Clare’s Law has finally arrived in Alberta – a win for anyone who may be concerned about whether their intimate partner has a history of domestic violence. Saskatchewan has had the legislation in place for almost a year, but it’s brand new to Alberta. Let’s break it down.
What is Clare’s Law all about?
This legislation is intended to help people who feel that they’re at risk of domestic violence to find out whether their partner has a violent or abusive history.
This legislation arose out of the UK where a young woman named Clare Wood was murdered in 2009 by her ex-boyfriend who was known to police to have a violent history. It is thought that Clare’s life could have been saved had she had a mechanism to find out about his violent history.
It was first implemented in the UK in 2014.
Alberta proclaimed the Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence (Clare’s Law) Act on April 1, 2021, which followed Saskatchewan’s lead which proclaimed similar legislation called the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol (Clare’s Law) Act on June 29, 2020. Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to implement Clare’s Law.
There’s legislation in the works in other provinces, but for now Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only provinces in Canada with this legislation
How does Clare’s Law work?
There’s 3 parts to the legislation:
- The right to ask – this allows an applicant, which will typically be a person in an intimate partner relationship, to ask about their intimate partner’s domestic violence history.
- The right to know – this allows the police to proactively provide information to a person-at-risk of domestic violence without waiting for a formal application to be made.
- The right to privacy – once the assessment is made that the disclosure of the intimate partner’s history is appropriate in the circumstances, it’s done in a way to disclose only the relevant information and is carried out in a way to protect their right to privacy.
What kinds of things can a person find out about their intimate partner’s history?
The main focus of this legislation is on the prevention of domestic violence – so the information that people would receive would relate to the likelihood that they will be the victim of domestic violence.
Under the Right to Ask, an applicant is able to find out, and under the Right to Know the police is able to provide information about history of domestic violence by the intimate partner.
There is an assessment that’s conducted on the intimate partner’s history, and the disclosure that’s made is only that which is relevant to helping the person in potential risk to make an informed choice about their safety in the relationship.
They will be able to find out things like:
- History of domestic violence
- Stalking or harassment
- Breaches of no contact orders
- Other relevant information
What happens next, if it is determined that there is a risk to the applicant?
First, during the process the applicant is provided multiple times with social services information to get them connected with resources to help.
Once the police’s assessment is completed, the applicant will meet with the police to get the information about their partner’s history. Depending on the level of the risk, that may be in person or by phone.
There will be a determination of one of the following:
- Insufficient information
There are many safeguards in place to ensure that this information is only used for the purpose of helping the applicant to make a decision about their safety in the relationship.
It’s clear that there’s stops in place to ensure that the information is not used for the purpose of gaining an advantage in a divorce battle or for publicly sharing the information.
In the end, the key is that any information provided will only be done verbally, never in writing.
It’s simply to help people in a relationship to make an informed choice that Clare Wood in the UK was not able to make because there was no way for her to even inquire about her partner’s history.
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