In 1995, the Framework for Action Against Family Violence was introduced in Nova
Scotia. Following the Framework's introduction, a set of integrated policies and procedures for
responding to family violence were developed for all components of the justice system.
In February, 2000, the deaths of Lori Lee Maxwell and Bruce Allan George, and the
subsequent review of how their case was handled, prompted the Minister of Justice to ask Dawn
Russell, Dean of Dalhousie University Law School, and Diana Ginn, Assistant Professor of Law,
to conduct the present review of the Framework for Action Against Family Violence.
The terms of reference for this review were that the reviewers were to assess the current
level of support for the Framework among justice workers in the province, and to assess how the
policy is currently being implemented in practice. The terms of reference for the review
required that there be a review of justice system approaches to intimate partner violence in other
Canadian provinces and territories, a review of literature on the subject, and meetings with focus
groups comprised of stakeholders from around the province.
The outcome of this review was that, while there are divergent views on the issues and
complexities associated with the subject of intimate partner violence, there is strong support
among justice workers in Nova Scotia for the Framework for Action Against Family Violence.
There were recommendations for how the Framework could be strengthened, made more
flexible, and more responsive to the needs of all persons affected by intimate partner violence.
However, despite variance among those who contributed to the review, there was consensus that
the Framework was a very positive step in dealing effectively with intimate partner violence.
Thus, while this review contains suggestions as to how to better implement the
Framework, the Framework itself is sound and should remain in place.
While there is widespread support among police for the pro-charge, pro-arrest, pro-prosecution policy embodied in the Framework, there are significant inconsistencies and some
difficulties with the interpretation and application of Framework policies and procedures by the
police. The inconsistencies include: the failure of some police to appreciate or to accept the
obligation to assess reasonable and probable grounds; wide differences in attitude and approach
to victims; variations in the quality of investigations conducted (especially in the taking of
photographs and of videotaped statements); a notable increase in cross-charging; and variations
in the wording of no-contact provisions, in the circumstances in which peace bonds are
recommended, and in the practice of informing the victim about the interim release of the
accused. As well, there appears to be uncertainty as to how to deal with difficult cases and
reluctance to use the criminal harassment provisions of the Criminal Code. Police themselves
are aware of many of these inconsistencies and difficulties. Police, and focus group participants
from other justice sectors and from community organizations, suggested that training would help to eliminate many of these problems.
Frustration was expressed by both victims and police in cases where there are multiple,
conflicting orders governing the existence of a family. Such orders often include a Family Court
order allowing an accused access to children and a conflicting peace bond or order for interim
release containing a no-contact provision. Conflicting orders of this kind pose a problem for
police in determining how to respond to a breach of the peace bond or no contact provision.
It is recommended that this issue of conflicting orders be referred by
the Minister of Justice to the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, to the Chief Justice of
the Supreme Court, and to the Chief Judge of the Family Court for consideration.
It may be
that the solution is to ensure that Justices of the Peace and Provincial Court Judges make it a
routine practice to inquire as to the existence of a Family Court order allowing the accused
access to the children, and for Family Court judges to routinely inquire as to the existence of a
peace bond or no-contact provision, and for judges of each court to tailor their own orders
accordingly. In cases where there is a pre-existing Family Court order for access, for example,
the no-contact provision could perhaps provide "no-contact except with another person present
for the purpose of arranging access to children."
In light of the uncertainty expressed by police officers as to how to deal with "he
said, she said" situations, the concern expressed by victims and community organizations
about the increase in cross-charging, and the unique procedural and evidentiary concerns
posed by such cases, it is recommended that police seek legal advice from Crown
prosecutors in difficult cases. It is also recommended that consideration be given to the
adoption of a primary aggressor policy requiring officers to determine and arrest the
primary aggressor in the incident, thus reducing the likelihood of cross-charges.
Victims are not always being informed about the release of the alleged perpetrator and about the release conditions.
It is therefore recommended that police procedures within each
department or detachment be reviewed to ensure that both victims and Victims' Services
are informed regarding interim release.
Both municipal police and RCMP take their monitoring and audit responsibilities
seriously. However, a couple of areas were identified for improvement. One of the problems
identified by the Police and Public Safety Services Division of the Department of Justice in its
audits is in carry through from the individual domestic violence incident to the larger case file.
It is important that this carry through process be overseen by the case supervisor responsible for
noting discrepancies in record keeping and in compliance with the Framework. As well,
victims, Victims' Service representatives, members of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the
Status of Women, and representatives from the Police and Public Safety Services Division all
noted that in police practice, domestic disputes are treated quite separately from domestic violence calls.
It is recommended that police document domestic dispute calls as carefully
as they document intimate partner violence incidents, since both are a critical part of the
history of family violence in a particular case.
2.0 Crown Attorneys
One theme runs throughout the results of consultations by the 1999 Department of
Justice Monitoring Committee and the focus group discussions in the current review: that there
has been inconsistent acceptance among Crowns of the philosophy underlying the Framework
for Action. While there may be difficulties inherent in carrying out a pro-prosecution policy in
the context of intimate partner violence, some Crowns see the Framework as representing the
most appropriate response to such violence, and characterize the difficulties as stemming largely
from the complexities of intimate partner violence itself, inadequate implementation of the
Framework (for instance, police failing to gather available independent evidence) or inadequate
resources (for instance lack of court orientation and accompaniment for victims). Other Crowns
see difficulties in implementing the Framework as highlighting flaws inherent in any pro-prosecution policy, and as revealing the need for greater flexibility in such policies.
2.1 It is recommended that the primary justice system response to intimate partner
violence should be to treat it for what it is: criminal activity deserving of sanctions from
the criminal justice system. Furthermore, it is recognized that simply allowing wishes
expressed by the victim to dictate whether or not a particular charge proceeds would be a
retrograde step, providing perpetrators with an opportunity to coerce victims into asking
for stays. Thus, even if some flexibility might be introduced (as discussed below in the
portion on diversion), a pro-charge, pro-prosecution philosophy should remain the
cornerstone of the Framework. The goal must then be to translate this philosophy into
securing convictions where a crime has occurred, and enhancing victim satisfaction with
2.2 It is recommended therefore that ongoing training be implemented to make certain
that all Crowns
give priority to cases involving intimate partner violence, in terms of asking for
early court dates;
become versed in using independent evidence (where available) so as to reduce
reliance on victim testimony;
recognize the importance of ascertaining from victims, and, as far as possible,
introducing as evidence in court, information regarding past incidents of violence. It
is hoped that such evidence, in conjunction with statistical information on the extent
to which victims generally experience repeated acts of violence before calling the
police, might assist the court in recognizing that a first charge rarely represents an
follow Public Prosecution guidelines intended to reduce the stay rate of charges
involving intimate partner violence; and
appreciate the importance of close liaison with Victims' Services.
- understand the dynamics of intimate partner violence and the reasoning behind a
2.3 It is also recommended that sufficient resources be allocated to the Public
Prosecution Service to allow Crowns to carry out the steps required for effective
prosecution of charges involving intimate partner violence.
2.4 It is furthermore recommended with regard to implementing the current
Framework that the Public Prosecution Service complete its internal audit of intimate
partner violence files and put in place a system for on-going monitoring, to ensure that
Crown treatment of such files is in keeping with Framework policies.
In several Canadian jurisdictions, domestic violence cases which meet certain criteria
may be referred to a diversion program. Other provinces, including Nova Scotia, explicitly
exclude cases involving intimate partner violence from those eligible to be considered for
diversion or "alternate measures." Some of the recent literature suggests that a pro-prosecution
policy, amplified by diversion in certain limited circumstances, may provide a partial answer to
the dilemma of attempting to treat intimate partner violence like the crime it is, while at the
same time affording some recognition of autonomy for victims who do not wish to follow
through with the criminal justice process. This issue also arose in a number of the focus groups,
with some participants strongly advocating adding a diversion component to the Framework,
others as adamantly opposed to such a move, and others seeing both sides.
It seems that there are risks either way. Handling some cases of intimate partner
violence other than through the standard criminal justice process allows for the possibility that
victims will be increasingly disempowered. It could become too easy for the government to
avoid allocating the resources needed for full implementation of the Framework, or for Crowns
who have an overload of cases, or who have never fully "bought into" the Framework
philosophy, to shunt files into the diversion process at the least hint of a victim's reluctance to
proceed. Further, because there has never been complete implementation of the Framework, in
terms of on-going training for justice personnel or sufficient victim support, it is arguable that
we do not actually know the optimal results that could be gained from a pro-charge, pro-prosecution policy supported by extensive victims' services.
On the other hand, there does seem to be some logic to the argument that, given the
complexities of intimate partner violence and the various choices that victims may wish to
make, it is unlikely that any one policy could serve the needs of all victims. Thus, it may be that
a rigid adherence to a pro-prosecution policy risks disempowering the victim in instances where
a victim has come to an informed, voluntary conclusion that prosecution will not assist her in (2.5) achieving the goals she has identified for herself.
It is recommended therefore that the
Department of Justice initiate a diversion pilot project for intimate partner violence, at one
site in the province. Such diversion should only be available after a charge has been laid.
It is further recommended that the decision to refer an offender to diversion should be
made by the Crown, in conjunction with the officer who laid the charge, and "[o]nce a
referral has been made the head administrator of the program should be able to request
that the Public Prosecution Service reconsider a recommendation." Those who entered the
diversion program would enter into an agreement that presumably would include terms such as a
promise to refrain from further violence and an agreement to undergo counselling relevant to
intimate partner violence, as well as other counselling (such as for substance abuse) as needed in
individual cases. Failure to adhere to the diversion agreement would result in the case being
returned to the standard prosecution stream. If this model were followed, a decision would still
need to be made as to whether or not successful compliance with the diversion agreement would
still lead to a criminal record (with the compliance taken into account in sentencing).
2.6 In order for a diversion pilot project to avoid undermining what gains have been
achieved thus far through the Framework, it is recommended that such an initiative should
be undertaken in accordance with the following guidelines:
- introduction of a pilot project would be in addition to, rather than in place of, a firm
government commitment to allocating sufficient funding to allow effective
implementation of the Framework;
- the site for the pilot project should be chosen carefully. Diversion should only be
initiated in a region where there is already strong support for the pro-charge, pro-prosecution philosophy of the Framework, and where it seems likely that justice
personnel and the community could work closely together in providing appropriate
treatment and monitoring for the perpetrator and support for the victim.
Acceptance of the Framework philosophy seems to vary from region to region.
While Cape Breton is not the only region to demonstrate firm commitment, it seems
to be unique in its combination of commitment to the Framework and superb
relationships among those who work with issues relating to intimate partner
violence, whether within the justice system or within the community. It is
recommended therefore that Cape Breton would be the logical place to introduce a
pilot project on diversion;
- the pilot project would have to receive sufficient funding for an adequate
organizational structure, and enough counselling/treatment programs would have to
be in place for referral of perpetrators going through diversion;
- the pilot project would have to be monitored, and measured against stated goals, in
order to determine whether the use of diversion should be expanded to other sites;
- critical aspects of developing a pilot project would include developing appropriate
criteria for assessing which cases might be considered for diversion, training
Crowns involved with the project in the consistent application of those criteria, and
training victims' support workers to assist victims in making voluntary and
informed choices between diversion and the standard prosecution of offences. In
developing criteria, close attention should be paid to those jurisdictions that are
already using diversion in the context of intimate partner violence, and any evidence
from those jurisdictions as to the appropriateness of the criteria in place;
- at a minimum, the following criteria should be met before a case involving intimate
partner violence would be considered for diversion: the offender has no prior
conviction or discharges for offences involving violence or threats; no criminal
convictions of any kind for the proceeding 5 years; no outstanding criminal charges;
and no previous referrals to diversion for charges involving intimate partner
violence; no bodily harm was inflicted on the victim; the victim, after independent
counselling, agrees to the use of diversion; and the offender takes responsibility for
his actions, has consented to the use of diversion, and is cooperative; and
- an on-going Public Prosecution Service commitment to training would be required,
to ensure that all Crown Attorneys are well aware of the goals and philosophy of the
Framework for Action and well aware of the dynamics of intimate partner violence.
A number of jurisdictions in Canada and the United States now have specialized courts
for cases involving intimate partner violence. While the details of such courts differ, it seems
that most involve the use of specially trained prosecutors and judges, and a victims' support
Even in communities where a fully specialized court with separate staff may not be
possible, several jurisdictions are attempting to develop feasible options. For instance, in
Ontario, domestic violence courts are being established in larger municipalities, while in smaller
communities the focus will be on providing specialized training for designated Crowns and
victims' support workers, and a specialized process to expedite cases. As noted above, in the
Yukon Territory, a half day of court each week is set aside to deal with intimate partner violence
cases on an expedited basis.
The Women Abuse Council of Toronto conducted a court watch study (1999) and reported that
specialized courts are more successful in prosecuting domestic violence cases; have a lower rate
of withdrawals, dismissals, and peace bonds; result in a higher rate of guilty dispositions (both
guilty pleas and verdicts in court); and have a higher rate of victims appearing in court.
According to the 1999 court watch study, specialized domestic courts are more effective than the
standard criminal justice court in the prosecution of intimate partner violence.
Given the extent to which focus group discussion stressed the need for ongoing training,
and consistency of approach, in order to ensure effective implementation of the Framework, it
seems logical that a specialized court, with specially trained Crowns, judges and victims'
support workers, would be better able to provide continuity and knowledgeable application of
Framework policies. On the other hand, proposals for specialized courts must take account of
differences between larger urban centres and small towns or rural areas. Presumably a fully
specialized court could be more easily introduced where court sits each day, there are a number
of Crowns and judges involved, and a higher number of cases involving intimate partner
violence, than in an area where court sits less frequently and fewer personnel are involved.
2.7 It is therefore recommend that the Department of Justice undertake detailed study
of the organization and operation of specialized domestic violence courts in other
jurisdictions and then initiate a specialized domestic violence court as a pilot project in the
Halifax Regional Municipality. This pilot project should be carefully monitored, and its
performance measured against stated goals such as expediting the court process; increasing
victim cooperation and reducing stay rates; prosecuting charges involving intimate partner
more effectively; providing better support for victims throughout the process; and assessing
appropriate sentences. If the pilot project shows that a specialized court is better able to
meet these goals than the present system, it is recommended that the Department of Justice
expand such specialization to those sites throughout the province where the incidence of
intimate partner violence cases, and the numbers of court personnel would make this
2.8 It is also recommended that for communities too small to warrant a fully specialized
court, the Department of Justice implement measures to provide some degree of
specialization within the current system. Such measures might include setting aside some
court time weekly to provide for expedited hearings, and providing designated Crowns and
victims' support workers with more extensive training. It is recommended that, in
designing specialization measures, the Department of Justice should seek guidance as to
what does or does not work from other jurisdictions which are already experimenting in
As is the case with the present court system, it seems likely that a major factor in the
success of specialized courts or specialized processes would be the provision of adequate victim
support. Without such services, attempts at specialization could well founder.
Despite the Framework requirements and the recommendations of the 1999 Evaluation
Report, Justices of the Peace still have not received training regarding the Framework. Delays
are still a significant problem in the prosecution of spousal/partner violence cases, these cases
are not being given priority in the justice system, and there continues to be widespread concern
about the perceived leniency in sentencing, about low rates of incarceration, and about some
3.1 inappropriate program referrals in conditions of probation.
It is therefore recommendedthat, in view of the important role played by Justices of the Peace, they receive training to
make them aware of their responsibilities and accountability under the Framework.
3.2 It is further recommended that the Minister of Justice bring this report to the
attention of the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and
the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court to solicit their support for the expeditious
processing of domestic violence cases; to re-emphasize the need for denunciation and
deterrence in sentencing of perpetrators of family violence; to make them aware of
widespread concerns about the need for sensitization of the judiciary concerning the
dynamics of domestic violence, and its impact on victims; and to alert them to the need for
increased awareness of the types of treatment appropriate for perpetrators of domestic
violence, as well as of the availability of such programs, or lack thereof, throughout the
3.3 It is recommended that a risk assessment and management tool be developed for use
by police, Crown Attorneys, and Corrections staff to identify those perpetrators who pose a
higher level of risk than others, so as to assess and manage risk to victims, to assist in
decisions in relation to bail and sentencing, and to prioritize allocation of scarce probation
supervision and treatment resources.
3.4 It is also recommended that the Department of Justice implement the prototype
information system it developed in 1996 to collect data on an ongoing basis to track the
performance of the justice system in response to family violence cases in order to support
sound executive decision-making and to measure the impact of new initiatives.
4.0 Corrections Services
Given that probation is frequently used as a sentence for crimes involving intimate
partner violence, it seems particularly important that probation orders be structured, monitored
and enforced so as to provide as much protection as possible for victims, and as much deterrence
as possible for perpetrators. The question of whether probation should be used in a particular
case, and what conditions should be attached, and the question of the appropriate sentence to be
imposed for breaches of probation relate to issues raised above in the discussion of courts.
However, issues of supervision and victim notification fall within the purview of Corrections
Focus group discussion of Corrections Services centred on the lack of adequate
monitoring due to excessive caseloads for probation officers and, to some extent, inconsistencies
in the application of the Framework. This discussion would seem to highlight issues of
resources and training.
4.1 It is recommended, therefore, that Corrections Services receive adequate funding so
as to reduce caseloads to the point that probation officers can realistically be expected to
implement the Framework requirements of supervision and notification. Implementation
would include liaison with victims in terms of preparation of pre-sentence reports and discussion
of safety plans; informing victims of the terms of probation orders or the date of release where a
perpetrator has received a custodial sentence; close monitoring of perpetrator compliance with
conditions attached to probation orders; and immediate notification of Crowns and Victims'
4.2 Services when violations occur. It is further recommended that Corrections Services staff
receive training on the effective and consistent application of the Framework. Finally, it is
recommended that procedures be put in place to flag all files involving intimate partner
violence, so that Corrections Services can apply Framework policies.
5.0 Victims' Services
The literature on intimate partner violence, the results of the interjurisdictional survey,
and the insights provided by focus group participants all indicate that there are a range of
services needed in order to provide support for victims. These would include: immediate crisis
intervention at the time violence occurs; crisis housing for those victims who do not feel safe
remaining in their own homes; where charges are laid, information regarding the progress of the
file through the justice system, as well as court orientation and accompaniment, counselling and
advocacy; and assistance for women wishing to access other community services.
The available evidence suggests that adequate victim support is essential not only for
helping victims and their families deal with the experience of intimate partner violence, but also
to ensure effective implementation of a pro-charge, pro-prosecution policy. In fact, it would
seem that a lack of victim support can almost guarantee higher rates of reluctant witnesses and
mutual Crown/victim disenchantment, which in turn undermine the possibility of an effective
criminal justice response to intimate partner violence. Even if a pilot project on diversion were
to be introduced, as is discussed in the section on Crowns, victims' services would be equally
essential for that model; along with objective criteria regarding the extent of the violence, past
offences, etc., a case would be considered appropriate for diversion only if the victim were in
full agreement. Victims would require counselling and support to ensure that such agreement
was voluntary and informed.
It also appears evident that effective victim support requires collaboration within
government, among various community organizations, and between government and
5.1 Therefore, it is recommended that the Department of Justice enter into discussions
with those within the Department charged with implementation of the Framework, other
government departments, and the community, in order to determine the most appropriate
and efficient ways of delivering the services needed for full victim support, and it is
recommended that the government commit sufficient funding to allow for such delivery. It
would appear that an entity such as the Family Violence Prevention Initiative would be
instrumental in facilitating the necessary discussions, and then ensuring that the services
5.2 provided did in fact work together to provide comprehensive victim support. It is therefore
recommended that the Family Violence Prevention Initiative be reinstated.
The 1999 Evaluation Report identified training as the most important critical success
factor in the implementation of the Framework. The need for training for new recruits and
providing a refresher and updates to existing staff in all justice sectors was identified by an
overwhelming majority of focus group participants during the current review. As well, all other
jurisdictions have identified ongoing training as essential to the successful implementation of a (6.1) pro-charge, pro-arrest, pro-prosecution policy.
It is therefore recommended that Nova Scotia
develop and implement ongoing training for all justice sectors, building on the initial
success of the train-the-trainer model used following the implementation of the Framework,
involving community agencies early on in both the development and delivery. Ongoing
training will help to eliminate inconsistencies in practice, will provide justice workers and
community agencies with the opportunity to identify and deal with concerns as they arise, and
will help to foster interagency cooperation.
6.2 In light of the widespread and serious concerns expressed about the need of the
judiciary for training on domestic violence, it is also recommended that the Minister of
Justice bring this report to the attention of the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, the
Chief Judge of the Family Court, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Chief
Justice of the Province, and to the attention of the National Judicial Institute, which
provides educational programming for the judiciary across Canada.
Auditing, monitoring and accountability mechanisms are important in order to assess the
effectiveness of the Framework and to ensure compliance. The 1999 Evaluation Report found
that while police agencies and the Victims' Services Division of the Department of Justice had
accepted their responsibility by establishing internal audit systems, no ongoing monitoring
process had been implemented by the Public Prosecution Service, Courts, or Correctional
Services. That remains true today. As well, the FVPI, which was to serve as the repository for
family violence outcome measures generated by all departments, has been eliminated and the
data collection process undertaken in April 1996 and completed in August 1998 to track
progress through the justice system has not been repeated. In Nova Scotia and elsewhere,
monitoring efforts have been hampered by the absence of integrated justice information system
7.1 It is recommended that the Minister of Justice require the Public Prosecution
Service, Courts and Registries, and Correctional Services to formally restate their
commitment to the Framework for Action Against Family Violence and require them,
within six months of their restatement, to articulate the means by which they will monitor
adherence to the Framework.
8.0 Interagency Cooperation
The 1999 Evaluation Report recognized that government had an important leadership
role to play and recommended that the Deputies' Committee on Social Policy reconfirm the
mandate of the Family Violence Prevention Initiative and establish the necessary accountability
framework. Virtually all focus group participants in the current review acknowledged the very
valuable role the FVPI had played in facilitating and supporting interagency cooperation and
expressed serious concern about the elimination of it in the 2000 Provincial budget.
Other Canadian jurisdictions have recognized that coordination must take place at all
levels to be effective and that it takes staff and a commitment of resources to do the work, as
8.1 well as leadership and support at the highest level. It is recommended that the Province
support and strengthen, with senior level commitment, the coordination of family violence
activities, within and external to the Department of Justice, involving both government and
community stakeholders. This initiative should build on the partnerships created by the Family
Violence Prevention Initiative and the commitment of the Interagency Committees on Family
Violence around the Province, as well as the efforts of those involved in the initial
implementation and training under the Framework.
Confidentiality concerns, cultural differences, and the resulting refusal to share vital
information pose significant obstacles to ensuring a comprehensive, co-ordinated response to
complex and difficult cases involving various justice sectors, community agencies, and the
8.2 Department of Community Services.
It is therefore recommended that existing interagency
protocols among police, child welfare, transition houses, Corrections and men's treatment
programs be reviewed and that, where required, new interagency protocols be developed
and confidentiality agreements concluded to facilitate the sharing of information necessary
to protect and support victims and their children. Priority should be given to reviewing,
revising and reinforcing protocols in place between child protection and police to improve
information sharing, case planning and coordination.
Focus group participants and respondents from other jurisdictions stressed that battered
women are deterred from coming forward and seeking assistance when they realize that s.
22(2)(i) of the Children and Family Services Act, or its equivalent in other jurisdictions, and
protocols specific to the reporting of children who witness domestic violence, expose them to
the risk of having their children taken away. It is important to find ways to minimize this
disincentive and to maximize remedial resources available to both women and children, so as to (8.3)prevent them from remaining trapped in violent families. It is therefore recommended that, as
in Ontario and in several jurisdictions in the United States, specialists in child protection
and in domestic violence be brought together to exchange information, to provide cross-training, and to develop protocols for case handling and service provision.
The whole area of programs for children exposed to family violence is extremely under-funded. In Nova Scotia there are no formal programs. Yet there is increasing recognition that
such programs are a key to preventing and reducing domestic violence. Some jurisdictions such as Ontario and British Columbia have begun to invest heavily in this area.
It is recommended
that Nova Scotia invest in the development of programs for children exposed to family
violence, involving both groups and individual counselling for children and youth to
address recovering from trauma and learning new, non-violent conflict resolution skills, as
well as to address the needs of those exhibiting aggressive behaviour themselves at home or
These programs should be accompanied by a complementary program for
mothers/non-violent parents to learn about the impact of the violence on their children, coping
methods, and parenting skills which support what the children are learning, along with safety
planning. These programs are perhaps our most promising chance to reduce family violence by
preventing the intergenerational cycle of violent behaviour.
The most common disposition in domestic violence cases in Nova Scotia is probation
and the use of conditions for referral to spousal abuse treatment programs has increased
significantly since the implementation of the Framework. There is substantial empirical
evidence to suggest that treatment does reduce recidivism. Those Canadian jurisdictions with a
renewed justice strategy are investing heavily in these programs. However, focus group
9.2 that resources for men's intervention and treatment programs in NovaScotia are inadequate.
therefore recommended that Nova Scotia invest in the expansion of programs for assaultive
partners to provide intervention/treatment based on a set of common standards as a
measure to prevent the violence from recurring.
9.3 The reluctance of victims living in Aboriginal communities and from visible
minorities to report spousal or partner violence was noted in the 1999 Evaluation Report
and again by focus group participants during the current review. It is important for justice
workers to be aware of this reluctance and of the reasons for it. It is therefore
recommended that this issue be addressed in the training program developed for justice
9.4 Victims of perpetrators from Aboriginal communities and racial minorities
sometimes feel that reporting their batterers to police is a breach of loyalty to their
community and are also concerned that reporting their batterers will contribute to
racial/cultural stereotyping. Such concerns may be alleviated, in part, by increased
reliance on evidence other than victim testimony. It is recommended that this be done
9.5 As well, insofar as evidence suggests that advocacy services can assist victims in
finding the strength to escape domestic violence on their own and can help to amplify their
voices to enable prosecution policies to be applied in a way that meets the needs of
particular victims, it is recommended that Nova Scotia invest in expansion of support
services for abused women, including advocacy services to provide outreach and support
for women from Aboriginal communities and visible minorities.
10.0 Public Education
Given that the ultimate goals of any policy on intimate partner violence must encompass
not only efforts to provide an effective justice response, but also efforts to prevent such violence
in the first place, public education must be seen as an important component of the province's
It is therefore recommended that Nova Scotia maintain and expand its initiatives in
Such initiatives should assist in identifying behaviours that are abusive,
providing information on services available to victims and their families, and increasing public
understanding of the fact that intimate partner violence will not be tolerated. Components of the
public education message would need to be tailored, both in terms of the specific content and the
medium used to convey it, in order to reach various groups within society, including those
already in, or at risk of entering, abusive relationships.
11.0 Civil Legislation
11.01 In light of the concerns expressed by victims about having to leave their homes and
about the stresses created by delays in Family Court processes, and based on the perceived
benefits of the immediacy and breadth of additional remedies available to protect the victim
and her children, it is recommended that Nova Scotia consider adopting domestic violence
legislation as a supplement to the Framework for Action. Given the studies done and
information available from other jurisdictions concerning usage rates for emergency orders and
longer term orders, it appears that emergency protection orders are of particular value and that
the provisions of greatest benefit to victims are those granting exclusive occupation of the home,
temporary care and custody of the children, and a specific prohibition against selling,
converting, or damaging property. Provisions directing removal of the abuser and seizure of
weapons are also important. Given the very low usage rates reported for longer-term orders and
warrants of entry, the value of these provisions is less clear. The experience of other
jurisdictions makes it clear that unless legal aid resources are adequate, these provisions will
rarely be used, and that, in any case, lawyers often do not use the legislation, either because they
are unfamiliar with it or because they prefer to use family law legislation to settle longer term
custody, access, support and property issues.
11.02 In the event that such legislation is adopted in Nova Scotia, it is recommended that
training be conducted well in advance of the introduction of the legislation and it include:
(1) the dynamics of family violence; (2) the Framework policies and procedures and
application of the Criminal Code; and (3) the elements of the civil legislation. The training
modules developed for the initial round of training under the Framework, as well as materials
from other jurisdictions with legislation, could be used as a basis for designing the training.
Training should address the specific roles of those involved in responding to domestic violence.
Community agencies should be involved early on in the development of training materials and in
the delivery of training modules. Members of the practicing Bar will also require training
through continuing legal education programming to familiarize themselves with the remedies
available under the legislation.
Interagency coordination and monitoring are necessary to ensure the successful implementation of such legislation.
It is recommended that coordination and monitoring
occur at both the local and provincial levels through interagency committees, and that, if
implemented, the legislation be monitored through ongoing data collection and that it be
evaluated within five years of its introduction.
Public education should also accompany the legislation to ensure the victims and the
community are aware of it. Issues pertaining to the application of the legislation on reserves
should be addressed in consultation with Aboriginal communities.
GOVERNMENT RESPONSE || TABLE OF CONTENTS