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

Annex 4: Family violence responses by jurisdiction - Saskatchewan

Legislative Responses

Family/Domestic Violence Legislation

The Victims of Domestic Violence Act - Persons who live together, or have lived together in a family or intimate relationship, or who have children together, are eligible to apply for an order under this Act. This includes spouses, common law spouses, same sex partners, children, parents, siblings and disabled persons. In this Act, domestic violence means:

  • any intentional or reckless act or omission that causes bodily harm or
  • damage to property;
  • any act or threatened act that causes a reasonable fear of bodily harm or damage to property;
  • forced confinement; or
  • sexual abuse.

Under this Act, the following orders and warrant can be issued:

i) Emergency Intervention Orders are short-term orders granted by a Justice of the Peace that can be obtained 24 hours a day for use in emergency situations. These orders can, for example, give the victim exclusive occupation of the residence; prevent the suspected abuser from contacting the victim or other family members; direct a police officer to remove the suspected abuser from the home; direct a police officer to assist the victim or suspected abuser to supervise the removal of personal belongings, etc.

ii) Victim’s Assistance Orders are granted by the Court of Queen’s Bench and are usually for non-emergency situations. These orders contain conditions similar to those for an Emergency Intervention Order, but are for a longer period of time. An order may, for example, direct the suspected abuser to pay for such things as temporary accommodation or legal expenses; give the victim temporary possession of items such as a vehicle or identification documents; prevent the suspected abuser from contacting the victim, family members, etc.

iii) Warrants of Entry can be requested by police officers when there is concern that a person who cannot act on his/her own is being subjected to domestic violence.

The Victims of Crime Act, 1995 forms the legislative basis for the Victims Services Program. The Act provides for the collection of a surcharge on provincial offences and creates a dedicated fund to support programs and services for victims. Revenue from the provincial and federal surcharge collection is referred to as the "Victims Fund" and is the sole source of income for the Victims Services Program, including compensation for victims of crime

In 2011 the Saskatchewan legislature passed The Victims of Crime Amendment Act, 2011, which will require police to provide to designated persons information about a victim that is prescribed in the regulations. The designated person shall use the victim’s information to contact the victim for the purpose of providing or facilitating the delivery of victims’ services. The Act has not yet been proclaimed as regulations must be developed in order to implement the new provisions.

The Missing Persons and Presumption of Death Act came into force on September 29, 2009 in response to recommendations of the Provincial Partnership Committee on Missing Persons. Under this Act a family member, other interested person, or the Public Guardian and Trustee may apply to the Court of Queen's Bench for an order declaring a person as missing and for appointment of a property guardian. The persons authorized to apply for the order declaring a person to be missing may also apply for an order declaring that the missing person is presumed to be dead. The Court may make a declaration of presumption of death if it is satisfied that: the person has been absent and not been heard from, or by, since a day named in the application; there is no reason to believe the person is living; and reasonable grounds exist to suppose he or she is dead.

Child Protection Provisions Related to Family Violence

Under The Child and Family Services Act, 2006 every person who has reasonable grounds to believe that a child is in need of protection shall report the information to an officer (child protection worker) or peace officer (police) (subsection 12(1)). A child in need of protection as a result of an action or omission of a child’s parent includes a child that has suffered or is likely to suffer physical harm or a child exposed to domestic violence or severe domestic disharmony (subsections 11(a)(i) and (vi)). The duty to report exists notwithstanding any claim of confidentiality or privilege other than solicitor-client privilege or Crown privilege.

Police

Policies

  • Regina Police Service Domestic Violence Policy
    • Domestic Violence (DV) investigation shall stress that DV is criminal conduct.
    • DV calls shall receive the same response as any other life threatening call.
    • The responsibility for enforcement action does not lie with the victim.
    • Where reasonable grounds exist to believe that a crime has occurred, and suspect is present, an arrest SHALL be made.
    • The safety of DV victims is the primary concern of investigators.
    • All DV complaints are reviewed by the DV Coordinator.
    • The DV Coordinator shares information with Victim Services (non-governmental organisation), Social Services, and Probation Services.
  • RCMP Operational manual – The manual contains information pertaining to cases involving violence in relationships, including references to Victim Assistance, laying charges, the provincial Child Abuse Protocol (discussed below), parental-child abduction, peace bonds/restraining orders, etc.

Protocols

  • DV Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): Regina Police Service-Family Services Regina
    • To provide early intervention services to victims of DV.
    • To work cooperatively with police, victim services, crowns, corrections, probation, and parole.
    • To maintain accurate data collection.
    • To share responsibility for providing information, support, and referral services to victims of DV.
  • Information Sharing MOU: Correctional Service of Canada, Ministry of Justice, former Ministry of Corrections, Public Safety and Policing, RCMP and Saskatchewan Municipal Police.
  • To establish a formal mechanism for the exchange of personal information between the participants in order to allow the participants to better and more effectively carry out their respective mandates.
Child Abuse Investigations
  • Regina Children’s Justice Centre
    • An integrated, multi-disciplinary approach to investigating child abuse. Partnerships include Ministry of Justice, Social Services, Regina Health District, Education, and the Regina Police Service.
    • Police and child protection workers jointly investigate reports of child abuse, in partnership with experienced and dedicated doctors and prosecutors.
  • Provincial Child Abuse Protocol 2006
    • Endorsed by six government ministries, seven police services, the RCMP, and the Saskatchewan Police Commission.
    • Promotes a coordinated and integrated approach to child abuse investigations.
  • Information Sharing Protocol: Regina Police Service-Ministry of Social Services
    • Provides for the sharing of information at the Regina Children’s Justice Centre.

Crown

Policies

Domestic Violence (Partner Abuse) Policy

Public Prosecutions has a policy on Domestic Violence (Partner Abuse). The highlights of the policy are as follows:

  • Domestic violence is not a private family matter and should be prosecuted as vigorously as other serious criminal matters providing it meets the prosecutorial standard.
  • At all stages of prosecution, including bail hearings, the safety of complainants and their families is a paramount factor for prosecutors to consider in the exercise of discretion.
  • Victims must be kept informed as the case moves through the judicial process. This is particularly important when the accused person is released on bail so that steps can be taken to ensure the victim’s safety.
  • Generally speaking, domestic violence cases cannot be referred to Alternative Measures programs not operating within the Domestic Violence Court Programs.
  • As soon as the case is identified as involving Domestic Violence, Victim Services should be advised.
  • Bail – A warrant should be sought whenever it is necessary to protect the complainant by seeking a detention order or conditions of release.
  • Prosecutors should be assigned to cases as soon as possible once the matter is set down for trial. Timely resolution of these types of charges is important as the longer it takes to get to trial, the less likely the complainant will be willing to testify.
  • Complainants should be advised that they did not lay the charge and the responsibility for prosecution of the case rests with the Crown prosecutor. Removing the ability to withdraw charges from the complainant may provide some protection from pressure by the accused.

Protocols

Referrals to Victim Services
  • The purpose of the protocol is to ensure appropriate and timely responses to victim and witness needs.
  • Referrals must be made to the Victim/Witness Service Coordinator responsible for the Prosecution Unit for the area in which the court proceeding originates.
  • The protocol outlines the relevant information that is to be provided to the Victim/Witness Coordinator, which includes the witness’ contact information, the Information(s) involving the witness, next court date, etc.
  • The protocol also addresses requests for additional information by Victim/Witness Services – factors to consider when deciding whether or not to release and information that will typically not be released.

Child Protection

  • The Structured Decision Making System (SDM) for Child Protective Services was implemented in Saskatchewan in 2011. SDM is a series of structured assessments and protocols that focus on the critical decision points during the delivery of child protection services. SDM provides assessment tools that assess the immediate safety and the likelihood of future maltreatment of a child. Definitions of maltreatment align with The Child and Family Services Act, Section 11 which defines a child in need of protection. These definitions include children who are exposed to domestic violence or severe domestic disharmony that is likely to result in physical or emotional harm.
  • Joint investigative units (law enforcement and child protection officers) provide an integrated approach to child abuse investigations.
  • Protocols were developed for participation and involvement in the operational planning of local Domestic Violence Courts.

Service-Based Responses

Victim Services

  • Aboriginal Family Violence Programs: the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General supports a number of community-based programs that help Aboriginal families living in urban areas deal with abuse and violence.
  • Police-based Victim Services: the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General provides funding for 18 Police-based Victim Services Programs in Saskatchewan. These programs work closely with police, and assist victims in the immediate aftermath of a crime or tragedy and throughout the criminal justice process. Services offered to meet the needs of victims include crisis intervention, information, support, and referrals to other specialized programs and services. Services are provided by staff and a team of volunteer victim support workers.
  • Family Violence Outreach services funded through the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General assist women who may not use a shelter or need help in accessing a shelter or other services. Services may include support to women, children and families in violent or potentially violent circumstances, education on abuse and information about services available in the community. These services are provided by community-based organizations who receive funding to provide family violence outreach services.
  • The Victims Services Branch of the Ministry of Justice supports a number of specialized community based programs in larger centres where client volume and/or unique needs justify a different delivery model or program for certain client groups, (i.e. victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse). The Community-based Domestic Violence Victim Services Programs are: Battlefords Domestic Violence Treatment Option Court - Victim Services; Regina Domestic Violence Victim Services; and Saskatoon Domestic Violence Court Caseworkers.
  • Five Victim/Witness Programs provide court orientation and support to children and other vulnerable witnesses who are required to testify in court. The programs' goal is to help reduce the fear, anxiety and further trauma that may occur through testifying. The four programs, located in regional prosecutions offices, offer services throughout the province.

Shelters

There are ten provincially funded shelters for women and their accompanying children who are leaving circumstances of interpersonal violence and abuse. One is co-funded with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

These Transition Houses are owned and operated by legally incorporated non-profit organizations. Funding is provided to the organizations through the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General for the delivery of residential crisis services.

The population served includes women (18 years or older) and their accompanying children who are leaving circumstances of violence and abuse. Four of the Transition Houses also provide residential services to females who are 16 and 17 years of age and their accompanying children who are leaving circumstances of violence and abuse.

The nature of the service is twenty four hour, staffed emergency safe accommodation and support for women and women and children leaving an abusive and violent relationship. In addition to short-term safe shelter, services may include crisis and supportive counselling, child care and referrals to community services.

There are three additional off-reserve First Nations shelters in Saskatchewan for women and their children who are leaving circumstances of violence and abuse that are funded through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Programs for Children Exposed to Family Violence

The Ministry of Justice and Attorney General through the Victim Services Branch provides support for Children Exposed to Violence Programs in Saskatchewan, to address the needs of children who are exposed to violence. The programs assist children and youth who have witnessed or experienced interpersonal violence or abuse, with a goal of preventing them from becoming victims or perpetrators of violence and abuse in the future. The programs are delivered by community-based service providers.

Abusive Partner Programs

The Ministry of Health provides funding for Alternatives to Violence (ATV) programs delivered through Mental Health and Addictions in the Health Regions. Currently, seven Health Regions provide ATV Programs.

Supervised Access

Supervised access is provided under the Family Justice Services - Supervised Access/Exchange Program:

  • Upon court order, supervision of access to children by the non-custodial parent and other family members is provided by trained supervisors in a safe, child focussed environment.
  • Supervision of exchanges of children during an unsupervised access period is provided to parties, upon request or court order. A court order is not required. Letters of consent from both parents and/or legal counsel must be received by the program coordinator.
  • The program provides services for a maximum of 18 months.
  • Family Justice Services also prepares court ordered custody/access assessments.

Parent Education/Information

  • Ministry of Education, Early Years Branch – Programs and Services related to Interpersonal Violence and Abuse
    • KidsFirst Program – supports vulnerable families to nurture their children from before birth to age five. Integrated services are dedicated to promoting positive child development and family interactions. This includes dedicated mental health and addictions outreach, anger management, family counselling, trauma counselling and links to services for families fleeing domestic violence.
    • The Ministry of Education has developed a number of early learning resources. These resources highlight the importance of children’s expression, social-emotional development, self-esteem and social relationships.
    • The Parent Education Unit of the Family Justice Services Branch, Ministry of Justice and Attorney General, offers the Parenting after Separation and Divorce information sessions to people dealing with family breakdown. The Parenting after Separation and Divorce program is now mandatory in all Queen's Bench Court locations in Saskatchewan. Every person commencing a family law proceeding in which custody, access or child support is an issue is required to attend parent education programming.

Child Education/Information

  • Ministry of Education – Health Education
    • The Ministry of Education’s role with regard to violence and abuse has traditionally focused on prevention. A major initiative that supports the prevention of family violence is delivered through provincial curricula. Education about family violence is part of Health Education (grades 1-9) and Life Transitions 20, 30 curricula. The curricula include information about family roles and responsibilities, the cycle of abuse, and the development of decision-making, addressing challenges, and conflict resolution.
    • As part of the provincial learning program renewal, the Ministry of Education is currently revitalizing all curricula at all grade levels. The process includes developing robust curriculum that allows for deeper understanding.
    • The Ministry reviews and recommends learning resources to support curriculum outcomes in all subject areas and at all grade levels. There are several learning resources in fiction and non-fiction and include print and video that address issues related to abuse and family violence. These learning resources include topics such as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, bullying, conflict resolution, date violence, and others. Resources are continually being reviewed to ensure that relevant and current materials are available for instruction.
  • Ministry of Education – Anti-bullying Strategy
    • Since the publication of the Caring and Respectful Schools: Toward SchoolPLUS (2004) conceptual framework, two support documents were developed by the Ministry of Education to address the prevention of bullying. The first was the Anti-Bullying Strategy (2005), which provided a policy statement on anti-bullying and recommended actions regarding the next steps in addressing the issue of bullying. The second was Caring and Respectful Schools - Bullying Prevention: A Model Policy (2006). This document provided the key components of a bullying prevention policy as well as sample language that school divisions might draw on to address each key component. The area of Caring and Respectful Schools works in tandem with curricula designed to improve communication and relationship skills that are critical to learning environments that are consistent, predictable, safe, and positive.

Other Services

Other services are operated by legally incorporated non-profit organizations that receive funding through the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General for the delivery of family violence outreach and sexual assault services.

Sixteen family violence outreach programs provide assistance to individuals (primarily women) and families living in violent or potentially violent circumstances. This includes direct services and support, public education on abuse and services available in the local community, and the development of support groups.

Eight sexual assault services provide direct support for victims of sexual assault (men, women and some children) including a twenty-four hour crisis telephone line, crisis counselling, support and accompanying individuals to medical, legal and social services appointments. Other services may include information, referral and education initiatives that contribute to the prevention of sexual assault.

Court-Based Responses

Domestic Violence Court

There are three domestic violence courts currently operating in Saskatchewan: the Battlefords Domestic Violence Treatment Options (BDVTO) Court; the Saskatoon Domestic Violence (SDV) Court; and the Regina Domestic Violence (RDV) Court. These therapeutic courts emphasize healing and provide an alternative to traditional court processes. Models for domestic violence courts vary, depending on the particular resources and needs of the community.

Participation in the DVC Treatment Option is open to all adult accused who are charged with domestic violence and are referred, by the Crown, to the Domestic Violence Court Treatment Option. Participation in the DVC Treatment Option is voluntary, and individuals have the right to plead not guilty, or to choose not to participate in the DVC Treatment Option. Individuals who do not participate in the DVC Treatment Option will proceed as they would though the regular court system.

If an offender successfully completes treatment, then a community-based sentence will most often be considered. Offender involvement in treatment is closely monitored to ensure compliance.

Resource people such as probation officers, counsellors from domestic violence treatment programs and addiction services, and victim services workers regularly attend court to provide assistance. They also meet with Crown prosecutors and defence lawyers outside of court to discuss offender progress in programming and behaviour, specific victims concerns, and plans for continued intervention or referral back to court for sentencing.

Tools/Processes to Ensure Safety

  • The Ministry of Social Services has implemented the follow Structure Decision Making assessment tools in child protection service delivery in Saskatchewan:
    1. Screening and Priority Response Tool: Used by intake workers to assess what reports are to be investigated and how quickly the concern is to be responded to.
    2. Safety Assessment Tool: Used by child protection workers to assess immediate safety of children.
    3. Risk Assessment Tool: Used by child protection workers to assess the likelihood of future maltreatment of children.
    4. Family Strengths and Need Assessment: Used by child protection workers to assess the strengths and needs of caregivers and children in a family which ultimately guides case planning.
    5. Risk Reassessment Tool: Used by child protection workers to reassess the likelihood of future maltreatment of children after a period of involvement with a family.
    6. Family Reunification Assessment: Used by child protection workers to guide decisions about returning a child home from placement in care.
  • Adult Community Corrections: Probation offices in most Regions in the Province have specialized teams of probation officers trained in DV dynamics, victims’ issues, DV group programming and DV Risk Assessment (ODARA) Ontario Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment and SPRA Saskatchewan Primary Risk Assessment.
  • Domestic Violence Courts: The ODARA is completed by domestic violence case workers for those accused who request amendments to non-contact conditions. In Regina the ODARA is completed by Family Services Regina. The report is received by the Crown and the Crown discloses to defence counsel. The reports are also shared with probation services and agencies providing treatment to the accused. The report may also be shared with child protection workers, if applicable.
  • Dispute Resolution Office: Mediators will conduct risk assessments to determine the type and degree of violence to develop the best type of mediation process or inform decision of whether or not they mediate.

Coordinating Mechanisms

  • Interministerial Committee on Interpersonal Violence and Abuse.
    • In Saskatchewan, the Interministerial Committee on Interpersonal Violence and Abuse assists in ensuring a coordinated government service response. In addition to its co-chairs from Justice and Attorney General and Status of Women Office, it includes representatives from the Ministries of Corrections, Public Safety and Policing (CPSP); Health; First Nations and Métis Relations; Education; and Social Services.
    • It also involves collaborative relationships with community partners through organizations such as STOPS (Saskatchewan Towards Offering Partnership Solutions to Violence); the Saskatchewan Association of Sexual Assault Services; the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan Inc.; and the Provincial Partnership Committee on Missing Persons.
  • Child Abuse and Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Committee is an inter-ministerial committee co-chaired by the Ministries of Justice and Social Services. CASE addresses prevention, outreach, harm reduction, treatment and law enforcement measures. The inter-ministerial committee works with police, human service providers, First Nation and Métis groups and community-based organizations. Members are linked to national committees in criminal justice, policing, victims services and child welfare areas and can bring that context to the discussions.
  • Provincial Child Abuse Protocol, 2006. The protocol was prepared the Interdepartmental Child Abuse Committee. The Ministries involved were Social Services, Corrections and Public Safety (now Corrections, Policing and Public Safety), First Nations and Métis Relations, Health, Justice and Attorney General and Learning (now Education). The purpose of the Child Abuse Protocol is as follows (page 8 of the protocol):
    • The Provincial Child Abuse Protocol provides a framework for a network of local service providers to work together to:
      • recognize child abuse;
      • ensure children are protected and supported, and their families are assisted throughout the investigation process;
      • develop a coordinated and collaborative approach for reporting and investigating child abuse;
      • create a guide for developing and implementing local reporting and investigating procedures; and,
      • ensure groups or individuals working on behalf of children are aware of their responsibilities.
  • Saskatchewan Towards Offering Partnership Solutions to Violence (STOPS to Violence) is supported by funding from Justice and Attorney General and Health. It is a partnership of community organizations, government and individuals working together to promote healthy relationships and eliminate violence and abuse. Representatives from Justice and Attorney General and First Nations and Métis Relations, along with eight community members and the coordinator form the Tasks Committee, which is the administrative body of STOPS.
  • Inter-ministerial Working Group on Privacy and Information Sharing. The working group was established to review and recommend improvements to the inter-ministerial / inter-agency information sharing related to a cross-government response to child, youth and family issues.
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