As of April 1, a new law tabled by the Alberta government will allow people at risk of domestic violence to learn about their intimate partner's past.
“Alberta’s government firmly believes everyone has a right to be safe and free from domestic violence,” said Alberta’s community and social services minister, Rajan Sawhney. “It is important to know domestic violence can effect anyone.”
Sawhney said during her announcement on March 30 that Alberta currently has the fourth highest rate of police-reported intimate partner violence among Canada’s provinces and territories. According to Sawhney, between 2008 and 2019, at least 204 Albertans died from family violence-related incidents.
“In fact, Lethbridge has the highest rate in the country for both police-reported family violence and intimate partner violence,” she said.
“This is why we made the introduction and passage of ‘Clare’s Law’ a key part of our campaign commitment to protect vulnerable Albertans.”
From a local perspective, the implementation of Clare’s Law will be an additional resource for a number of organizations. Melissa Fonseka, a provisional psychologist and support services counsellor with North Rocky View Community Links, said when she heard the news, she thought it was a great opportunity for individuals to be able to access information on a past or present partner.
“That can really give them so much information about what they want to do next,” she said. “If there is any risk, this can help them take next steps for protection and safety.”
Fonseka said domestic abuse can be a complex situation, adding the impacts can sometimes be invisible.
“This can really help show people in society how serious domestic violence can be,” she said. “By having access to a tool like this, it can bring forth how important it is to pay attention to this.”
Kimberly Jarvis, the volunteer coordinator with the Airdrie and District Victims Assistance Society, echoed Fonseka’s sentiments, saying Clare’s Law is “an incredible step for victims.”
“Anything that reiterates a victim’s rights and supports the victim’s bill of rights is very important to us,” she said.
As of April. 1, according to Sawhney, people who feel they are at risk of domestic violence are able to submit an application for information on their intimate partner’s past. She said being able to do so will help prevent domestic violence before it occurs.
“We can empower those who may be at risk, by giving them options to protect themselves from harm,” she said.
Sawhney said the implementation of the law is prudent, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown an increase in domestic violence across Canada.
“We believe people at risk have a right to know if their partners have a history of violence or abuse,” she said. “I believe that this law will save lives."