What is Clare’s Law?
In 2009, a woman from the United Kingdom named Clare Wood was killed by her intimate partner, who had a history of being a perpetrator of domestic violence.
Following her death, Clare’s family advocated for the introduction of a policy whereby members of the public may request information on someone’s domestic violence history.
With the support of Clare’s family, national and local governments, UK’s police forces and non-profit organizations, Clare’s Law was implemented in 2012. The policy introduced the right to ask, and right to know about someone’s history of domestic abuse.
The legislation inspired by Clare’s Law entitled Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence (Clare’s Law) Act, was introduced by Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney in the Legislature in October 2019.
How does it work?
Government of Alberta will introduce a tool that allows potential victims or police concerned about an Albertans well-being, the ability to learn about the intimate partner’s history of violent or abusive behaviour. This tool will provide the ‘right to ask’ and the ‘right to know’.
The ‘right to ask’ means an individual can use this tool to find out if an intimate partner has a violent or abusive past. The ‘right to know’ provides new powers to police so they can proactively approach an individual who may be at risk of domestic violence.
- Alberta has an opportunity to be a leader in developing a spectrum of preventative supports, education and other policy solutions that prevent incidents of domestic violence, and fully realize the impacts of this legislation.
- The UK government estimated a cost savings of $1.1 Billion CAD, and a reduction of domestic violence cases by 0.5%.
- There is a potential to impact someone’s choice about whether they would like to enter into or continue a relationship with a partner who has criminal history related to domestic violence.
- Should a counsellor or intermediary be able to access this information on behalf of a client it would be of great benefit to transgender, indigenous women and newcomer women.
- Policies similar to Clare’s Law have been implemented in the UK and Australia; however no correlation has been proven between the implementation of Clare’s Law and the reduction in incidents of domestic violence.
- There is currently no legal definition in the Criminal Code of Canada for domestic violence. Abusers are charged with a form of assault not domestic abuse. This leaves discretion at the bureaucratic level in the Province of Alberta to determine which cases are considered domestic violence or not and as such, included in this registry. It also increases bureaucratic costs for administering this kind of program at the front-line level for police services, and in the bureaucracy who have to consider each legal case.
- Transgender woman, indigenous women and newcomer women are the least likely to use this registry because of their low-level of trust with these systems.
- Should Clare’s Law be adopted it could remove the anonymity of the women and their families who have been impacted by domestic abuse.
- This policy is only effective in cases where the abuser has been charged with assault related to domestic violence previously. Research has shown that rates of disclosure for domestic violence remain low.
YW Calgary supports the implementation of Clare’s Law in Alberta. To fully realize the positive impacts of the Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence (Clare’s Law) Act, YW has provided the following recommendations to the Minister of Community and Social Services, Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, Doug Schweitzer, and Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, Leela Aheer.
- promote an empathetic view of domestic violence survivors that does not embolden victim blaming or perpetrator shaming;
- deliver a continuum of prevention supports for emotional, housing and economic well-being of women, men and their families in potential or active domestic violence situations;
- explore the impacts of including domestic violence as a unique Criminal Code offence with Federal counterparts so a consistent legal definition is used to appraise cases of domestic violence; and
- through the Victims of Crime Fund, provide tools for maintaining the privacy of women and their families who are leaving domestic violence situations so they can move forward.