Opinion: Clare's Law has flaws but it's a vital tool for domestic abuse victims

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Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to read two fascinating articles released by respected members of the news media community, Janet French and Colby Cosh. The intent of the articles was to inform the public on the shortcomings that exist within new legislation brought into effect April 1, 2021: Clare’s Law.

Their prudent reviews of Clare’s Law illuminates the systemic areas that certainly need improvements; however, they failed to highlight the early indicators of success. Clare’s Law provides two important components critical to the safety of women:

1.) The law gives those at risk, or an individual given consent by someone at risk, the ability to apply for a disclosure to find out if their intimate partner has a history of domestic violence or related acts. (Safety over Privacy. Right to Know and Right to Ask.) It also gives police the ability to disclose that information to the at-risk individual if they feel as though they have reason to suspect a person could potentially be victimized by an intimate partner. (Right to know.)

2.) With the application for disclosure, comes a referral and access to social supports the individuals may otherwise not have known about. This component of Clare’s Law is its current strength. Women are being connected to communities of care and support, and this is shown by the number of query rates noted by the partner organization Sagesse.

When I started in the violence prevention industry eight years ago, we reported the alarming statistic of one woman every six days in Canada is killed at the hands of an intimate partner. Fast forward to 2021-22 and reports now indicate that figure to be one woman every 2.5 days.

Alberta continues to have the third-highest rate of intimate partner violence in the country, and the city of Lethbridge has the highest rate of violence against intimate partners in the country. Between 2008 and 2019, Alberta lost 204 Albertans to family violence-related deaths, and in 2018, a quarter of the homicides in both Calgary and Edmonton were believed to have been from domestic violence. These numbers are unacceptable, but I believe they are preventable.

The unfortunate truth is that domestic and gender-based violence are complex issues. These issues are rooted in gender inequity and these issues are intersectional. We will not end gender-based violence with one, or even a few pieces of legislation, or a few programs, alone. It will take intention, a multi-sectoral approach, time, and long-term strategizing to have a transformational, cultural change.

Ending domestic violence will not be possible without increasing the overall well-being of people in our communities — and that is a long-term, daily commitment. That is a commitment that will require every one of us doing our part to contribute to a society where all members feel safe, supported and are free from violence.

The Alberta government got this one right — passing Clare’s Law legislation. This is one step in the right direction and a much-needed tool for all Albertans to have in their tool kit for safety planning (when and if needed) and access to information. Being informed will empower choices, provide options, and potentially save lives.

The Government of Alberta is committed to ending gender-based violence in Alberta and is committed to supporting innovative strategies that will make long-term, sustainable changes to improve the lives of all Albertans. Through our experience with working with the Ministry of Culture and Status of Women, our feedback has always been valued, and the dialogue productive.

The current evaluation of Clare’s Law 10 months after going into effect shows areas that need to be addressed. I have no doubt the government is eager to address these issues, however, I cannot stress enough, it is not on the government alone to ensure all Albertans are safe and thriving.

This responsibility falls on all Albertans working together to ensure that our communities are safe and free from gender-based violence.

Source: EdmontonJournal