed men convicted of lower levels of domestic violence to serve their sentences in the community, thereby continuing to work and support themselves. The devices, more properly known as ankle monitors, contain a cellphone and a GPS, and may be set to confine the movements of the wearer to a designated location, and to alert authorities if he strays out of bounds.
The system is marketed by an Alberta company, SafeTracks GPS.
The $2 million cost will be met funds reallocated from other programs.
relationships. Spouses are defined as current or former legally married, separated, divorced and
common-law partners, while dating relationships include current or former boyfriends and girlfriends as
well as “other” intimate relationships (sexual relationships or situations involving mutual sexual
attraction which were not considered to be dating relationships).”