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

Annex 4: Family violence responses by jurisdiction - Alberta

Legislative Responses

Family/Domestic Violence Legislation

The Protection Against Family Violence Act (PAFVA) contains provisions for obtaining a Protection Order as well as offence provisions for breaching an Order. There are provisions for emergency orders (section 2) as well as Queen’s Bench orders (section 10). PAFVA provides for Warrants permitting entrance (section 10). Potential clauses include no contact, exclusive possession of the home, etc. For a full summary see the PAFVA Guide.

Family Law Provisions Related to Family Violence

Under the Family Law Act (FLA), all decisions made with regard to a child, whether by a guardian or by the court must be made in the best interests of the child. The Court is required to “ensure the greatest possible protection of the child’s physical, psychological and emotional safety” and consider all the child’s needs and circumstances, including any family violence. A definition of family violence is provided at sub-section 18(3).

The Matrimonial Property Act (MPA) governs the division of matrimonial property when married couples separate or get a divorce. The Court may grant an order, either ex parte or with notice, giving a spouse exclusive possession of the matrimonial home, directing that a spouse be evicted from the matrimonial home, and/or restraining a spouse from entering or attending at or near the matrimonial home (section 19).

Other than preventing a spouse from entering, visiting, or being in the matrimonial home, the Court has no jurisdiction under the MPA to limit the conduct or contact (including harassing phone calls made to the matrimonial home) between the spouses.

Child Protection Provisions Related to Family Violence

The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act is the legal authority in Alberta for providing intervention services when there are concerns that a child or youth is being neglected or abused by their parent or guardian. This includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional injury and abandonment.

For the purposes of this Act, a child is emotionally injured by exposure to domestic violence or severe domestic disharmony (sub-section 1(3)(a)(ii)(C)).


Policies and Protocols

The Family Violence Police Advisory Committee (PAC) has developed Domestic Violence Guidelines for Police Services in Alberta (distributed to all Chiefs of Police in 2009). These Guidelines are currently being updated for distribution in the fall of 2013.

Police Charge Policies and Procedures

In all domestic violence occurrences an officer is to lay a charge where there are reasonable grounds to do so, including:

Bail Procedures

The procedures should provide that in all domestic violence occurrences officers will at minimum, comply with R v Bleile (2000) 31 CR (5th) 275 (AB QB) and obtain the following information prior to speaking to bail:

The Family Violence Investigation Report (FVIR) will assist in satisfying these criteria.

Release from Custody

Procedures should provide, inter alia, that police speak to the victim before deciding whether to release the suspect.

When the accused is being released from custody the following conditions should be considered:

Procedures should include that the suspect be required to attend court within seven days of the initial occurrence, wherever possible.

Informing Complainants
Case Management Strategies

The Family Violence Investigative Report (FVIR) is a mandatory report, designed to be completed within 12 hours of the investigation of intimate partner domestic incidents. Intimate partner violence includes all heterosexual and same sex relationship incidents involving married, cohabitating, dating, estranged/former partners or persons who are the parents of one or more children, regardless of whether they have lived together at any time. The “Officer’s Notes” sections are to be completed where applicable and used for preparing the police report.

In extremely high-risk cases, a referral should be made to the Integrated Threat and Risk Management Centre (I-TRAC) the provincial, multidisciplinary threat assessment unit dedicated to reducing and preventing relationship violence and stalking.

Where the safety of the victim or children is a concern, police officers, with the consent of the victim, should consider applying for an Emergency Protection Order under the Protection Against Family Violence Act, whether or not criminal charges are laid (section 6).

Requirements for Cooperation or Coordination

In every case where the safety of a child is concerned police officers shall contact Human Services.

Integrated Threat and Risk Assessment Centre (I-TRAC)

I-TRAC is a joint forces multi-disciplinary unit that provides law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies with threat assessment services and proactive approaches to reduce acts of targeted violence within their communities. I-TRAC services include: assessing the level of risk an individual may pose to commit an act of targeted violence, providing case management strategies, training, safety planning, expert testimony and facilitating access to external agencies including mental health, specialized law enforcement and other criminal justice units.

Requirements for Cooperation or Coordination

The Domestic Violence Police Guidelines contains the following suggestions with respect to collaboration and coordination recognizing that capacity issues may affect the degree to which a police agency can participate:

Every police service is encouraged to establish a domestic violence coordinating committee with the above community service providers, systems and agencies, for the purposes of:

Other Specialized Teams

Specialized police teams exist in Medicine Hat, Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Camrose. The RCMP also has a number of specialized domestic violence response teams, units or coordinators, including in Westaskiwin, Red Deer, Hobbema – Maskwacis, Sherwood Park, Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray and Airdrie.



Crown prosecutors are guided in IPV cases by the Domestic Violence Guideline. It includes extensive direction to prosecutors relating to treatment of cases, victims, release/bail, sentencing, etc.


Alberta Justice and Solicitor General recently revised the Domestic Violence Handbook (2013) which contains direction and guidance to Police and Crowns. Crowns are also assisted by the Child Abuse Handbook which is also currently being updated.

Additionally, all criminal justice stakeholders are guided by the Victims of Crime Guideline and Protocol regarding the treatment of victims.

Other Prosecution Protocols:

Requirements for Coordination and Cooperation

Prosecutors are required to advise Human Services in any case where there are children in a relationship where there has been violence.

Prosecutors work closely with police and various agencies involved in Domestic Violence Courts.

Child Protection


Casework Practice Model, which was implemented province-wide in 2008, builds on leading practices; gives children, youth and families more input into decisions; and helps caseworkers create more effective, strength-based solutions that build relationships with families. The model collaborates with the resources and services working with families to achieve outcomes that promote safety and permanency.

The Child Intervention Standards do not replace provincial acts, regulations or policy but are intended to complement or supplement those standards that are embedded within them as well as in any statutory agreements.


Child Abuse Reporting Procedures Protocol between Region 2 Women’s Shelters and Southeast Alberta Child and Family Services Authority – Region 2.

Intimate Partner Violence Treatment Services (IPV) Linking Protocol between the City of Edmonton Community Services and Edmonton John Howard Society, Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services-Region 6, Edmonton and Area Community Corrections, Edmonton General Prosecutions, and Edmonton Police Service.

Building a Collaborative Community Response-Protocol between Edmonton Women’s Shelters and Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services –Region 6.

Service-Based Responses

Victim Services

Police-based victim services units are available to deliver services to victims of crime in all parts of Alberta.

Victim services in Alberta are provided by 76 police based victim services units operating out of 139 service delivery areas. These individual non-profit agencies are funded through the Victims of Crime Fund. They are co-located with municipal police services and RCMP detachments throughout Alberta. They deliver ongoing, frontline services to victims of crime that includes providing information about available programs and services, updates on the status of court cases, court preparation and court accompaniment. Victim Service Units provide information, assistance and support to victims throughout the police investigation and any subsequent court proceeding. Victims of crime are referred to Victim Services Units by police. Collaboration occurs with many community partners to provide education and increased awareness.

An additional 35 funding agreements with community agencies and organizations are in place to deliver specialized assistance and programming to address gaps for vulnerable victims. Community Victim Service Agencies can be accessed via self-referral by a victim, police referral or referral from another community agency based on victim need. These community based programs target the unique needs of human trafficking victims, victims of elder abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and victims from identified ethno-cultural groups.

The Edmonton and Calgary Police Services also provide Child At-Risk Response Teams (CARRT) in situations where children are considered at risk.

Zebra Child Protection Centre has been lending strength to victims of child abuse within Edmonton.

There are nine Sexual Assault Centres across Alberta. Sexual assault Centres provide a safe place for healing to begin for those who have been victimized, both young and old. Services include: crisis intervention counselling (individual and group), education and awareness programs aimed at prevention, and advocacy and support for survivors as they deal with this serious crime.

Calgary Connect – Family and Sexual Abuse Network operates a confidential 24-7 telephone hotline and a website with links and surveys that are dedicated to getting Calgarians connected to the relationship and healing resources they need.

Fleeing Abuse Benefit (financial assistance) – Individuals who feel they need to get out of a family violence situation can apply to any Alberta Works office for support.

Edmonton John Howard Society: Family Violence Prevention Centre offers information, referrals, crisis intervention, safety planning, and advocacy. Services are also available in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Victims Assistance offers court preparation and support for victims of family violence.

YWCA offers individual and family counselling as well as support groups for abused women. They also have groups for women wanting to learn how to control their anger and groups for children and youth exposed to family violence.

Elizabeth Fry Society – Girls Empowered and Strong Program is for girls 13-17 that empowers them to make strong positive choices for their futures. Sessions include healthy relationships, bullying and dating violence.

Legal Aid, Family Law Offices– Emergency Protection Order Project (EPOP) (Edmonton & Calgary (and surrounding areas)) provides clients with staff lawyers to obtain and confirm protection orders. The Program also provides ongoing information, risk assessments, and safety plans to victims of family violence. The service is free and there are no eligibility requirements.


The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) currently has 43 member shelters. Over $27 million is provided annually for shelters for women:

In addition, over $0.328 million in program funding is offered to community Northern Haven Support Society.

Alberta Justice and Solicitor General Victims Services currently provide funding to A Safe Place Shelter in Sherwood Park, Alberta for the position of Victim Support Worker. This position provides information, emotional support and referrals as well as court support and accompaniment to domestic violence victims. This position also has specialized training in service provision to human trafficking victims as well as shelter for victims. A Safe Place accepts victims from a variety of referral sources including police, victim services, government agencies and self-referred victims.

Programs for Children Exposed to Family Violence

Alberta Justice and Solicitor General Victims Services provides funding for the Canadian Society for the Investigation of Child Abuse which has developed an on-line court preparation program that targets children, teens and parents supporting children and teens throughout the court process. There is also an in-person version of the program based in Calgary. The on-line courts support program can be accessed through a local victim services unit or by any victim in the general public who has access to the internet.

Alberta Justice and Solicitor General fund two child advocacy centres in Alberta. The Caribou Centre in Grande Prairie and the Zebra Centre in Edmonton provide comprehensive support to children and their non-offending parent including, forensic interviewing for police, counselling, court support and accompaniment. Access to Child Advocacy Centres is via police referral.

Under the Victims of Crime Act, the Minister has appointed a Director who is responsible for providing victims and their families with general information concerning services available for victims, how the justice system operates, and overall administration of the Act. The Director is also responsible for providing victims who feel that they have not been treated in accordance with the principles of the Act with information on how to resolve their concerns.

Two core programs operate under the Act – a financial benefits program for eligible victims who have suffered injury or death as a result of a violent crime, and a grant program that provides funding to eligible groups and organizations offering information, assistance and support to victims throughout their involvement with the criminal justice process.

The Victims of Crime Protocol – What Victims Can Expect from the Criminal Justice System is a reference manual for victims of crime. The Protocol assists victims by outlining what role each component within the criminal justice system plays from the time a crime is reported through to the police investigation and court proceedings. Information on provincial and federal corrections and the National Parole Board is also included. In addition, the Protocol explains what is expected of victims when dealing with the criminal justice system.

Abusive Partner Programs

Edmonton Family Violence Centre

Changing Ways – Family Violence Program (men only).

City of Edmonton Community Services

Men's Support Services offers counselling for individuals and group programs for men who want to heal from difficulties in their past and develop skills to cope with current problems.

Aboriginal Consulting Services offers groups for men, women and families impacted by family violence.

Supervised Access

Safe Visitation provides children in families experiencing family violence with a safe environment to visit with a non-custodial parent. Based on research that demonstrates the importance of children maintaining positive contact with both parents after they separate, safe visitation provides children a structured place and the necessary support to have safe, supervised visits with the parent. Sites across Alberta include: Edmonton, Calgary, Whitecourt, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.

Parent Education/Information

Parent Link Centres are community planned and community based. They are centres of excellence that provide parents and families with comprehensive support in the form of four core services:

Other Services

Human Services website

24-7 toll free Family Violence Info Line 1-800-310-1818

Community Initiatives Against Family Violence (CIAFV) – Edmonton and Area

CIAFV developed out of a community need for more collaboration of services, increased training opportunities on family violence and bullying and a need for a unified voice and language on family violence and bullying issues. Since its inception, CIAFV has become a strong voice for Edmonton and area service providers and government departments that are working collaboratively to end family violence and bullying in our communities. CIAFV activities include training and professional development for professionals working in the field of domestic violence, building a response within the larger community and providing support to serving agencies, protocol development within and between agencies, and project teams to address areas of specific interest.

The Calgary Domestic Violence Collective is a collaboration of social profit agencies, funders and governmental bodies that work to address the issue of domestic violence. The Collective’s goal is to create a collaborative community response to end domestic violence.

TODAY Centre (Edmonton)

The Today Family Violence Help Centre (Today Centre) is the result of considerable collaborative planning efforts beginning in 2004 by representatives from Edmonton and area community-based organizations, the Alberta government, and the City of Edmonton. Consultation occurred with some 65 different family violence stakeholders in the Capital Region including shelters, organizations, and Aboriginal and ethno-cultural communities. As a result of the concerted, dedicated effort of the collaborative, Today Centre began offering services in October 2009.

The service delivery model is a collaborative, community response that draws upon co-located, centralized services and community-based services not co-located in the centre. The Today Centre provides a safe, integrated and centrally located hub of support in response to the essential needs of those affected by domestic violence. The goal is to reduce the barriers facing those affected by domestic violence as they attempt to navigate what they often see as a dispersed and complex system.

Court-Based Responses

Domestic Violence Court

The Domestic Violence Courts across Alberta provide the focal point for many of the family violence initiatives.

Calgary Domestic Violence Court (HomeFront)
Edmonton Domestic Violence Court
Lethbridge Domestic Violence Action Team
Medicine Hat Domestic Violence Court
Red Deer Domestic Violence Court
Fort McMurray Domestic Violence Court
Airdrie Domestic Violence Court
Grande Prairie Domestic Violence Court
Provincial Family Violence Program

Linking between Civil and Criminal Justice Systems in Domestic Violence Cases

There currently is no coordinated link between child, family, and criminal courts. Linkages between the separate court systems are done manually in individual IPV cases. There is an ad hoc working group (Court Intersection Working Group) that is looking at the issue.

Tools/Processes to Ensure Safety

Structured Risk Assessments/Checklists

Domestic Violence Handbook for Police and Crown Prosecutors in Alberta

The Domestic Violence Handbook for Police and Crown Prosecutors in Alberta was created in 2005, and updated in 2009 and 2013, as a compilation of the research, best practices, and knowledge that experts in the area of family violence would agree are essential to an effective response by the criminal justice system.

The Handbook has been provided to each police officer and Crown prosecutor in the province. Handbooks were also distributed to Victim Services Units, Women’s Emergency Shelters, Probation Officers, Child Welfare Authorities, and other stakeholders that expressed an interest in obtaining a copy of the Handbook. Copies were sent to the Heads of Prosecution across Canada. The Handbook is available on-line.

Strategies for Safety Guide

The Strategies for Safety: Considerations for Individuals experiencing Family Violence Guide was created to assist police officers and front line responders who deal with individuals impacted by family violence. Upon completion of the mandatory Family Violence Investigation Report (FVIR) with the individual, police officers will be aware of the risk factors for that particular victim. Addressing these factors by ensuring the individual is safe is the critical next step. The Strategies for Safety guide provides specific “need to know” information and questions which will guide police officers and front line responders when assisting individuals impacted by family violence. Additionally, there are four Quick Reference pages that provide individuals with take home information on how to stay safety, depending on their current situation.

Strategies for Safety Pilot commenced on February 1, 2012, and ran until April 30, 2012. Several municipal police and RCMP agencies in Alberta participated in the pilot. They were asked to employ the Strategies for Safety resources when assisting individuals impacted by family violence. The results of the pilot evaluation showed Strategies for Safety as a useful resource for police and front line responders involved in safety planning with individuals impacted by family violence. The Strategies for Safety Guide was distributed to all police services and Victim service units in Alberta in early April 2013.

Family Violence Investigation Report (FVIR) – is a mandatory report used by front-line police responders, described above.

The FVIR was developed to identify the complex factors associated with domestic violence investigations in a manner that will raise the awareness of front-line police responders to the unique dynamics and contributing factors in domestic violence incidents.

The report assists police in gathering the most critical information within the first 12 hours of attending a family violence complaint and also serves to identify safety planning considerations as well as suspect management strategies. The FVIR consists of 19 questions which provide police with a quick, but comprehensive checklist of behaviours alerting them to situations that may warrant specific follow-up action. It will also supplement the “Show Cause” report and court brief as well as provide Crown Prosecutors with a succinct overview of the case.

At this point the document is only shared with probation and Crown.

Service Planning Instrument (SPIN)/Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument (YASI) – These are generalized risk assessment tools and are not specific to domestic violence. However, when scored according to specific guidelines for domestic violence offences they can be used to assess risk levels for domestic violence offenders. SPIN/YASI is used by Probation Officers on all sentenced offenders who’s orders exceed three months.

Probation Officer Domestic Violence Coordinators – There is one Domestic Violence Coordinator from each of the Adult Community Corrections offices in the Edmonton District. These are Probation Officers who maintain targeted domestic violence caseloads. These individuals meet as a group quarterly, meet regularly with the local domestic violence service/treatment providers and are responsible for disseminating information to generalized Probation staff regarding domestic violence initiatives, processes etc.

Edmonton and Area Community Corrections is a member of the Community Initiatives Against Family Violence (CIAFV)’s Intimate Partner Violence Treatment Linking Protocol. CIAFV supports agencies and systems to develop internal agency family violence protocols and then develop Linking Protocols that link agencies as a means to work towards a collaborative, coordinated community response to family violence in Edmonton.

The Chief Probation Officer from the Edmonton area is a member of the Provincial Domestic Violence Police Advisory Committee (PAC). This committee has representatives from, Alberta Human Services, RCMP, Municipal and First Nations police services, Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters as well as Alberta Justice and Solicitor General.

Integrated Threat and Risk Assessment Centre (I-TRAC) – consists of police members from the RCMP and Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, Medicine Hat Police Service and Lethbridge Regional Police Service (threat assessors), teamed with a Crown prosecutor, a child protection expert, a family law expert, as well as a consulting psychologist and psychiatrist.

Spousal Assault Risk Assessment (SARA) – is used by police, RCMP, and I-TRAC.

Stalking Assessment and Management (SAM) – is used by police, RCMP, and members from I-TRAC.

Risk of Sexual Violence Protocol (RSVP) – is used by members from I-TRAC.

Screening Aid for Family Violence (SAFV)– is used by child protection workers. Parallels the police FIVR to augment the safety assessment.

Safety Phase Assessment – is used by child protection workers. The safety phase continues the assessment of a child’s safety and intervention needs when intake has determined that there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a child may be in need of intervention.

Screening for Family Violence

Family Justice Services (FJS):

Coordinating Mechanisms

Coordinating Committees

PAFVA Advisory Committee brings together a multi disciplinary group consisting of government staff, policing services and community to share expertise and experience using the Protection Against Family Violence Act and Regulations to guide and make recommendations to ensure the application of the Act continues to occur in ways that maintain and focus on continuous improvement.

The Provincial Family Violence Treatment Program (PFVTP) Committee was established to provide a formal mechanism to guide and lead the coordination of the Program, address issues as they arise, and to share learning and garner advice. In November 2009, a decision was made to replace this committee with two separate committees: the Provincial Family Violence Treatment Program Steering Committee and the Provincial Family Violence Treatment Program Community Coordinating Sub-committee. The sub-committee focuses on the coordinated community response and service delivery (i.e. treatment approaches, partner/safety checks, sharing best and promising practice, etc.).

The PFVTP Community Coordinating Committee was established to guide and lead the coordination of the program, to garner advice and share learning, and address issues as they arise. The focus of this committee is service delivery (for example, treatment approaches, partner safety protocols, promising practices) and the coordinated community response. The committee also fosters relationships, support, and partnerships within and across communities and zones.

The committee respects the ongoing collaborative work at the local level and the authority and responsibility of the local partnerships. The committee also recognizes the governance and accountability role of the Provincial Family Violence Treatment Program, Community Treatment Initiatives, Addiction and Mental Health, Alberta Health Services. Membership includes the manager of Community Treatment Initiatives (Chair), Alberta Health Services staff, community agencies funded by AHS, and HomeFront.

Family Violence Police Advisory Committee (PAC)

Chaired by the Public Security Division of Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, PAC is comprised of representatives from RCMP, municipal, and First Nations Police services, Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General and Alberta Human Services. The committee meets monthly to discuss issues of protection as well as issues within the criminal justice system. It was through the efforts of this committee that the Domestic Violence Guidelines for Police and the FVIR were developed.

Interdepartmental Committee on Family Violence and Bullying (ICFVB)

Five partnering ministries are working together to provide a coordinated provincial response to the prevention of family violence and bullying in Alberta:

Partnering ministries implement the five key areas of action in the Strategy for the Prevention of Family Violence and Bullying through shared strategies and a Cross-Ministry Action Plan 2009-2012. Over $65 million was provided across government in 2011-12 to address family violence and bullying issues.