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Saskatchewan will offer paid leave to victims of domestic violence

WATCH: A new support system will soon be available for those dealing with family violence, one that was initially dropped by the province.

Saskatchewan will be offering paid leave to victims of domestic and sexual violence who require time off from work.

The government has introduced and passed legislation that it expects to take effect later this month.

READ MORE: Plan announced to take action on sexual violence in Saskatchewan

The change means employees, who were previously entitled to take 10 unpaid days of leave, can take five paid days and five unpaid days off.

The government said employees can use the leave to move, obtain support services, get medical help and attend court appearances.

Justice Minister Don Morgan said he hopes the change means victims can get the help they need without worrying about money.

The Opposition NDP has been pushing for the government to introduce paid leave for domestic violence victims, and Regina Douglas Park MLA Nicole Sarauer raised paid days off previously as a private member’s bill.

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Sarauer was absent for the bill’s passing Monday due to a family situation, but Saskatchewan NDP deputy leader Carla Beck credited Sarauer for leading the charge on paid days off.

“We know that from folks we’ve heard from who’ve left situations that this will make a difference to the lives of survivors and we’re very grateful for that,” Beck said.

READ MORE: Opposition calls for Sask. sexual assault strategy, government open to idea​

Previously, having five paid days off was blocked by the government in favour of unpaid days. At the time, Morgan said some employer groups were uncomfortable with paid days off. Both Beck and Morgan linked the change to continued lobbying and help from groups like the Regina YWCA and Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.

Morgan added some are still opposed.

“The one opposition was that we should try to educate and minimize the problem and certainly I agree that we should do that, but I don’t think that helps a victim or person that’s going through that kind of a crisis,” Morgan said.

Status for Women Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor said this policy is intended more for women in low-income jobs, as those making higher incomes have more resources to leave a situation. She aso thanked Sarauer for her advocacy.

Domestic violence death review response

Saskatchewan struggles with high rates of domestic violence.

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The Saskatchewan Coroners Service said that over the last 14 years, 71 people have died in domestic homicides – more than half of them women.

The province on Monday also released a formal response to recommendations made one year ago by a panel that studied domestic homicides in Saskatchewan.

The government said at the time that it accepted the panel’s 19 suggestions, which ranged from providing better education for students about healthy relationships to establishing a provincial call line to provide information and support to victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.

The province listed Monday existing measures that address the recommendations, including its 811 health line with online information about resources and information about healthy relationships.

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“Every domestic violence death case should be reviewed using this process,” the panel recommended in its 2018 report.

“The review should be mandated through legislation or amendments to existing legislation or … it should be established as a study commission under the Public Inquiries Act.”

Morgan said panelists said there are differences between Saskatoon and Regina systems in responding to domestic violence, such as social workers or judges being better in one city than the other. He said the government wants to work on implementing the original recommendations before committing to a future direction.

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The review looked at factors in six domestic homicide cases. Morgan said further cases may face the same examination, but that may be decided on a case-by-case basis.

With files from David Baxter

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