EDMONTON (660 NEWS) — After being developed for over a year, the provincial government is ready to implement a law aimed at preventing domestic violence.
The Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence Act, otherwise known as Clare’s Law, will officially come into effect on Thursday, Apr. 1.
In brief, the law allows people to ask police to do a background check on former or current intimate partners to determine if they are at risk of violence. During the process, the partner will not be notified the search is happening, and the applicant will be informed in person if their partner is deemed to be of higher risk. Police can also take proactive measures to prevent incidents if the partner is at higher risk.
Here's a rundown of the law as it will apply to Alberta. It will officially come into effect on Thursday pic.twitter.com/fJsekTTxEC
— Tom Ross (@Tommy_Slick) March 30, 2021
“We must do more to make sure that vulnerable Albertans are safe, especially in their homes where they should never feel like they are in danger,” said Justice Minister Kaycee Madu.
Police services and the RCMP have agreed to participate in the program, and they can apply for the disclosure after an initial application is made.
The government said Albertans have a right to ask for this information, and police also have a right to know while keeping privacy laws in mind throughout.
Once the legislation is officially in place, an application can be made for free online through the government’s website.
Madu added that no official documentation is needed by the applicant, as long as they have some reasonable suspicion.
“Sometimes there may be red flags, and all that you’ve got are those red flags,” he said.
There are four levels of risk outlined in the legislation, ranging from insufficient information to high risk. In incidents of moderate or high risk, police disclosure will happen in person, but even in cases of inadequate details or low-risk community supports will be offered to the applicant.
Several safeguards are in place as well to ensure the reports are not made spuriously. Disclosures will not happen if the application has been made with malicious intent, if it’s being made for legal proceedings, or if the applicant will not meet with police.
Domestic violence is also historically under-reported, and there’s a hope this law can help reverse the trends.
“We have now empowered all Albertans. They now know that their government has thrown the full weight of our legal system, of our government, behind the. They have no reason to fear or be afraid there are going to be consequences,” said Madu.
“First of all, provide vulnerable Albertans with an avenue to ask for more information so they can make important decisions about their relationships,” added Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney.
The application page on the government’s website and the whole Clare’s Law process connects applicants with other supports in the community to ensure they can get additional help as needed. Advocates are applauding the decision and said this represents a more holistic approach to bringing down domestic violence rates.
“The disclosure of an intimate partner’s criminal record, alongside the support of friends, family and colleagues, can help a person experiencing abuse to take steps to keep themselves safer and healthy,” said Andrea Silverstone, executive director of Sagesse. “If you’re worried about enough to fill out a Clare’s Law application, you can benefit from social services support.”
Enacting Clare’s Law was a campaign promise under the United Conservative Party, and consultations around the law began in 2019.
It is already in place in Saskatchewan, with discussions also continuing in Newfoundland and Labrador to bring it into effect. The law was first created in the United Kingdom following the death of Clare Wood, who was killed by her ex-boyfriend and subsequent investigation found that he had a long history of violence that was never disclosed. It was put into place in England and Wales in 2014.