Iqaluit council pushes GN on intimate partner violence law

Clare’s Law could be a preventive tool, says Coun. Kimberly Smith

An Iqaluit city councillor says a law that allows people to request information from the police about a person’s history of violence should be adopted in Nunavut.

Count. Kimberly Smith put forward a motion to city council in May for the council to formally request the Government of Nunavut to implement Clare’s Law in the territory.

The Council unanimously approved the motion and sent a letter to Justice Minister David Akeeagok on May 30.

Clare’s Law is named after Clare Wood, a woman who was murdered in England in 2009 by her ex-partner, a man who police knew had multiple convictions for violence against women.

The law works in two ways: it allows members of the public to ask the police for information about a potential abuser, and it allows the police to disclose information about a person’s history of abuse or intimate partner violence.

“Perhaps you’re dating someone [and] you see a red flag or you’re planning on moving in with somebody and it allows the police to look into that person,” Smith said.

“If they have a history of sexual or intimate partner violence, they can let you know in a discrete and confidential way to allow you to protect yourself.”

Smith said the law is meant to act as a preventive tool. “Right now we have certain programs in place like the Family Abuse Intervention Act that allow for certain things like protective orders and things of that nature, but in order for that to be enacted the violence has to already be actively occurring,” Smith said.

“You already have to be in a dangerous, violent situation in order to implement an emergency protective order, so [Clare’s Law] would be a tool that would hopefully help interrupt that cycle from happening in the first place.”

Domestic violence rates are nine times higher than the rest of Canada, according to research done in 2019 by the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre.

Smith said any tool that can be implemented to help stop intimate partner violence is worth pursuing.

So far, versions of Clare’s Law have been adopted in Canada by Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador, and other provinces have had discussions about implementing it.

Justice Minister David Akeeagok responded to Smith’s motion in a letter on June 22, saying the GN “is committed to addressing the risks of intimate partner violence and to protect victims, or potential victims, in Nunavut, including exploring potential legislative changes,” but that implementing the law would require “consultation and careful analysis.”

One potential obstacle with adopting the law in Nunavut is that the territory’s police force, the RCMP, is a federal institution rather than a provincial police force, which would have more say in what policies they want to adopt.

“There [are] federal privacy rules that prevent them from disclosing that type of information to individuals,” Smith said.

“However, I do think it’s a very valuable tool, and I would hope that the Nunavut government would advocate for the federal government to have those rules changed in order to be able to implement this with the RCMP.”

Meanwhile, Smith encourages anyone who’s experiencing violence or is at risk of violence to reach out to the RCMP “if you’re in immediate danger, reach out to friends and family, reach out to your community justice worker, your social worker. ”

“There are resources out there right now to help. No one should ever have to go through anything like this alone,” Smith said.