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


In February 2009, Justice Canada held a symposium entitled Family Violence: The Intersection of Family and Criminal Justice System Responses. The symposium was the first national conference to address the challenges posed by the different objectives and legal standards of the family, child protectionFootnote 1 and criminal justice system responses to family violence. Approximately 300 government officials, family, child protection and criminal justice professionals, academics and front-line workers from across the country participated. The symposium also provided a forum to discuss innovative and promising mechanisms to enhance the linkages among different sectors of the justice system and address some of the challenges that were identified.

The symposium was followed by a meeting of federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) government officials from all Canadian jurisdictions to continue the discussion initiated at the symposium and examine how the issues directly impact their respective areas. One recommendation emanating from this FPT meeting was the creation of a joint family and criminal justice FPT working group. In January 2011, FPT Deputy Ministers responsible for Justice and Public Safety approved the terms of reference for an FPT Ad Hoc Working Group on Family Violence, which was tasked to:

  1. Identify issues faced by the intersection of the family justice system (including child protection) and the criminal justice system responses to family violence;
  2. Identify risk assessment needs and challenges;
  3. Identify information-sharing obstacles (including privacy-related concerns);
  4. Identify promising practices to address these issues (including technology to facilitate information sharing);
  5. Identify model risk assessment tools, guidelines and information-sharing protocols that could serve to address some of the issues posed by potentially inconsistent or conflicting justice system responses to family violence; and
  6. Share promising practices and research from within their areas of expertise.

Representatives from all Canadian provinces and territories participated in the development of this report which highlights some of the issues that arise as a result of the intersection of the family, child protection and criminal sectors of the justice system in responding to family violence. It also identifies selected tools, protocols and practices that have been implemented in Canada or elsewhere, or which have been recommended to address these issues. Although the report does not make specific recommendations, it is hoped that the findings will serve as a basis for future efforts to enhance collaboration on this important issue.