Accessible and Responsive Legal and Justice Systems (Including Legal Services and Information, Court Systems, Enforcement, and Perpetrator Accountability)

 

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Description

Women fleeing domestic violence must manage multiple and interrelated legal issues in criminal, family and child protection systems. This section speaks to several branches of the system.  Family law is a branch of private law designed to regulate the rights and responsibilities of family members upon the breakdown of a family unit. The child protection system is often referred to as part of the family justice system but involves government initiated proceedings focused on the safety of children. The criminal law is a branch of public law and is primarily concerned with protecting the safety of individuals.  This section highlights several key elements of legal response, including supportive services for women and children, criminal courts and ensuring perpetrator accountability.  

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Promising Practices: Legal Services and Information

✓ Provides integrated services tailored to the complexities of women’s cases, including system navigation, access to lawyers, obtaining protection orders, custody and access issues, financial abuse, housing and evictions, risk assessment, and safety planning;

✓ Provides legal services that are immediately available, easily accessible (e.g., present in court), are inexpensive or free, and are available in both rural and urban settings;

✓ Uses civil, family and administrative law procedures that are affordable, simple and easy to use.

✓ With respect to protection orders: 

✓ ensures that protection measures are not dependent on initiation of criminal, civil or family law proceedings;

✓ ensures that immediate and urgent protection measures are accessible, available, free of charge are simple and user friendly to all victims/survivors (e.g., Justices of the Peace are available to review orders that are issued after hours or on weekends);

✓ ensures that justice service providers consider the broadest range of protection measures available to them;

✓ includes additional components to the EPOs to ensure children’s safety when Family Court rules for visitation with children;

✓ requests that victim signs waivers identifying services that can share their information;

✓ works closely with Police or RCPM as essential partners in the process to serve the order on the respondent;

✓ ensures that any modification of protection measures prioritize the safety of the victim/survivor; and,

✓ ensures appropriate monitoring and enforcement of protection measures; 

✓ Provides for a broad range of aid in civil, family and administrative law matters, including legal information, legal advice, legal assistance and legal representation;

✓ Works with trained social workers or psychologists who assist clients with other emerging issues, such as general support and safety planning, support in applying for funding, provide information about resources and act as advocates;

✓ Includes, in training of court personnel and police recruits, domestic violence training and continuing education programs, focusing on gender based violence, risk assessment, management and cultural competency;

✓ Provides training for victims and service providers about requirements of and how to negotiate the justice system (e.g., evidence collection in stalking cases). 

✓ Uses a common set tools to guide threat assessment, safety planning and case management within the justice system.

 

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Story: Using and Enforcing Legal Mechanisms to Prevent and Punish Perpetrators

Key Elements:

  •  Effective representation had secured a legal protection mechanism which could be enforced by police.

  • The EPO allowed a speedy police response because there was sufficient background information available to police. 

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Bernadette LaBrie

Legal Aid Alberta, Calgary Emergency Protection Order Program

Using and enforcing legal mechanisms to prevent and punish perpetrators

Our client had an Emergency Protection Order.  It forbade the Respondent from coming to her house or having any contact with her.  One of the last things the Respondent had done before the EPO was to lock the client out of her phone.

To remedy this situation our Client was on the phone to Apple Tech Support in Texas.  She was explaining to Apple how she had been locked out and details of the EPO. 

During this conversation the Respondent started banging on the door to our client's house and managed to get into the house.  He was yelling and screaming at her.  The Apple representative in Austin immediately contacted the Calgary Police Service.  She informed CPS the client's name and details of the EPO and provided an address.  Officers were dispatched and arrived at the home before our client was seriously hurt and in time to arrest the Respondent.

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Organizations Providing Tools / Resources

 Organization/Region 

Contact

Tools

 Interview 

Centre for Public Legal

Education Alberta (CPLEA)

Edmonton

 

Jeff Surtees

Executive Director

780-451-8764

 

Abuse and Family Violence Resources

 

Family Law Resources

 

Law Central Alberta

OakNet: Canadian Law for Older Adults

WillowNet: Abuse and the Law Alberta

N/A

Legal Aid Alberta, Family Law Office, 

Calgary Emergency Protection 

Order Program

Calgary

 

Bernadette Labrie

Lawyer

403-355-5996

blabrie@flo.legalaid.ab.ca

Contact organization for information and resources. 

Interview Summary

Legal Aid Alberta, Family Law Office,

Edmonton Emergency Protection

Order Program

Edmonton

Christina Riddoch

Lawyer

780-427-8185

criddoch@flo.legalaid.ab.ca

Interview Summary

Lethbridge Domestic Violence

Action Team (DVAT)

Lethbridge

 

 

Bill Kaye

Project Coordinator

403-381-3900

bill.kaye@dvat.ca

DVAT: Anti-Stalking Program

 

Interview Summary

 

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Promising Practices: Court Systems

✓ Uses information sharing protocols allowing different court systems to prevent contradictory court orders;

✓ Ensures that children’s legal rights and their rights to participate in all matter affecting them are considered in court proceedings;

✓ Has in place a dedicated Domestic Violence Court with a cross-disciplinary team comprised of representatives of Police, Probation, Crown, Duty Council, Victim Advocates and Offender Treatment providers;

✓ Co-locates police and victim supports to facilitate information sharing;

✓ Provides an opportunity for full participation of victims in court proceedings and ensures that their voices and wishes are heard in court;

✓  Considers Indigenous laws, values and dispute resolution practices;

✓  Uses court mandated programs to enhance survivor safety (e.g., bail conditional on participation in offender treatment program);

✓  Decisions prioritize the personal safety and security of individuals who have been abused and their children.

 

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Story: Emotional and Expert Advice in Navigating the Legal System

Key Elements:

  • The woman was placed at the heart of the work and provided the supports she required to navigate the Court and legal system.

  • She was provided with both emotional support and expert knowledge.

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Maggie MacKillop

Homefront

HomeFront’s Domestic Violence Intervention and Resource Team (DVIRT) provides support to survivors who are navigating the legal system.  ‘Shannon’ called the police in January 2014 because her ex-partner assaulted her.   A few days later she was contacted by Megan from HomeFront’s DVIRT.

Shannon and her ex-partner had moved to Calgary from Ontario.  He had isolated her until she had no one to trust or rely on.  It meant that her relationship with Megan became even more important because Megan could be trusted to be on Shannon’s side and to provide her with both the emotional support and expert knowledge about how to navigate the legal system.

Megan listened without judgement and ultimately Shannon trusted her enough to open up about the years of abuse she had endured.

The police and the court system were all new to Shannon.  Megan and other staff in HomeFront ensured that she could make informed decisions about her future.  Without HomeFront’s support Shannon is clear that she would not have been able to survive the process.  The combination of emotional support and expertise has allowed Shannon and her children to secure a better life, free from abuse.

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Organizations Providing Tools / Resources

Organization/Region 

 Contact  

Tools

 Interview 

Homefront

Calgary

Maggie Mackillop

Executive Director

403-206-2100 ext 224

maggie@homefrontcalgary.com

Information Sharing Agreement

Interview Summary

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Promising Practices: Enforcement

As part of the criminal justice response, the police also have a critical role in addressing the issue of violence against women. They are often the first responders to a domestic violence situation and make decisions with respect to charging and arresting the offender as well as ensuring that the victims and others in the community are safe. They work closely with the courts and the justice system as well as with community service providers. The police complete risk assessments, enforce protection orders and investigate or follow up on breaches of court orders.

✓ Has protocols in place guiding police interaction with women’s serving organizations;

✓ Establishes and maintains mutually empowered and accountable working relationships between police forces and Indigenous communities;

✓ Has protocols in place guiding charging practices that support victim safety and offender accountability (e.g., primary aggressor policies, pre-charge supports for women not wanting to be involved in the justice system).

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Story: Long-Term Monitoring of Cases to Protect Women

Key Elements:

  • The woman was provided with a range of supports including counselling, financial and securing safe accommodation.

  • The woman was provided with long-term support.

  • Legal enforcement mechanisms were used to prevent re-offending.  Long-term monitoring of the perpetrators prison/probation status was used to monitor threats to the safety of the woman and her daughters.

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Avril Martin

Domestic Conflict Unit, Calgary Police Service

The Domestic Conflict Response Team in Calgary Police exists to support families by coupling law enforcement measures with access to social supports.  In January 2016 we received a casefile of a mother of two female children (a teenager and adult).  The adult child had grown up watching her father become increasingly abusive to the mother.  They had been married for 20 years and he had a substance abuse problem.  He had drained all the family funds to support his drug habit.

The mother applied for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) which was granted.  After a risk assessment by another branch of the Calgary Police (the Domestic Violence Risk Assessment Team) the file was assigned to DCRT.

DCRT offered counselling and financial resources to the family.  While this was ongoing the husband began to breach the EPO and his abusive behaviour escalated.

He was arrested and charged for multiple breaches of the order.  He was subsequently found guilty of the offences and jailed.  While he was imprisoned DCRT continued to offer services to the victim and her daughters.  Upon his release from prison DCRT contacted a number of related services including the Probation Service, the Canada Border Services Agency and other police services.  We informed them of the case so they could take appropriate measures to deal with him and to ensure that the woman and her daughters were safe.

Five months after his release he was arrested for other criminal offences in Calgary.  Again he was charged and jailed.  Upon serving his sentence he was again released during which time DCRT continued to monitor his behaviour in relation to the EPO.  He again breached the terms of the EPO and was arrested for this and a number of other unrelated criminal charges. 

DCRT continued to provide support to the mother and daughters through counselling and guidance on accessing financial resources as well as proving assistance on identifying safe living quarters.  She is rebuilding her life with her daughters in a healthy family environment.

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Organizations Providing Tools / Resources

 Organization/Region 

 Contact  

Tools

 Interview 

  Domestic Conflict Unit,   

Calgary Police Service

Calgary

 

Avril Martin

Acting Staff Sergeant

403-428-2245

amartin@calgarypolice.ca

  Calgary Police Service Connect Card    

Interview Summary

 

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Promising Practices: Perpetrator Accountability and Reparations

A fundamental assumption is that perpetrator accountability is central to reducing violence. Providing meaningful consequences is a critical piece of promoting accountability in any arena. When perpetrators are allowed to manipulate the system to avoid consequences, accountability is diminished. When perpetrators come to see that insignificant or no consequences are likely, their criminal behaviour is likely to continue. While this may seem an obvious point, the barriers within the system, combined with the cunning of perpetrators, often prevent the criminal justice system from reaching the goal of maximum accountability and reduced violent crime. 1

✓ Provides sentencing that is commensurate with the gravity of the crime, using due diligence when imposing appropriate sanctions to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions and providing for just and effective remedies to the survivors for the harm or loss suffered by them.

✓ Delivers collaborative response approach with a primary focus on victim safety;

✓ Ensures that rehabilitation is part of a conviction rather than an alternative to criminal record;

✓ Uses a thorough assessment of perpetrators to determine their suitability prior to referral into a rehabilitation program or assignment of a specific treatment modality and including consultation with victims;

✓ Has mechanisms in place to manage, work with, and sanction offenders;

✓ Reflects unique issues of diverse groups as well as considerations for offenders with co-occurring disorders;

✓ Provides the most intervention to the highest risk offenders more quickly, including supports and therapeutic services addressing dynamic risks and historical victimization/trauma where indicated.

Promising Practices: Perpetrator Treatment

✓ Provides training on treatment standards for justice personnel and on legal considerations for treatment staff;

✓ Matches intervention length and type with identified and assessed dynamic risk factors;

✓ Uses domestic violence offender typology to inform intervention – e.g., for an “intimate terrorist” intervention should focus on power and control, which is not necessarily the first consideration with “situational couple violence”;

✓ Uses treatment models that are based on a cognitive-behavioral approach, encouraging offenders to accept responsibility for their behavior, with attention to gender-based power and control issues;

✓ Provides treatment in a variety of settings. For example, when participating while in jail, the men have a better chance to process the materials because are more likely to be sober and have been eating and sleeping well;

✓ Provides multiple hand-outs, giving participants something to read through and think about between the sessions;

✓ In addition to addressing the issues of domestic violence, provides support for employment, housing, parenting, substance abuse and mental health counseling with considerations for co-occurring disorders;

✓ Recognizes that it takes time (and sometimes years) to address the impact of trauma and loss of identity that gets expressed in addictions and domestic violence;

✓ Provides for appropriate consequences for perpetrators who do not satisfactory complete their programmes;

✓ Includes processes for accountability to, advocacy and safety planning with victims, and on-going monitoring of risk, along with swift and certain court responses for violations;

✓ Has specialized programming for Indigenous and newcomer populations;

✓ Provides offender treatment as part of the community-wide collective response to domestic violence, for example using working groups that meet regularly and include treatment providers, victim supports, health services and probation;

✓ Puts in place offender treatment evaluation, gathering data that reflects compliance with treatment standards and that measures impact of treatment on offender recidivism.

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Story: Letting Vulnerability Through

Key Elements:

  • The offender was given space to open up.

  • Facilitators responded to his direct needs and the small opportunities he demonstrated.

  • He was supported in a non-judgemental fashion and empowered through the support of his peers.

  • The perpetrator came to understand his vulnerability as a strength not a weakness.

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Noreen Cotton

St. Paul and District Crisis Association

‘Joe’ was mandated through the Probation Service to attend the offender treatment programme at St. Paul and District Crisis Association.  He made it very clear that he was only in attendance because he was mandated to.  He refused to participate in any programme activities.  He even refused to eat supper with the group – indeed he ate nothing at all.

He refused to open up or talk about anything during sessions.  He started to make discouraging comments to other group members and insult the facilitators.  Facilitators began to ask for his dismissal from the programme because of this disruptive behaviour.

Part of our programme involves an Elder co-facilitating a session on ‘Grief and Loss’.  It is a very powerful session which touches many participants as so many of us have been impacted by grief or loss at some time in our lives.  We also have 3 facilitators present so there is a lot of support for the participants in the programme.  This session reached Joe.  The facilitators saw a ray of hope as Joe began to slowly open up.

The Elder was brought back again to facilitate another session – we did this deliberately for Joe.  The Elder also observed that a ‘fine crack was appearing in Joe’s armour’.  He was indeed beginning to open. 

We held another session on self-esteem.  During that session each participant was asked to place a sticky note on the backs of the other participants.  The sticky-notes would include positive words about that person.  The participants placed words like ‘leader’, ‘smart’, ‘strong’, ‘wise’ on Joe’s back.  Joe spoke and said he was surprised by those words.  That was all he said but it was a breakthrough. 

That evening Joe began to speak with one of the facilitators.  Then he started to eat supper with the group.  Then he began to talk. 

The last session is an optional session.  It involves a Sweat by an Elder.  Even though Joe said he was opposed to participating in cultural practices he drove from his home one hour away to attend this session.  Joe had allowed himself to trust others.  He allowed himself to vulnerable and this allowed him to succeed.

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Organizations Providing Tools / Resources

 Organization/Region 

Contact

Tools

 Interview 

Alberta Health Services (AHS),

Health and Justice Programs

for AHS South Zone

Lethbridge

Erin Musick

Clinical Supervisor

403-388-6547

erin.musick-neily@albertahealthservices.ca

Interview Summary

Jim Freeman Psychotherapist

Red Deer

Jim Freeman

jimfree@telus.net

 
 

Women's Intake Questionnaire

N/A

 St. Paul and District Crisis Centre 

St. Paul

 

Noreen Cotton

Executive Director

780-645-5132

director@stpaulcrisiscentre.ca

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Rick Makokis

Elder, Family Support Worker

780-645-5132

rickmakokis@yahoo.ca

Entrance/Exit Questionnaire 

Partner Safety Checks 

Powerful Emotions: Grief, Loss, Shame and Guilt 

Turning Point Evaluation Form

Interview Summary (Noreen)

 

Interview Summary (Rick)

Waypoints

Fort McMurray

Kyle Pellegrini

Manager of Opportunities for Change

780-791-5143

kyle.pellegrini@waypointswb.ca

Family Violence Treatment Program Safety Check

Growth Plan

My Life Satisfaction Levels 

My Name Is

 

Opportunities for Change: Program Introduction

 
 

Pre and Post Assessment of Program Impact

 

Reflecting on Ego and Soul Stories

Stages of a Relationship

What Do I Need Out of a Relationship? 

Interview Summary