Manitoba to Introduce Proposed Legislation that would Make its Domestic Violence Response Strongest in Canada
November 30, 2015
The Manitoba government is introducing proposed legislation that would make mandatory firearms bans part of all protection orders and would make it easier for victims of domestic violence to obtain stronger orders, Attorney General Gord Mackintosh said today.
“The protection and safety of victims of domestic violence is paramount,” said Minister Mackintosh. “Continuing tragedies demand ever stronger efforts. We must do more to ensure help and protection is there every step of the way.”
Other proposed measures would strengthen Manitoba’s zero-tolerance policy on domestic violence including efforts to expand GPS monitoring of high-risk offenders, ensure more people charged with offences are enrolled in intervention programming and new provincewide police training in the dynamics of domestic violence, Minister Mackintosh said.
The minister said the proposed improvements to protection orders and the procedures surrounding them would include:
- a more accessible, user-friendly process to obtain orders that would broaden the criteria beyond the need for ‘immediate or imminent protection’ to consider the seriousness or urgency of the circumstances;
- streamlined court application forms that would be easier to understand and would be made more accessible by:
- providing stronger training for those who help victims prepare applications (called protection order designates or PODs), supporting agencies to increase the number of PODs and proactive referrals to A Women’s Place agency in Winnipeg as a specialized resource when a protection order is denied;
- ensuring the right of victims to receive assistance when making applications to the court and during hearings, while also allowing PODs to participate in hearings;
- providing safe, quiet space at the Winnipeg Law Courts to allow the completion of applications for orders with a support person; and
- providing information resources at courts so victims can find help to complete applications for orders, receive ongoing counselling and safety planning information;
- stronger orders, which would:
- create a mandatory prohibition on continued and future possession of firearms, in cases when the suspected abuser possesses a firearm at the time of the application;
- mandate immediate referral of every protection order to the chief firearms officer, who would flag existing firearms licences and begin an investigation of the individual that would potentially revoked these licences;
- require judicial justices of the peace (JJPs) to receive information from court registries about other orders and proceedings including criminal matters involving the suspected abuser;
- set out factors that would and would not be considered in deciding whether to issue an order;
- support an educational program for JJPs on the dynamics and psychological aspects of domestic violence, to be led by the Office of the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court;
- make the practice of providing reasons for decisions a requirement in the act; and
- expand conduct that could constitute stalking to specifically include cyberstalking.
“For victims of domestic violence and stalking who have been hesitant or unsuccessful in obtaining a protection order, the proposed changes such as streamlining the process, taking a closer look at risk factors and mandatory weapon removal, will increase their success in having protection orders granted and will, in fact, offer them greater safety,” said Glenda Dean, co-chair, Family Violence Consortium of Manitoba.
“We support any proposed legislation that would enhance the safety of victims of abuse, and provide our officers with additional tools and strategies to effectively investigate cases of domestic violence,” said Assistant Commissioner Kevin Brosseau, commanding officer, D Division, RCMP.
Minister Mackintosh said other proposed improvements that would help prevent and respond to domestic violence would include:
- an enhanced provincewide training program on domestic violence, developed in partnership with police, that would begin for officers in spring 2016;
- a stronger prosecution policy of guaranteed consequences by more aggressive and early referral of those charged with offences to evidence-based intervention programs in appropriate circumstances;
- greater use of GPS monitoring in two ways:
- exploring leading-edge GPS technology that would require monitoring bracelets which send information to the victim about the offender’s location; and
- a GPS Monitoring Expansion Team to develop expansion plans by spring so more high-risk offenders would be subject to GPS monitoring; and
- more proactively inviting highest-risk victims to apply for the province’s CELL program, a simplified application form and more agency training to help with applications.
“As a domestic violence crisis shelter, we are very encouraged about these proposed changes to the Domestic Violence and Stalking Act, particularly as it pertains to the provision of protection orders,” said Trudy Lavallee, executive director, Ikwe Widdjiitiwin. “These proposed changes would help ensure that all women and children who are escaping violence do not fall through the cracks by not accessing or being denied safety and protection.”
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