According to New Brunswick’s Department of Justice and Public Safety, the province has the highest rate of police-reported intimate partner violence victims in the Atlantic provinces.
On Wednesday, the Gallant government took another step forward to protect victims and implement the government’s intimate partner violence framework.
Justice and Public Safety Minister Denis Landry announced a $900,000 investment for intervention measures regarding intimate partner violence.
“The Intimate Partner Violence Act, once proclaimed, will provide victims of intimate partner violence with additional tools to increase their safety while they seek more permanent solutions,” Landry said.
Landry said the investment coincides with the creation of new legislation being tabled by premier Brian Gallant on Thursday.
The minister said the new legislation will support the implementation of a new framework that will “increase the safety of victims of intimate partner violence by creating Emergency Adjudicative Officer positions across the province”.
Officers will hear applications for emergency intervention orders and will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to hear applications.
The Intimate Partner Violence Intervention Act was tabled last year. Landry said it allows victims to obtain “civil remedies”, including temporary custody of children, exclusive occupation of residency and no-contact provisions.
The officers will be housed in Miramichi, Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Edmundston and Bathurst.
Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence director Dr. Cathy Holttman said the new legislation will offer new, swift emergency measures to families and children that haven’t been available in the province in the past.
“It’s important to highlight the fact that New Brunswick has high levels of intimate partner violence and domestic violence in comparison with other jurisdictions across the country,” Holtman said. “Not all survivors of intimate partner violence are willing to go through the criminal justice system, particularly those who are very vulnerable in our society.”
University of New Brunswick Professor Emerita Dr. Linda Neilson is a socio-law academic and was in attendance Wednesday. Neilson has published works on domestic violence, court systems, conflict resolution and family law.
She said while she “applauds the initiative” there are some concerns around education and implementation and the effects on the criminal system.
“The concern is, will the civil protection option result in police officers sending the cases to civil protection rather than gathering the detailed evidence required for criminal prosecution,” Neilson said.
Neilson said she believes those are things that can be addressed through education, research monitoring and good connections between police and the people granting the orders.
Landry said he expects the service will be ready and running by the end of December.