Proposed law to provide access to information on abuse history
The Manitoba government has introduced legislation to help prevent and deter intimate-partner violence across the province, Minister of Families Rochelle Squires announced.
“Manitoba has some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence and family violence in Canada,” Squires said. “These types of violence primarily affect women and girls, disproportionally affect those living in rural, remote and northern communities, Indigenous people, people of colour and LGBTQIA+ people.”
Bill 43, or “Clare’s Law,” aims to provide people with information on whether their intimate partner has any previous history of violence or abuse. Clare’s Law was first introduced in the UK and named after Clare Wood, a British woman murdered by her partner and unaware of his violent past.
Under the proposed law, a person who believes they might be at risk of violence from a current or former intimate partner may apply with the assigned director to obtain information about their partner’s risk to the person or the person’s child.
According to Squires, their proposed version of Clare’s Law “takes a unique disclose and support approach.” If passed, Manitoba will be the first jurisdiction in Canada to expand the approach to include domestic violence, family violence, and sexual violence within intimate partner relationships.
“This means a mom who may be concerned about her safety or is concerned about behaviour from her intimate partner towards her minor children would be eligible to complete an application,” Squires said.
In addition, the proposed law allows the following persons to file an application on behalf of the person at risk of intimate partner violence:
- a committee appointed for the person under the Mental Health Act or a substitute decision-maker appointed for the person under the Vulnerable Persons Living with a Mental Disability Act;
- an attorney acting under a power of attorney granted by the person;
- the parent or guardian of a child if, in the opinion of the director, making the application will not be an unreasonable invasion of the child’s privacy.
After receiving the application, the director and police service should assess whether the applicant is at risk of intimate partner violence. Once an assessment is done, the applicant must be provided with the information.
Moreover, the proposed law requires the director and police service to ensure that the applicant will keep the information confidential unless another law permits its disclosure. If the applicant agrees, they may also provide the information to any person supporting the applicant or to the person on whose behalf the applicant applied.
“The design team continues to work with privacy experts to ensure the province’s approach to disclosure is appropriately respectful of the privacy of the person whose information is being disclosed,” Squires said.
If appropriate throughout the disclosure process, the proposed law orders the director to make reasonable efforts to conduct a risk assessment, create a safety plan with the applicant and their chosen support persons and refer the applicant to appropriate support and services.
Squires confirmed that the proposed law would come into force upon proclamation.