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

Annex 4: Family violence responses by jurisdiction - Nova Scotia

Legislative Responses

Family/Domestic Violence Legislation

The Domestic Violence Intervention Act offers the option of 30-day Emergency Protection Order (EPO) in specific situations of intimate partner violence.

Amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act as part of the Domestic Violence Action Plan have been passed and proclamation is expected in early fall 2013. An amendment will allow for a victim of domestic violence to leave a lease early without financial penalty in cases of domestic violence.

Family Law Provisions Related to Family Violence

In the spring 2012 session, the Maintenance and Custody Act was amended to include a definition of family violence and a list of best interest of the child factors that includes a requirement to consider family violence when making custody and access determinations.

Child Protection Provisions Related to Family Violence

Section 22(2) of the Children & Family Services Act (CFSA) states that a child may be in need of protective services where: “the child has suffered physical or emotional harm caused by being exposed to repeated domestic violence by or toward a parent or guardian of the child, and the child’s parent or guardian fails or refuses to obtain services or treatment to remedy or alleviate the violence”.



The Framework for Action Against Family Violence sets out the following policy guidelines for police:


The police agency/RCMP detachment shall develop written protocols with each primary service provider in their jurisdiction relating to referral, information sharing, case management and monitoring relating to high risk cases of domestic violence (High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Framework).



The Framework for Action against Family Violence provides that:

Crown policies are online:



The Framework for Action against Family Violence provides that:

Child Protection


High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Framework: Provides for sharing of critical information in cases that have been designated High Risk for repeated violence or lethality.

Service-Based Responses

Victim Services


Transition House Association of Nova Scotia – 13 shelters throughout Nova Scotia provide a range of in-house, second-stage housing and community outreach programmes for assaulted women.

Programs for Children Exposed to Family Violence

The Department of Justice, Victim Services, Criminal Injuries Counselling program funds counselling sessions for children exposed to domestic violence. Upon approval by the Director, children may receive counselling funding of up to $2,000 paid directly to an approved therapist of the parents’ choice.

Abusive Partner Programs

Six Men’s Intervention Programs in Nova Scotia provide a range of group and individual counselling to men who have been abusive in their relationships. Programs are funded by the Department of Community Services. There is no standard program offered, each agency operates independently.

Supervised Access

Supervised access and exchange programs are offered through the Supreme Court Family Division (SCFD) in Halifax and Sydney. Programming is delivered by local community agencies. Currently, through funding from Justice Canada, the Nova Scotia Department of Justice is expanding its supervised access to the Family Court locations in Nova Scotia using a similar model.

Parent Education/Information

Parent education programming is mandatory in the SCFD. The program is delivered at the court site by trained volunteer facilitators. In Family Court sites, parent education programming is voluntary.

Child Education/Information

Other Services

Court-Based Responses

Domestic Violence Court

The Domestic Violence Court Program (DVCP) is a pilot project in Sydney, Nova Scotia which opened in June 2012. This is an early intervention court offering early access to intervention programs. Core programming developed in British Columbia includes a 10-week psycho-educational program called “Respectful Relationships” and the more intensive 17-week therapeutic intervention, the “Relationship Violence Program”. “Respectful Relationships” is co-facilitated by community agency and community corrections staff. In order to qualify for the DVCP, the offence must be eligible for a community disposition (e.g. no offences for which a there is a mandatory minimum sentence).

Integrated Domestic Violence Courts

There are no integrated domestic violence courts at this time. A draft protocol based on the former Newfoundland and Labrador Family Violence Court is being considered as part of the DVCP pilot project but is not yet in effect.

Tools/Processes to Ensure Safety

Structured Risk Assessment Tools

The ODARA risk assessment tool is used by all police agencies in Nova Scotia – it is provided to the Crown in brief and provided to Corrections at sentencing, if there is a conviction.

If the ODARA score is 7+, cases are designated for specialized case management in Nova Scotia’s High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Framework. Information may then be shared with identified primary service providers: police and police-based domestic violence case coordinators, victims services, child protection, corrections, transition house association member agency and men’s intervention programs based on local protocols.

The Jacqueline Campbell Danger Assessment is used by community agencies such as transition house member agencies, child protection and victim services. Results are shared if score requires designation of case for case management in the High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Framework.


Police domestic violence pocket guide exists to help police follow directions in the Framework for Action Against Family Violence – it contains instructions for child protection referrals, dominant aggressor policy application, and ODARA instructions (among other things).

Screening for Family Violence

As part of the differential response in family justice pilot projects, which include the development of a parent information program for parents in high conflict, an early case assessment tool has been developed to help family court officers identify cases that are high conflict in order to offer appropriate and timely services. Training sessions have been held with court officers and other justice partners.

Coordinating Mechanisms

Information Sharing Protocols

The High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Framework is a protocol of the Departments of Justice and Community Services to allow for the sharing of critical information between primary service providers in cases that are identified as high risk through risk assessment. Critical information is defined as:

Primary services providers are: police and police-based domestic violence case coordinators, victim services, child welfare, corrections, transition house association of Nova Scotia member agency and men’s intervention programs.

Inter-Agency Protocols

Interagency Committees on Family Violence – comprised of child welfare, transition house, police, health, and men’s intervention programs – operate in several larger communities throughout Nova Scotia. Their function is primarily to maintain communication between agencies. Larger groups in Sydney and Halifax undertake public education campaigns about domestic violence and host workshops, lectures and large-scale public events.

Coordinating Committees

High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Committees operate in each Nova Scotia county (18). They are comprised of the six primary service providers named in the Protocol Framework with the addition of specialized service providers in specific communities (such as Aboriginal service providers in First Nation territories).

Family Violence Action Plans

The Framework for Action Against Family Violence (1996) governs policy responses for all divisions in the Department of Justice and requires specialized responses to cases of domestic violence. This includes Nova Scotia’s pro-arrest, pro-charge and pro-prosecution policy.

The Domestic Violence Action Plan 2010 is a comprehensive cross-government plan to address domestic violence. Features include four broad areas of focus: