The Saskatchewan government says it’s disappointed the RCMP has declined to participate in a new measure aimed at preventing people from becoming victims of domestic violence.
The province said legislation will come into effect next week allowing police services to warn someone about a partner’s abusive past. Partners will be able to request this information from police and officers will also be permitted to share it with someone they deem to be at risk.
But the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice said the RCMP, which handles policing in most of rural Saskatchewan, won’t be participating.
“We are extremely disappointed,” Justice Minister Don Morgan said in a letter to the federal minister of public safety.
He said representatives from the RCMP have been involved in developing the legislation since at least last June and it wasn’t until last week government officials were informed of the national force’s position.
The RCMP did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In his letter, Mr. Morgan said the RCMP is citing an undisclosed legal opinion, but the government is still unclear why the force made the decision, and wants it reviewed by Ottawa.
“To now be advised that the RCMP, in its capacity as the Saskatchewan provincial police service, is refusing to comply with this process is beyond disappointing,” he wrote.
“We cannot accept that the RCMP cannot find a possible solution to their concerns, whatever they may be.”
The legislation is modelled after Clare’s Law in Britain, which was developed after Clare Wood was murdered by a partner who police knew had a violent record.
Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador have introduced similar legislation.
Jo-Anne Dusel, executive director of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan, said the legislation is intended for people at the beginning of a relationship who see red flags or hear concerns about their new partner’s reputation.
Ms. Dusel, who worked on how Clare’s Law could be implemented in Saskatchewan, said the RCMP’s decision could create barriers for people living in rural areas.
Rural areas already faces higher rates of intimate partner violence and homicide, as well as less access to shelters, she said.
“I understand that the RCMP is under a lot of pressure right now with other things that they are being questioned on including systematic racism, including their response to the Nova Scotia killer,” Ms. Dusel said.
“Turning down an opportunity to support individuals at-risk to share vital information that can be used for safety planning is the wrong decision.”
Ms. Dusel’s association will be part of the committee that is to recommend to police whether a disclosure should be made, but police services will retain the ultimate authority around releasing any information.
She said the information could include someone’s prior violent convictions or past police reports when officers responded to a disturbance, but no charges were filed.
The at-risk individual would have to sign a confidentiality agreement to only use the information for their own safety, and the information will only be communicated verbally, Ms. Dusel said.
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