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Saskatchewan RCMP, PATHS addressing barriers to raising awareness about Clare’s Law

Click to play video: 'Challenges police and organizations face with Clare’s Law'
Challenges police and organizations face with Clare’s Law
WATCH: Both municipal police and the RCMP are trying to overcome barriers to utilize Clare’s Law as one way to address the high intimate-partner violence rates in Saskatchewan – May 5, 2021

Intimate-partner violence continues to be a serious problem in Saskatchewan as the province has the highest rate of it in the country.

The Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act, also known as Clare’s Law, was implemented last June to allow police forces to disclose information to protect potential victims.

The law works as a “right to ask, right to know” system, with the goal of protecting anyone who believes an intimate partner may harm them.

From January to September 2019, there were 3,259 reports, according to data previously shared with Global News. From January to September 2020, there were 3,638 — a 12 per cent increase.

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“It allows people to come to the police to get risk-related information to make informed decisions about their relationships,” explained Const. Joelle Nieman, Saskatchewan RCMP’s violence relationship coordinator.

Clare’s Law started in the United Kingdom in 2014 after a woman named Clare Wood was murdered by a partner. While the police knew the partner had a violent record, that information was not disclosed to Wood.

Up until this past March, only municipal police forces could utilize this act and to date, they’ve used it eight times.

Now it’s been a little over a month since the RCMP has also been able to use it.

Applications to Clare’s Law are considered by a committee consisting of police services, victim services and the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS).

PATHS said prior to Mounties’ participation, people could only apply to Clare’s Law through their nearest municipal police force. As a result, the review committee had limited information on cases that fell under RCMP jurisdiction.

Now, the committee can access victim statements, witness reports and other documents that could identify risk factors such as substance abuse, mental health concerns and financial woes.

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Click to play video: 'Sask RCMP to disclose info to potential domestic violence victims under ‘Clare’s Law’'
Sask RCMP to disclose info to potential domestic violence victims under ‘Clare’s Law’

The Saskatchewan RCMP says applications under the legislation can be made by anyone who feels they’re at risk of harm from a current or former partner. Third-party individuals with a close personal relationship with someone at risk can also apply on their behalf.

“Currently we have not had any formal applications for Clare’s Law to any of our RCMP detachments. We have had some inquiries,” Nieman said.

One of the main challenges police forces face is limited awareness of the law. The RCMP says they’re working towards raising awareness amongst both its staff and the public and they’ll be using social media, along with online resources to help spread the message.

“Moving forward now is to go ahead and start social media campaigns to educate the public on Clare’s Law,” Nieman said.

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Crystal Giesbrecht, director of research for PATHS, says the pandemic is adding barriers when it comes to their ability to be able to provide help for potential victims, especially those living in isolated, rural areas.

According to PATHS, people who live in rural and remote areas experience higher rates of domestic violence and intimate-partner homicide.

“If home is not safe there are other safe places you can be and shelters continue to operate, domestic violence services still have outreach services available, so there is support and information available,” Giesbrecht explained.

She adds, aside from going into the police station, people can also call over the phone to make requests under Clare’s Law and visit pathssk.org/training for more information.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, visit PATHS’ website for a full list of support agencies in Saskatchewan.

–With files from Global News’ Anna McMillan

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