Two years of work have led up to the release of Saskatchewan’s Domestic Violence Death Review Panel’s final report.
Of the 48 domestic homicides that took place in Saskatchewan between 2005 and 2013, six formed the basis of the report.
Panelist Jo-Anne Dusel, who is executive director for the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services (PATHS), said working to fix this problem needs a societal approach that starts with education.
“We’re a good decade behind some of the provinces that have put a lot of thought effort and actual resources, financial resources into preventing intimate partner violence and intimate partner homicide from occurring,” Dusel said.
PATHS frequently holds training and education sessions on domestic violence in areas like workplaces.
“What we’re finding is a lot of people don’t understand the various dynamics that make up intimate partner violence,” Dusel said.
“Many people understand that having your partner physically assault you is domestic violence, but they don’t understand that domestic violence can also be a pattern of control.”
This pattern can include things like monitoring a partner’s whereabouts, controlling finances and isolating someone from their friends and family.
Education is one of the four cornerstones for the 19 recommendations put forward by the panel.
Attorney General Don Morgan accepted all recommendations and wants to see the analysis continue; just not through the panel. He said the province will continue to compile statistics and analyze them.
“We can try and change the psyche in the province and just have a better understanding, and try to get people to understand what’s taking place now can’t continue,” Morgan said.
Morgan added that having the panel continue could be burdensome for its members as they all have other jobs in the coroner’s office, social services, law enforcement and other agencies.
A new person will be hired in the province’s Status of Women office to oversee the implementation of the recommendations, according to Morgan.
Another person being hired to work in that office is encouraging to justice critic Nicole Sarauer. With the report out, she is calling on the government to act fast.
“We’ve known about this problem for a long time, yet we see flat-lining of funding to crisis shelters that have wait-lists that are absolutely unreal,” Sarauer said.
The report also recommends that the panel continues its work, something Sarauer echoed.
Saskatchewan has routinely topped domestic violence rate charts. Key themes found in studied cases include addiction, escalating issues, historic violence and financial issues. These are issues that exist in other provinces.
Dusel said this is why the work of the panel must continue in order to get to the bottom of what sets Saskatchewan apart from other jurisdictions. Going forward, Dusel pointed to success seen in the Ontario model and continuing the review process alongside implementing the recommendations.
“A lot of those actually had to do with public education. They have the Neighbours, Friends and Families program and the Make it Our Business program for workplaces,” Dusel said. “They do education in the schools on healthy relationships.”
While methodology may be different than Ontario, Morgan said Saskatchewan’s government is committed to address this issue.
“We asked for this report to be done, and to the credit of the people that worked on it, it took them two years to do it. We’ve spent the last few months looking at it saying, okay, this is a more complex issue than simply increasing some funding,” Morgan said.
“This goes across a variety of different agencies. What can we do to have a comprehensive plan as we go forward? And we wouldn’t have done that if we didn’t intend to act on it and didn’t want it to be taken seriously.”
Once the new position in the Status of Women office begins collecting and examining ongoing domestic violence data, Morgan said he has no problem making it public.