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”.

Police

Policies

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

  • Immediately refer by dispatch all reported cases of domestic violence;
  • Respond to and fully investigate all domestic violence cases;
  • Conduct comprehensive case management (including evidence gathering) at the scene to reduce reliance on victim testimony;
  • Immediately refer to victim support services and escort safe passage;
  • In all cases where children are present, will send notice to child welfare for follow up;
  • Charges are to be laid in all cases where reasonable grounds or evidence supports charges;
  • The alleged perpetrator is to be arrested and removed from the home in all cases where a charge is laid;
  • Where there is a history of abuse or the victim fears for their safety, police shall not release on an appearance notice or promise to appear, but will hold until a bail hearing before a justice of the peace or judge of the provincial court;
  • Police shall request protective conditions at bail hearing.

Protocols

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).

Crown

Policies

The Framework for Action against Family Violence provides that:

  • The Crown will prosecute all spousal/intimate partner violence cases where there is a realistic prospect of conviction regardless of the complainant’s expressed wish to the contrary;
  • The Crown will provide pre-charge advice to police when requested;
  • If the accused is released, the Crown will request protective conditions and a copy of the documents will be forwarded to the complainant immediately after the bail hearing;
  • In taking a position on bail, the Crown will consider any risk assessment tool provided to the Crown by the police investigator; and
  • The Crown will notify victim services of any trial date and provide contact information for complainant and indicate the existence of domestic violence.

Crown policies are online: http://gov.ns.ca/pps/ca_manual.htm

Corrections

Policies

The Framework for Action against Family Violence provides that:

  • Corrections officers will ensure that victims are informed about the terms of the probation orders and conditional release;
  • Presentence reports will include results of victim interviews, wherever possible;
  • Probation officers will identify for the court the availability of intervention programs for perpetrators of family violence;
  • Victims shall be contacted when the conditional release of an inmate from custody is being contemplated (or when an inmate is unlawfully at large);
  • Probation order conditions shall be carefully monitored and all violations reported immediately to the Crown; and
  • Police shall be informed in advance of any release of an inmate who is known to be a perpetrator of family violence.

Child Protection

Protocols

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

  • The Child Victim/Witness program at the Department of Justice, Victim Services, provides specialized support and court preparation to child victims/witnesses. There is a policy in place to provide priority service to cases of domestic violence.
  • The Department of Justice, Criminal Injuries Counselling Program provides counselling awards to victims of violent crime including victims of domestic violence.
  • Police-based victim services in Halifax Regional Municipality is mandated to respond to domestic violence cases.
  • Police-based victim services administered domestic violence emergency response alarm systems (DVERS) for high risk domestic violence households.
  • Mi’kMaw Legal Support Network provides a range of specialized victim services to Aboriginal victims of domestic violence in communities throughout Nova Scotia.
  • Police-based domestic violence case coordinators, funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Justice, provide case management support for domestic violence cases with particular attention to cases in the High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Framework.

Shelters

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

  • Programming varies throughout regions: small group programming for children witnesses of domestic violence is available through some Transition House Association of Nova Scotia member agencies.
  • Alice Housing (Second Stage Housing) delivers “Healing the Bruises” counselling program to children of residents.

Other Services

  • The Department of Community Services funds a range of services delivered through family resource centres, boys’ and girls’ clubs, women’s centres, and the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre.
  • The Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services (ISIS) offers counselling and small group information sessions about domestic violence.
  • The amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act is being considered as part of the Domestic Violence Action Plan. An amendment would allow for a victim of domestic violence to leave a lease without financial penalty in cases of domestic violence.
  • The Department of Community Services provides early access/priority transfer within non-profit housing to victims of domestic violence, upon application and supporting documentation from identified service providers (such as victim services, for example).
  • The Department of Community Services Income Assistance can provide limited access to funds for victims of domestic violence to increase safety - to relocate or install telephone equipment for DVERS alarm installation, for example.
  • The Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia publication “Safely on Your Way” is a guide for women in Nova Scotia who have experienced domestic violence and who are also working through family justice issues such as custody and access with an abusive partner.

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.

Checklists

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:

  • a perpetrator is alleged to have committed another offence;
  • an accused is released by police;
  • contact occurs between the perpetrator and the victim;
  • a perpetrator is released on conditions that prevent contact with the victim/children;
  • the victim enters a new relationship or relocates;
  • a perpetrator breaches a court order;
  • either the victim or the perpetrator takes an action that is contrary to an agreed safety plan or intervention;
  • an application is made for an emergency protection order, peace bond or a Domestic Violence Emergency Response System alarm is activated;
  • trial or sentencing dates are approaching;
  • an offender is released from custody at the end of a sentence; or
  • legal proceedings related to children are initiated.

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:

  • Ongoing collection of first hand experiences called the Dialogue on Domestic Violence project which uses Sensemaker software and an online collection tool to gather stories about domestic violence from perpetrators, victims, family members, service providers and others.
  • Community-Government Networking sessions to support dialogue and collaboration between government departments and agencies and community-based service providers
  • Research and Evaluation Partnership to promote and improve access to research on the issue and ensure ongoing monitoring and evaluation.
  • Training Partnership on domestic violence to develop a consistent, coordinated approach to training on this issue across government and in the community.
  • Neighbours, Friends and Family Campaign materials from Ontario have been adapted for use in Nova Scotia and training promoting this campaign has been provided.
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