Making the Links in Family Violence Cases: Collaboration among the Family, Child Protection and Criminal Justice Systems

Annex 4: Family violence responses by jurisdiction - Northwest Territories

Legislative Responses

Family/Domestic Violence Legislation

The Protection Against Family Violence Act, SNWT 2003, c 24, came into force in 2005. The Act increases the ability of the court to deal with family violence by:

  • creating an emergency protection order and a protection order regime;
  • providing for exclusive occupation of residence and property;
  • providing for an order to surrender weapons to a police officer; and
  • providing for an offence provision if there is a breach of a protection order.

Protection orders will limit contact and communication between family members where there is a safety risk.

Family Law Provisions Related to Family Violence

The Family Law Act, SNWT 1997, c 18, came into force 1998. The Act provides for the timely, orderly and equitable settlement of the affairs of the spouses on the breakdown of the spousal relationship, and provides for other mutual obligations of spouses, including the equitable sharing by parents of responsibility for their children. The Act provides for restraining orders and for enforcement of the orders.

The Children’s Law Act, SNWT 1997, c 14, came into force 1998. The merits of an application under the Act in respect of custody of or access to a child is determined in accordance with the best interests of the child, with a recognition that differing cultural values and practices must be respected in that determination. The Act provides for restraining orders and for enforcement of the orders.

Child Protection Provisions Related to Family Violence

The Child and Family Services Act, SNWT 1997, c 13, came into force 1998. The Act provides for the protection of children from abuse, harm and neglect. The Act recognizes that decisions involving children should be made in accordance with the best interests of children, with a recognition that differing cultural values and practices must be respected in those determinations. The Act defines “abuse” as meaning neglect or emotional, psychological, physical or sexual abuse.

Police

Policies

  • RCMP National Policy – Violence in Relationships Policy (see the annex on Canada).
  • RCMP “G” Division Violence in Relationships Policy.
  • RCMP use the ODARA (Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment) on all male offenders who commit assaults on their partners.
  • RCMP “G” Division is committed to training all police officers on the use of ODARA.
  • RCMP keep statistics on family violence and track the statistics on the ODARA score as it relates to custodial status and do quarterly reports to the Yellowknife Interagency Protocol Committee.
  • Complainants are to be informed upon release of offender.

Protocols

The Yellowknife Interagency Family Violence and Abuse Protocol is an agreement among agencies to improve responses to adult victims of family violence. The Protocol describes how agencies will respond to adult victims of family violence and interact with each other. By following the Protocol, the agencies expect to offer a seamless and coherent response to adult victims of family violence. The Yellowknife Interagency Family Violence and Abuse Protocol was a pilot project that was called for in the Government of the Northwest Territories’ response to the Northwest Territories’ Action Plan on Family Violence (2003-2008). In 2006, the Government of the Northwest Territories renewed the action plan (see below).

Agencies involved with the Protocol have included:

  • Yellowknife RCMP;
  • Yellowknife Victim Services;
  • Public Prosecution Service of Canada, Northwest Territories Regional Office;
  • Stanton Territorial Health Authority;
  • YWCA Alison McAteer House;
  • Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority;
  • GNWT Seniors Society;
  • Yellowknife Housing Authority;
  • NWT Seniors Society;
  • Centre for Northern Families; and
  • Government of the Northwest Territories (Justice, Health and Social Services, Education, Culture and Employment).

The RCMP are designates under the Protection Against Family Violence Act. They, along with the Government of the Northwest Territories’ Department of Justice, representatives from Alison McAteer House and the Justice of the Peace Office meet regularly to discuss issues of common concern.

The RCMP is also a member of the following relevant committees and protocols:

  • The Coalition Against Family Violence Committee (see below);
  • The Domestic Violence Treatment Option (DVTO) Court committee. The RCMP, along with members of the Crown’s office, Government of the Northwest Territories’ Department of Justice, legal aid, the court registry staff, probation services, and the judiciary meet periodically to discuss DVTO Court; and
  • The Child Abuse Protocol (see below).

RCMP “G” Division has established a dedicated family violence position. This position is intended to:

  • Provide a resource to police on the issue of family violence;
  • Provide leadership and mentoring to police who are investigating and/or managing high-risk family violence cases; and
  • Monitor and take action to address concerns related to police response to family violence, as well as represent the police on family violence committees and initiatives.

Crown

Policies

Federal Prosecution Service Deskbook, Chapter 28 Spousal Violence Policy

This policy relates to spousal violence and is intended to reflect the special circumstances of Canada’s three territories. In small northern communities options available to the victims of spousal violence may be limited, for example:

  1. the victim may not have access to the same types of support often found in southern Canada, such as emergency shelters or counselling services;
  2. the victim may face pressure in the community not to report the crime; and
  3. absolute prohibitions on contact with the alleged abuser may be unrealistic in a small isolated community.

The policy places primary responsibility for decision-making with the police and Crown counsel rather than with complainants. At all stages of the criminal process, Crown counsel shall engage in appropriate consultation with the police and the complainant to ensure that the complainant is protected, informed and supported.

The policy seeks to guide Crown counsel’s discretion, not remove it. Crown counsel must consider and apply other Deskbook policies, including the “Decision to Prosecute” (Chapter 16) and “Victims of Crime” (Chapter 29) policy while bearing in mind the strong public interest in the denunciation and deterrence of spousal violence.

The policy has specific considerations on bail (28.4). Crown counsel should require from police sufficient information to determine whether releasing the alleged offender from custody would be an unreasonable risk to the safety of the complainant. In some instances if the offender is not detained, the complainant and her children will be forced to leave the family home. Where the court is satisfied that the offender could be released, some restrictions will ordinarily be necessary both to ensure the security of the complainant and preserve the integrity of the prosecution. The policy sets out suggested restrictions. Where the accused is released from custody, reasonable efforts should be made to provide a copy of the release terms to the complainant as soon as practicable.

Chapter 30 of the PPSC Deskbook deals with Parental Child Abduction. The intent of the guidelines is to assist in the uniform application of ss. 282 and 283 of the Criminal Code. They are directed to police and Crown counsel to advise when and how charges may be laid.

Crown Witness Coordinators assist in all cases of family violence. Crown Witness Coordinators coordinate services to victims of family violence with victim services workers in the communities.

Protocols

The Public Prosecution Service is also a member of the following relevant committees and protocols:

  • The Yellowknife Interagency Protocol Committee (see above);
  • The Domestic Violence Treatment Option (DVTO) Court committee (see below); and
  • The Child Abuse Protocol (see below).

Child Protection

Protocols

The Child Abuse Protocol provides a coordinated response to reported child abuse by the Government of Northwest Territories’ Departments of Health and Social Services, Education, Culture and Employment, Justice, the RCMP and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada in the reporting, investigation, prosecution and follow-up of a report of suspected child abuse. It states the specific agreements between and among departments and agencies as to roles and information sharing.

Service-Based Responses

Victim Services

  • Victim services provides assistance and support for victims of crime and tragedy.Community organizations are funded by the Department of Justice to provide local victim services programs. Local victim services program coordinators and volunteers provide victims of crime with:
    • Information
    • Assistance
    • Support
    • Referrals
  • Victim Services provide help to victims at the time of an offence, throughout the court process and afterwards.
  • Victim Services workers can help victims with safety planning and completing a Victim Impact Statement. They can go with the victim to the hospital and/or to court.
  • Although not all communities in the Northwest Territories have victim services programs, a victim can still receive information and support from a victim services worker over the phone.

Abusive Partner Programs

As part of the Family Violence Action Plan: Phase ll, a 24 week narrative, strength-based program has been researched and developed for men who use violence in their intimate relationships. The Wek’eah Kaa (A New Day) Healing Program is available to men over the age of 18 years of age who have been violent toward their intimate partner. Participants may be self-referred, referred by an organization or agency, or mandated to attend by the courts. Men meet with program staff, and together they discuss strengths, resources and requirements to reach their goals. A treatment plan will be made including referrals to other programs and preparations for group sessions with other men which span 20 weeks.

Court-Based Responses

Domestic Violence Court

The Domestic Violence Treatment Option (DVTO) Court recognizes that domestic violence is learned behaviour that can be changed. The DVTO court allows low risk offenders to take responsibility for their behaviour and participate in an eight week program to receive support and referrals for additional counselling. Cases are fast tracked in DVTO Court. The majority of participants are required to complete an 8 session psycho-educational program geared toward healthy relationships.

The Domestic Violence Treatment Option (DVTO) Court committee membership consists of RCMP, along with members of the Crown’s office (Crown counsel), Government of Northwest Territories’ Department of Justice, legal aid, the court registry staff, probation services, and the judiciary. Members meet periodically to discuss DVTO Court.

DVTO Court is held in Yellowknife and is primarily available to offenders in the Yellowknife region, although offenders from other regions will be accepted into the program if they commit to commuting for this purpose.

Offenders accepted into the program must first undergo an assessment before acceptance in to the program and this includes a Spousal Assault Risk Assessment (SARA) and questionnaire.

Tools/Processes to Ensure Safety

Structured Risk Assessment Tools

  • ODARA (Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment) is done on all male offenders charged with spousal violence. RCMP and Crown counsel are trained in the use of ODARA. Victim Services and Shelter workers are also trained in the use of ODARA.
  • SARA (Spousal Assault Risk Assessment) is done for all offenders being considered for the DVTO (Domestic Violence Treatment Option) Court program.

Checklists

  • Show cause checklist.

Coordinating Mechanisms

Inter-Agency Protocols

  • Yellowknife Interagency Family Violence and Abuse Protocol (see above).
  • The Sahtu Region has completed preliminary interagency protocol work.
  • Fort Simpson, Fort Smith and Inuvik are currently developing interagency protocols.
  • Child Abuse Protocol (see above).

Action Plans and Coalitions

During the first phase of the Action Plan (2003-2008) the Protection Against Family Violence Act (PAFVA) was enacted, preliminary work was completed on the Yellowknife Interagency Family Violence Protocol, staff positions dedicated to addressing family violence were created at the Departments of the Executive and Justice, and next steps for developing programming for persons who use violence in their intimate partner relationships was completed.

Phase II: (2008-2012) Key initiatives included:

  • Stabilizing existing shelters;
  • Enhancing community services;
  • Implementing a risk assessment tool (ODARA) – as per spousal assault policy in G RCMP; shelter workers and victim service workers; and
  • Developing a program for men who use violence.

Ongoing priorities include:

  • piloting and evaluation of the newly developed 24 week program for those who use violence (see above);
  • family violence social marketing campaign designed to address attitudes and change behaviours; and
  • community outreach to non-shelter regions.

The Coalition Against Family Violence Committee is designed to:

  • Increase awareness of family violence issues for Northwest Territories residents;
  • Work collectively to reduce the incidence of family violence and to more effectively respond to family violence in the Northwest Territories; and
  • Undertake specific actions and initiatives to address family violence issues and the needs of those people affected by family violence.

Key Reports

  • In 2010, the Centre for Response-Based Practice conducted an emergency protection order transcript analysis. This research examined the type of social responses victims received when seeking emergency protection.
  • In 2011, Malatest & Associates Ltd. released the Final Report on the Protection Against Family Violence Act. Recommendations from this report are being examined by the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Data Collection

The RCMP do quarterly reporting of statistics on the use of ODARA by community.

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