Making the Links in Family Violence Cases: Collaboration among the Family, Child Protection and Criminal Justice Systems

Annex 4: Family violence responses by jurisdiction - Newfoundland and Labrador

Legislative Responses

Family/Domestic Violence Legislation

Family Violence Protection Act was proclaimed July 1, 2006. It has a broader definition of violence than the Criminal Code. Conditions available include:

  • no contact;
  • exclusive possession;
  • custody;
  • requirement to make rent/mortgage payments;
  • restraining the respondent from terminating the basic services of utilities servicing the residence;
  • directing respondent to deliver to police weapons that he/she owns, possesses or controls; and
  • publication ban (applicant or child) on identifying information.

The maximum order is a 90 day order. It is granted ex parte on an emergency basis.

Prosecution is available for breach of an order made under this Act. Conviction can result in incarceration.

Children and Youth Care and Protection Act was proclaimed June 30, 2011. It provides the legislative authority to assess and investigate information that a child is or may be at risk of maltreatment by omission or commission of the parent. While investigation of all referrals of a child in need of protection is the responsibility of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, investigations are completed through collaboration with the police, other professionals and community resources.

Police

  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has national and divisional operational policy pertaining to Violence in Relationships.
  • The RCMP has national and divisional investigative guides and related policy.
  • Both the RCMP and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) consider domestic violence as a priority for service and use a proactive approach to charging individuals where reasonable grounds exist.
  • Victims of crime remain a priority. Both forces maintain close liaison with Victim Services with a focus on ensuring safety plans are established; with other community-based agencies providing services to victims of violence; and with Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) where children are involved.
  • Both police forces partnered with Victim Services to develop police officers as trainers on the Family Violence Protection Act and for training on Emergency Protection Orders.
  • Both police forces train their members to recognize the power imbalance between partners in a relationship and the dynamics that operate to prevent an alleged victim from taking steps to end the abuse.
  • Both police forces participate in the Violence Prevention Initiative and other Provincial Government initiatives that address family violence.

Domestic Violence Coordinator

  • The RNC has a dedicated constable position, a Domestic Violence Coordinator (DVC). This position reports to the Sergeant in charge of the Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Unit. The DVC is responsible to:
    • Work closely with all divisions within the RNC;
    • Review and revise the RNC policy on domestic violence;
    • Ensure compliance with RNC policy on domestic violence;
    • Develop training for frontline officers;
    • Review domestic violence reports and files;
    • Follow-up with victims;
    • Track repeat victims and offenders;
    • Liaise with Victim Services, shelters, CYFS, social services, Crown attorneys and other vested groups;
    • Assist in educational seminars for vested groups;
    • Liaise with other police services;
    • Participate in media/community information seminars; and
    • Develop, implement and assess a risk assessment tool.
  • All files pertaining to domestic disputes, whether or not charges are laid, are checked for content and quality by the DVC. The DVC maintains statistical data and reports on the following:
    • date of offence;
    • complainant-female/male (names/addresses);
    • action taken - if arrest, charges laid (type/number);
    • age of arrested person (name/address);
    • relationship - accused/complainant;
    • circumstances;
    • weapon involved; and
    • notification to Child Youth and Family Services.

Policy and Procedure

  • The RNC policy pertaining to family violence identifies that one of its major goals is to deliver a coordinated and consistent response. RNC police officers are trained to recognize the power imbalance between partners in a relationship, and the dynamics that operate to prevent an alleged victim from taking steps to end the abuse. The policy states that rigorous arrest and charge policies have been shown to reduce violence committed against people by their partners.
  • The policy identifies four principles and four objectives:
    • Principles:
      • Everyone has a right to live free of violence;
      • No one deserves to be abused physically, sexually, emotionally or financially;
      • No one has the right to control another person by threat, coercion, physical intimidation or by any misuse of power; and
      • People will accept help when they are ready and the choice not to accept help must be respected.
    • Objectives:
      • Ensure the safety and security of complainants;
      • Apprehend and charge offenders;
      • Prevent a breach of the peace; and
      • Inform all concerned parties of their rights.

Emergency Protection Orders

  • The Family Violence Protection Act provides a mechanism by way of civil remedy to protect persons who are threatened with, or are the victims of, family violence. The Actallows a victim of family violence to apply to a Provincial Court Judge for an emergency protection order.
  • Police officers have been identified within this Act as a class of persons who can make application on behalf of a victim of domestic violence. Application for these orders may be made by police officers to a Provincial Court Judge on a 24/7 basis, including statutory holidays. When an application is received at the court it is given priority and presented to the Judge immediately for review and decision. Staff and Judges are aware of the priority for these applications.
  • When an officer is satisfied that "family violence" has occurred, the police officer shall inform the potential applicant of the provisions of the Family Violence Protection Act.
  • When grounds exist to support an emergency protection order, and it would be appropriate to enhance the safety of the applicant and/or children, the police officer is trained to assist the complainant in making application for the order.

Family Violence Investigative Report

  • The RNC is testing the use of a Family Violence Investigation Report. This report is a summary of the investigating officer’s file, highlighting areas regarding history, escalation and victim’s perception of family violence. They also consider aggravating factors to a victim’s safety. The information contained within the report may be used by the police and/or Crown attorney to draw attention to issues to be considered at the release of an accused. 

Family Violence Training

  • RNC police officers receive training in the Collaborative Approach to the Investigation of Family Violence. This training is a three day program delivered jointly by the RNC and the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services and in partnership with the Department of Social Work at Memorial University. Topics covered in the training include the following:
    • Principles of family violence;
    • Social attitudes around family violence;
    • Characteristics of abusive men;
    • The impact of violence on women (physical impacts, societal impacts, economic impacts);
    • Why do women stay;
    • Impact of violence on children;
    • What can the police do or say to children;
    • What can the social work do or say to children;
    • What are the effects of family violence;
    • Exposure to family violence and child development;
    • The impact of family violence on mothers;
    • Family Violence Protection Act;
    • Emergency protection orders;
    • Investigative protocol;
    • Police investigative response; and
    • Social work investigative response.

Crown

Policies

The Guide Book of Policies and Procedures for the Conduct of Criminal Prosecutions in Newfoundland and Labrador addresses how Crown attorneys should respond to cases involving spousal violence. This includes a section on child witnesses in cases of spousal violence. The Guide Book also makes specific reference to child victims under its Victims of Crime section.

Protocols

The Children and Youth Care and Protection Act is applicable to Crown attorneys and would compel reporting in circumstances outlined in the legislation. Crown attorneys participate in joint training between the police agencies and Child, Youth and Family Services Workers relating to dealing with child victims.

Child Protection

Policies

The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) has a Risk Management Decision Making Model (RMDM) (2013) which is a mandatory decision making framework for child protection across the province. Within the RMDM manual, social workers use screening and response prioritization guidelines which provide specific guidance on screening and responding to family violence situations.

The Protection and In Care Policy and Procedures Manual (2011) guides the work of social workers in the delivery of child protection services. This manual includes policy direction for seeking police involvement in child protection matters and direction for social workers when making an application to the court to seek a prohibit contact order.

Protocols

Memorandum of Understanding on Information Sharing: A coordinated Response In Child Abuse- outlines a process for sharing of information between the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Child, Youth and Family Services and policing agencies on matters relating to the protection of children.

Through the CYFS Training Unit, a three day Introduction to Family Violence training is offered to social workers in collaboration with the RNC and the RCMP. Additional details regarding the training and the topics covered can be found under the Police section above.

Service-Based Responses

Victim Services

This is provided through the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Justice and it is systems based.

The adult program is available to all victims of criminal offences, regardless of the status of the charge. Services include:

  • Information on the criminal justice system;
  • Supportive counselling;
  • Specific information on court proceedings;
  • Court preparation;
  • Court support;
  • Referrals to other agencies;
  • Assistance with victim impact statements; and
  • Safety Planning.

Once charges are laid, the full range of services can be provided to children (under 16 years of age) and their caregivers. The program focuses on providing support and preparation to children who have to testify in criminal court. The services are free of charge.

Shelters

Newfoundland and Labrador has 12 shelters/safe houses. Shelters are operated by non-profit community organizations and are typically open to women and children who have experienced violence or are at risk of experiencing violence. The services are free of charge.

Programs for Children Exposed to Family Violence

Programs, either individual or group, are available to children who have witnessed domestic violence. The group programs are accessible in urban and some rural areas of the province.

Abusive Partner Programs

The Newfoundland and Labrador Corrections branch offers a 10 week Respectful Relationships module delivered by corrections staff for low risk offenders.

Intensive programming for moderate and high risk offenders, through contracted services, are offered in two locations within the province.

Parent & Child Education/Information

Child protection social workers provide support and education to their clients regarding the effects exposure to domestic violence has on children. Social workers may develop a plan with the family to reduce the risk of harm created by the exposure to domestic violence. In these situations information is provided regarding regionally based community services available to parents and their children (i.e. counselling services for victim of violence).

Other Services

  • The Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Advanced Education and Skills provides immediate support to women (and their children) in receipt of income who want to leave an abusive situation.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador Housing has a Victims of Family Violence Policy.
  • Violence Awareness and Action Training (VAAT) was developed in 2001 by the Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI). It is a one-day workshop aimed at improving services to victims of violence by increasing sensitivity and awareness of service providers to the factors contributing to violence and its impact on society. Participants are provided an opportunity to examine attitudes, values and beliefs that support violence. It is designed to be co-facilitated by VPI partners and stakeholders and delivered within an inter-departmental, community/regional model to improve interagency communication, coordination and capacity building. This training is offered free of charge, across the province through VPI’s 10 Regional Coordinating Committees with participants receiving a certificate issued from the VPI upon completion. There is also a two-day VAAT Train-the-Trainer workshop that supports individuals who wish to become VAAT facilitators by offering training on adult learning principles, facilitation skills, and the material to be used in a VAAT session.

Tools/Processes to Ensure Safety

Structured Risk Assessment Tools

The Newfoundland and Labrador Risk Management System Decision-Making Model (RMDM) is an assessment and case management framework used in conjunction with a social worker’s clinical judgment to guide decision making. The tools in RMDM include:

  • Screening and Prioritization Guidelines which assist in the screening of referrals and determining the most appropriate response time;
  • Safety Assessment which assists in the assessment of immediate safety of the child;
  • Safety Plan which is required if interventions are necessary to ensure safety of the child during the investigation;
  • Risk Assessment Instrument which assists in identifying the factors which place the child at future risk of maltreatment; and
  • Family Centered Action Plan which is used as the primary planning tool with children and families to identify interventions targeted at risk reduction.

Coordinating Mechanisms

Information Sharing Protocols

There is a Memorandum of Understanding between the Newfoundland and Labrador Child Youth and Family Services and the policing agencies.

Family Violence Action Plans

The Violence Prevention Initiative of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador reflects government’s commitment to addressing the problem of violence in the province. Phase I consisted of a six year, multi-departmental, government - community partnership to find long term solutions to the problem of violence against those most at risk in our society - women, children, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal women and children and other people who are vulnerable to violence because of their ethnicity, sexual orientation or economic status. The Violence Prevention Initiative is coordinated by the Women's Policy Office. A Social Marketing Campaign was initiated to address youth violence, violence against the older person, child abuse reporting and respecting women. Consultations for Phase II have occurred and the information gathered will shape the initiative’s second phase spanning the years 2013-2018.

Justice Minister’s Committee on Violence Against Women

The Justice Minister’s Committee on Violence against Women was formed in 2005 to enable key stakeholders to regularly meet with the Minister of Justice to share information and perspectives related to issues of violence against women. The purpose of the Committee is to provide a forum for the exchange of meaningful dialogue between government and non-government agencies working in areas affecting violence against women. The Committee forum provides an opportunity for the Minister of Justice to hear any concerns and/or happenings pertaining to violence against women directly from community organizations. It also provides the Minister with a forum for communicating developments and happenings within the Justice system to the community.

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