A law that could warn people about a partner’s violent past will come into force in Saskatchewan next Monday but the RCMP said they won’t be taking part due to federal privacy concerns.
Under the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act — a.k.a. Clare’s Law — Saskatchewan residents can ask police to release information on an intimate partner’s past violent or abusive behaviour, including criminal convictions and a history of police responding to domestic violence complaints.
The information can also be disclosed to people identified by police to be at risk.
The Saskatchewan RCMP says it supports the law, but is bound by federal legislation.
“Early on in the discussions and planning for the implementation of Clare’s Law, we identified to our partners that there may be some challenges with our participation because unlike municipal police services, the RCMP is subject to federal privacy legislation,” the RCMP said in a statement Monday, adding it is still looking into the matter.
The provincial government said all municipal police services will take part, and that it is asking federal ministers to ask RCMP to review this decision.
Those who live outside major centres in RCMP-policed communities will have to request information from the closest municipal force, which will then be responsible for obtaining the information from the RCMP, the government said.
That worries Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan.
“If you are in a community that does not have a municipal police force the information you may very well need that could save your life may not be available,” Morgan told CBC News.
In a June 19 letter to federal Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, Morgan said he was “extremely disappointed” when he learned, informally, of the RCMP’s decision.
WATCH | Clare’s Law won’t have RCMP support in Sask.
Morgan said he hopes the RCMP and federal government will work with the province to solve the issue.
Blair, who is responsible for oversight of the RCMP, said in a statement the RCMP is “currently considering how it can best support Clare’s Law within its obligations under the Privacy Act.”
Saskatchewan has the highest rate of domestic violence among all the provinces. Of intimate partner violence reported to police, Saskatchewan had 5,976 cases in 2015 — taking the top spot with 666 cases per 100,000 people. Prince Edward Island had the lowest rate, at 197 per 100,000, according to Statistics Canada.
More work for municipal forces
Advocate Jo-Anne Dusel, who helped the government develop Clare’s Law procedures says, with the RCMP opting out, the workload will shift to municipal forces who will now be taking applications from around the province.
“I am extremely disappointed that the RCMP has chosen not to participate in Clare’s Law. We believe [Clare’s Law will] help mostly women who may be just beginning a relationship with a partner who has a dangerous history of violence,” said Dusel, who is executive director of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan, which helps women get out of domestic violence situations.
First jurisdiction in Canada
A government spokesperson said Saskatchewan will be the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement Clare’s Law.
Individuals seeking information on their partner will not be given information on paper and will only be able to share information for their own safety, Dusel said.
“This also gives the ability to say there were never any charges but the police were called to a home three times and it was this individual and a previous partner and it was domestic conflict,” Dusel said.
According to a government release, any information that is released to applicants is subject to a “stringent review process” to ensure that the disclosure of information does not violate privacy legislation.
Clare’s Law is named for a similar law in the United Kingdom, itself named for Clare Wood, a young women who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in the Manchester area in 2009.
Her family found out after her death that he had spent six years in prison for holding a woman at knife-point for 12 hours.
Dusel said that while the RCMP had expressed privacy concerns while developing the protocol, there are procedures in place to protect privacy.
Read Don Morgan’s letter to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.