Programming Responses for Intimate Partner Violence

ONTARIO

Context

IPV Legislation: N/A

Domestic Violence Court:

Domestic Violence Courts and Court processes are available throughout the province.

Provincial Action Plan:

Domestic Violence Action Plan Progress Report, 2012

The Ontario Domestic Violence Action Plan covers a broad area of services and Ministries that intersect with IPV and outlines the commitment to oversight through a Ministerial Steering Committee. The Ontario plan is based on a number of overarching principles:

  1. a right to safety, stating that women have a right to live safely,
  2. equality, the document recognizes that violence against women is based on fundamental inequality between men and women,
  3. public leadership, recognizes the government’s role in providing leadership in ending domestic violence,
  4. shared responsibilities, commits to working with a broad cross section of society to create partnerships,
  5. personal accountability, focuses on the abuser and the application of effective interventions and prevention
  6. diversity and equity of access, is a recognition of the vast diversity of needs in the province and a commitment to address the uniqueness of communities
  7. holistic response, acknowledges a broad array of intersecting issues related to domestic violence including employment, housing and child care
  8. balanced approach, addresses the needs to focus on both the abuser and the victims’ needs

The plan calls for continuous evaluation and improvement of programs for abusive partners and victim supports.

Each of Ontario’s 54 court jurisdictions offers a Domestic Violence Court Program. The components of this program include: (a) Partner Assault Response (PAR) program(s), (b) Crown Attorney’s with additional legal training related to domestic violence, (c) specialized evidence gathering protocols for police, (d) case management policies and procedures for Probation and Parole staff, (e) designated Victim Witness Assistance Program staff to assist and support victims throughout the court process and provide information, support and referrals , and (f) a Domestic Violence Court Advisory Committee comprised of justice sector and community representatives to support the ongoing effective operation of the domestic violence court program.

Risk Assessment

Police services across Ontario utilize a standardized risk assessment checklist for DV related occurrences. The Domestic Violence Supplementary Report is currently being phased out in favour of an updated tool that closely aligns with the SARA (DVRM). Police services also utilize the ODARA.

Probation officers use the Level of Service Risk Inventory (LSI) for all offenders. Although there are information sharing agreements to ensure that risk assessment information is shared with PAR programs, the implementation of these protocols are inconsistent across the province. PAR programs do not complete additional formal risk assessment.

Most communities in Ontario have a court-based domestic violence committee that monitors high-risk offenders. Membership on these committees generally include police, Crown, probation, court based victim services and in some jurisdictions, PAR programs. Community-based case conferencing committees for high-risk families also exist in some jurisdictions and often utilize the B-SAFER or SARA to assist in case planning. Membership on these committees generally include all agencies that provide IPV services, police and child protection services. In some jurisdictions, victims participate in community-based high-risk case conferences.

Domestic Violence Court

The Crown Attorney considers offenders for early intervention if an offender has no convictions for IPV-related offences, has not caused significant injuries or harm, has not used weapons, and chooses to plead guilty. Offenders who enter the early intervention program are generally remanded on conditions to attend and complete a PAR program. In some jurisdictions, early intervention offenders are sentenced immediately and attendance at PAR is mandated as a condition of a probation order. If successful, they are granted a conditional discharge, absolute discharge or peace bond. If the offender does not complete or re-offends during the program, the original charge is reinstated and new charges may be laid.

Offenders who do not wish to participate or are not eligible for the early intervention stream are prosecuted through the coordinated prosecution stream. The coordinated prosecution stream utilizes specialized evidence collection and investigation procedures by police in order to maximize the amount of supporting evidence that is presented to the court (for example 911 tapes, video-taping of victims statements, photographs of injuries, medical reports and witness statements).

The courts also provide access to justice-linked intervention services through peace-bonds. Peace-bonds are generally used when there is a low probability of conviction. In some jurisdictions in Ontario, the accused enters into a peace bond with conditions to attend a PAR program.

While attending the PAR program, information regarding the participant’s progress is shared with the referral source on consent of the program participant. Protocols are in place to ensure that certain mandatory information is shared between Crown Attorneys, Victim/Witness Assistance Program staff, Probation staff and PAR programs. High-Risk Committees exist in all court jurisdictions in Ontario and PAR program membership on the High Risk Offender Committee is generally on a case-by-case invitation only.

Funding

Partner Assault Response (PAR) programs are offered as part of the Domestic Violence Court process and are funded through the Ministry of the Attorney General, Victims and Vulnerable Persons Division. In Ontario there are 63 Partner Assault Response Programs (PAR) attached to provincial court jurisdictions. Designated Crown attorneys are jointly responsible with Victim/Witness Assistance Program staff for implementing the domestic violence court program. Organizations delivering PAR programs are not funded to provide the service to voluntary clients or clients under other social mandates.

Structure

Offenders are referred to PAR programs as a condition of: (a) a peace bond (section 810 of the Criminal Code), (b) a Revised Recognizance of Bail and agreement to attend and complete a PAR program (known as Early Intervention), or (c) a sentence order following a guilty plea or finding of guilt following a trial (known as Coordinated Prosecution).

Treatment

Regardless of the referral stream, offenders enter the same 12-week PAR program. These programs are offered in both closed and open formats depending on the agency. Groups include a minimum of 15 participants. In larger centres, groups of 20 to 25 men are not uncommon.

The curriculum for PAR is pre-set with 9 mandatory topics. The topics are: 1) Domestic Violence – Defining Abuse; 2) How Beliefs and Attitudes Affect Behaviour; 3) Effects of Abuse on Children, Partners and Self; 4) Understanding Triggers / Warning Signs; 5) The Impact of Substance Abuse; 6) Healthy Relationships; 7) Respectful Communications 8) Dealing with Conflict; 9) Responsibility and Accountability .

PAR is a group education/counselling program that provides offenders with an opportunity to examine their beliefs and attitudes and learn non-abusive ways of resolving conflict.

Parenting/Impact on child witnesses

Caring Dads is available in some court jurisdictions (London, Chatham/Kent, St. Thomas, Sarnia/Lambton, Clinton/Huron, Stratford/Perth, Woodstock, Kitchener, Waterloo, Guelph, Orangeville, Niagara, Burlington, Toronto, Kingston, Cornwall, Ottawa, Pembroke, Thunder Bay, Aitkokan/Rainy River, Kenora/Dryden). Probation officers supervising DV offenders and child protection workers frequently refer offenders to Caring Dads.

Caring Dads is a group intervention program for fathers who have abused or neglected their children, exposed them to abuse of their mothers, or are at high-risk for these behaviours. The Caring Dads program differs from other parenting programs in its attention to the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child maltreatment and its strong integration with child protection services. The Caring Dads program is offered to groups of approximately 12 fathers over 15 2-hour group sessions and 2 individual sessions.

Accountability to Victims

Partner Contact is a mandatory component of the PAR program. Funding is provided to offer victims and/or current partners with safety planning and support, referrals to community resources and information about the offender’s progress throughout the duration of the program.

Evaluation

A number of evaluations of Ontario’s DV response have been conducted including the following:

Cassell, J., Green, V., and MacGregor, N. (2015). Intimate Partner Violence and the Scales of Justice: Monitoring the Specialized Domestic Violence Court Program in Toronto, Ontario.

Johnson, H., and Fraser, J. (2011). Specialized domestic violence courts: do they make women safer? Community Report: Phase I.

PAR programs have also been evaluated, including an evaluation of attitudinal change of PAR program participants across 10 agencies, an evaluation of the PAR system, and a study of recidivism.

Quann, N. (2006). Offender Profile and Recidivism among Domestic Violence Offenders in Ontario. Department of Justice Canada.

Scott, K. (2006). Final Report - Attitudinal change in participants of partner assault response (PAR) programs: Phase II.

Scott, K., King, C., McGinn, H., and Hosseini, N. (2013). The (Dubious?) Benefits of second chances in batterer intervention programs. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1657-1671.

Integration

Varies within jurisdictions.

Innovation

The High Risk Safety Project was aimed at addressing the needs of accused at moderate to high risk of reoffending immediately following a DV charge. This program offered referrals to offenders at the time of release from bail to individual counselling focused on assessment and reduction of dynamic risk for reoffending. Evaluations showed substantial reductions in reoffending in one and two-year follow-up for these high-risk offenders. Results are available in the following publication:

Scott, K., Heslop, L., Kelly, T., and Wiggins, K. (2015). Intervening to prevent repeat offending among moderate- to high risk domestic violence offenders: a second-responder program for men. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 59(3), 273-294.

Kizhaay Anishnaabe Niin (I am a Kind Man) is an initiative created to provide an opportunity for communities to engage Aboriginal men and youth in understanding violence against Aboriginal women and support them in joining together to end the violence.

The Integrated Domestic Violence Court provides a single judge to hear both the criminal and the family law cases (excluding divorce, family property and child protection cases) that relate to one family where the underlying issue is domestic violence. The goals of this court are a more integrated and holistic approach to families experiencing domestic violence, increased consistency between family and criminal court orders and quicker resolutions of the judicial proceedings.

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