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

Annex 4: Family violence responses by jurisdiction - New Brunswick

Legislative Responses

New Brunswick has a Unified Family Court system with divorce matters and provincial family law matters including child and adult protection, heard at the same superior court level, the Court of Queen’s Bench. The Family Services Act governs family relations from adoption to child protection, adult protection, spousal and child support to custody and access. Remedies related to family violence included in the Act:

  • section 7 - Minister responsible for child protection to be notified of all family court proceedings with respect to custody of a child; sub-sections 34(1) to 42(2) - deals with suspected situations of abuse and/or neglect if the person is 65 years of age or over or is a disabled adult;
  • sub-section 37(1.1) - protective care for adult protection matters;
  • paragraphs 116(1) (d) & (f) - exclusive possession;
  • section 128 - restraining order;
  • section 132 - restraining order/custody and access restrictions; and
  • sections 132.1 - 132.2 - child abduction.

Emergency Process:

  • Ex-parte order (New Brunswick Rules of Court, Rule 37.04 (2, 3)).

Child Protection Provisions for family violence include:

  • section 30 - duty to report suspected child abuse/neglect;
  • paragraph 31(1)(f) - child’s security is in danger when living in a situation of domestic violence;
  • sub-sections 33(3) & (4) - removal of a parent (not used often);
  • Part IV - remedies for children in care of the Minister of Social Development; and
  • section 58 - protective intervention order.

Police

Policies

Municipal Police - Nine municipal forces serve thirteen regions.

Operational Policy on Assaults – Woman Abuse, includes:

  • Receiving a complaint;
  • Immediate action and investigation;
  • Notification of Social Development if children are at risk;
  • Spousal/partner abuse investigation checklist (form); and
  • Present charge to Crown for decision as to whether or not to proceed to Court.

Operational Policy on Victim/Witness Assistance, includes:

  • Victim/Witness Needs Analysis;
  • Victim Referrals;
  • Court Preparation and Support Services;
  • Court Follow-up; and
  • Victim Impact Statement Program.

Protocols

New Brunswick Woman Abuse Protocols (2004) (which is under review), includes:

  • Reporting;
  • Children who witness abuse; and
  • Resources and safety planning.

Child Victims of Abuse and Neglect Protocols (2005)

  • Police investigation reports – Crown authorizes charges
  • Crown’s involvement in parallel proceedings criminal and child protection - Police/Child Protection social workers and Crown Prosecutors have close consultation and information sharing.
  • special protocols for victims of sexual assault
  • referral to provincial victim services

Police Based Risk Assessments for Domestic Violence New Brunswick Protocol (DRAFT)

  • New Brunswick Policing Standards (2004) require Police Forces to follow the established protocols for the investigation of Woman Abuse and Child Abuse, and Adults at Risk of Abuse (Adults with disabilities and seniors).
  • New Brunswick Policing Standards (2004) also require the Police Forces to complete an analysis of victim/witness assistance needs and available services within the police force’s service area at least every three years or has access to an inventory of information and service needs of victims/witnesses in general, including those victimized by domestic violence, abuse and neglect.

Crown

Policies

Attorney General Supplemental Policy Spousal/Partner Violence

Definition of Spousal/Partner Violence is any and all forms of violence or abusive behaviour between persons who are or who have been involved in a personal relationship. “Personal relationship” is defined as a relationship between persons who are or who have been legally married, living together, and/or dating and includes, but is not limited to, sexual assault, physical assault or the threat thereof, intimidation, criminal harassment, and damage to property or the threat thereof. It is prosecuted in accordance with the Attorney General’s usual charge screening standard, that a charge should be recommended where there is a reasonable prospect of conviction and that it is in the public interest to prosecute. This standard test is set out in the Public Prosecution Services Operational Manual accessible online through the Province of New Brunswick website.

  • Police are responsible for investigations and Crown prosecutors review and evaluate the evidence in the investigation file and decide whether to recommend charges be laid by the police, based upon whether there is a reasonable prospect of conviction or not.
  • First steps: Crown’s efforts to get an early court date and respond to any defence requests for adjournment in order to minimize delays. Breaches of court orders or police undertaking relating to spousal/partner violence are prosecuted without delay.
  • Ensure police have referred the victim to victim services (automatic referral Victim Services Branch of the Department of Public Safety unless the victim does not consent). If the victim is a child, ensure that the police have contacted child protection services.
  • Crown Prosecutors may enter into a plea resolution agreement under certain circumstances for example: the charges to which the accused will plead guilty and the sentence the Crown prosecutor will propose, reflect the gravity of the provable offences; the accused accepts at sentencing, legal and factual guilt in relation to the proposed guilty plea; and, the Crown prosecutor considers any known concerns of the victim and the police.
  • Prosecution is not discontinued if victim recants or refuses to testify - certain other circumstances are outlined for the Crown to consider regarding discontinuance.

Protocols

Woman Abuse Protocols (which is under review) sections 6.1-6.2, includes:

  • Charging Decision;
  • Initiating prosecutions;
  • Peace Bonds;
  • Accused Pending Trial; and
  • Sentencing.

Protocols for The Use of Testimonial Aids for Vulnerable Witnesses (this references the sections of the Criminal Code that allow for judicial discretion if necessary to protect victims from the accused based on the relationship) (2006)

Child Victims of Abuse Protocols (2005) – see above under Police.

Child Protection

Policies

The Department of Social Development has a Multiple Response Practice Standards in Child Protection and Family Enhancement Services (2011), a mandatory accountability framework for child welfare across the province.

The Department of Social Development relies upon the Structured Decision Making Model, an electronic intake assessment tool with specific questions on intimate partner violence/domestic violence and its impact upon the child. If a case is screened out as child protection and there are Domestic Violence indicators, the Department of Social Development staff are directed to refer to the Woman Abuse Protocols for referrals and safety planning.

The Department of Social Development, Family Group Conference Practice Standards (Collaborative Decision Making process in child welfare) sets out policy considerations for safety including when working with victims of Domestic Violence.

Protocols

Child Victims of Abuse Protocols (2005), includes:

  • Multidisciplinary approach;
  • Joint Investigations, communication and cooperation with Police and child protection services;
  • Interdepartmental responses to child victims of abuse/neglect;
  • Provincial Victim Services for child victims of crime; and
  • Civil proceedings are resolved quicker and have shorter timelines pursuant to provisions in the Family Services Act and New Brunswick Rules of Court.

Operational Protocols established between the New Brunswick Department of Social Development (Child welfare authority) and the First Nation’s Child and Family Services Agencies, child protection services.

Service-Based Responses

Victim Services

Victim Services (New Brunswick Department of Public Safety) are court based service for victims of crime. They provide information on the criminal justice system and court process; referrals for counselling; court preparation and support; information about financial supports and remedies; assistance with victim impact statements and give information on sentencing outcome if accused is convicted or notification of offender’s release if the offender is incarcerated.

Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre (FSACC) is a community-based agency serving Fredericton region. Services in the remainder of the province are being enhanced. FSACC partners with the Women’s Equality Branch to implement and monitor a network of community based sexual assault services across the province.

Victim Services – Municipal police (Fredericton and Saint John districts) are police-based services with the staff and volunteers. They provide support for victims of crime, including domestic violence calls.

Shelters

  • Transition Houses provide shelter and crisis intervention for women, with or without children, who are victims of relationship violence and abuse.
  • New Brunswick has 13 transition houses which are for short term (approximately one month) stays and 6 second stage housing facilities (which provide ongoing programming and support over a 1 to 2 year period).

Programs for Children Exposed to Family Violence

“Moving Forward” Program

  • The Executive Council Office of the Women’s Equality Branch funds 9 programs across the province that provide free access for the public. These are community-based programs for children and their mothers to heal from the hurt of living with domestic violence. Children and their mothers learn skills to heal from violence in their lives, create safety plans, and make social connections.
  • Each program has trained facilitators who help create safe and secure environments for children and their mothers to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences.

Abusive Partner Programs

Provincial Court-Moncton Domestic Violence has a coordinated programming for drug and alcohol addiction, mental health services and domestic violence intervention.

Department of Public Safety-Community and Correctional Services – Criminogenic Rehabilitation and Reintegration Support Programs for perpetrators of domestic violence (anger management, partner abuse treatment, sex offender treatment).

John Howard Society of New Brunswick – provides Narrative Therapy programs for abusive partners offered in some parts of the province.

Supervised Access

The Department of Social Development, the provincial child welfare authority, may provide supervised access for parents of children under their care, custody or supervision.

For the Sake of the Children is a free information program for separated parents designed to help them understand the legal and emotional repercussions of a separation and to cope with the separation so that they may help their children adjust. The free 6-hour program is presented to participants in two 3-hour sessions (Part A and Part B). Content includes sensitivity and considerations for high conflict circumstances such as family violence.

Child Education/Information

‘Moving Forward’ see above under Programs for children Exposed to Family Violence.

Child Support Workers are on staff at transition houses and second stage housing and provide:

  • crisis intervention;
  • play based and psycho-educational interventions;
  • referral/linkages;
  • parenting/skill development and the effects on children of witnessing family violence.

Other Services

The Executive Council Office, Women’s Equality Branch funds 14 Outreach Programs across the province. The goal of outreach is to ensure women living in or leaving abusive relationships have access to someone who can respond to their crisis and support them. Outreach workers provide information, risk assessment, safety planning, accompaniment, referrals and spaces where it is safe to meet with women. The program is an important resource for family violence services, and guides victims to the services they need.

Court-Based Responses

Domestic Violence Court

The Moncton Domestic Violence court deals with charges arising from criminal incidents between current and former intimate partners, including married, common-law, and never-cohabited (i.e. dating). The Moncton jurisdiction includes the counties of Kent, Westmorland and Albert. Goals of the Domestic Violence Court are to: promote offender accountability and early intervention that may help stop the cycle of violence; accelerate prosecution and the court processes; and offer timely access to services for both victims and offenders. Key components of the specialized court are: partnership and collaboration amongst police, Crown, probation and victim services, and community-based service providers to ensure consistent and timely response to incidents and the needs of victims and offenders; a Court Coordinator; Regular and frequent post-disposition monitoring of offenders, to ensure follow through on sentencing conditions. A specialized risk assessment tool in use by all stakeholders, more intensive monitoring and follow-up of cases following sentencing are central features of this court.

Elsipogtog Healing to Wellness Court

Is a pilot project which incorporates First Nations practices and culture, and deals not only with crime, but its underlying causes. Domestic violence related offences which do not involve serious bodily harm and do not carry minimum mandatory sentences can be considered for eligibility into the program, subject to the discretion of the Crown prosecutor and Healing Team. The Healing to Wellness Court has two streams: a Healing to Wellness stream and a conventional Provincial Court stream. The Healing to Wellness stream is a judicially supervised therapeutic program aimed at providing treatment and support for accused persons living with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, mental health problems, and/or an intellectual disability including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Linking between Civil and Criminal Justice Systems in Domestic Violence Cases

  • The Provincial Court – Domestic Violence Court Coordinator facilitates sharing of relevant information between the criminal and family divisions of the courts related to existing civil orders such as child protection (Department of Social Development) and private family law matters involving custody and access restrictions. Information is shared with the immediate key partners of the Court involving the police, Crown prosecutor, legal aid, probation officer and victim service coordinator who meet on a regular basis. To prevent the issuing of conflicting court orders between the criminal and family justice system, the coordinator consults the family court information system on a weekly basis to cross-reference potential overlapping domestic violence cases, by using identifying information of offenders and victims scheduled to appear in domestic violence court each week.
  • Elsipogtog Healing to Wellness Court pilot project case manager facilitates information sharing between several agencies including but not limited to Health, Mental Health, Addiction Services, Victim Services, Public Prosecutions, Child Protection and Education, for the purposes of assessment, to identify referrals or resources, to develop a treatment plan and to monitor progress.

Tools/Processes to Ensure Safety

Structured Risk Assessment Tools

Various tools are in use within New Brunswick. Police have received training in the Brief Spousal Assault Form for Evaluating Risk (B-SAFER) tool for structured domestic violence risk assessment and they are expected to share the results with criminal justice colleagues such as the Crown prosecutor.

Department of Public Safety, provincial Victim Service Coordinators are required to use the Aid to Safety Assessment and Planning (ASAP) and the Danger Assessment tool. Probation Services rely upon the Spousal Abuse Risk Assessment (SARA), the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA) and when appropriate, the Level of Service Case management Inventory (LS-CMI). Provincial Correctional Institution staff use the LS-CMI for the “continuum of service” between community corrections and institutions, and for classification purposes. At the Provincial Court-Domestic Violence, Moncton the B-Safer risk assessment tool is used for bail hearings and at times, to assist with conditions of release. One of the key features of this specialized court is the use of a common risk assessment tool, B-SAFER, among key stakeholders. Community outreach workers, transition houses and second stage housing are encouraged to use the Aid to Safety Assessment and Planning (ASAP) tool and the Danger Assessment tool.

The Department of Social Development (SDM), the child protection authority, relies upon a Structured Decision Making tool (an electronic case information and assessment framework). Domestic violence risk assessment and safety planning are integrated into the SDM model which was adapted from the Wisconsin Children’s Research Center.

Screening for Family Violence

  • The Family Support Orders Service (FSOS) has the responsibility to enforce family support provisions in court orders and agreements filed with the office. The office collects support payments from payers and their income sources, and takes enforcement measures when support has not been paid. The automatic enrolment of support orders into FSOS normalizes the process thereby reducing the risk to victims of intimate partner violence. FSOS is a neutral 3rd party who is responsible for the decisions with regard to what enforcement action is taken and at what point in time. Enforcement officers flag cases where there are safety concerns, violence and, threats and follow up with the client to see if they prefer that any special precautions are taken with regard to the support enforcement.
  • Saint John Family Law Case Management Model includes a government funded family mediation component for the judicial district of Saint John. Services are situated at the court house. Policy and procedures exist for family mediators to complete domestic violence screening individually with all parties and not to mediate if there are indications that intimate partner violence has or is occurring and could impact the capacity of the person to effectively participate in mediation. The Assessment tool and Indicators of Danger Checklist are used. This document is confidential and shared only upon written consent of the party who disclosed the information to the mediator.

Coordinating Mechanisms

Information Sharing Protocols

  • Provincial Court-Domestic Violence – Moncton region. Information Sharing Protocols between key partners see under “Court-based Responses” above.
  • Court Coordinator, Moncton Domestic Violence Court, see under “Court-based Responses” above.
  • Privacy Protocol Elsipogtog Healing to Wellness Court Pilot (2010-2014) see under “Court-based Responses” above.
  • Province wide electronic data base and case management system being developed for use within the civil justice system and being considered for use within the criminal justice systems (NOTA).

Inter-Agency Protocols

  • Woman Abuse Protocols (2004).
  • Provincial Court-Domestic Violence-Moncton region see above under “Court-based responses”.

Coordinating Committees

  • Provincial Partnerships in Action Committee (PPA) is coordinated by the Women’s Equality Branch, Executive Council Office, Government of New Brunswick. The PPA works at the provincial level towards a comprehensive New Brunswick-wide response to the issue of violence against women. The PPA regroups representatives from 14 local family violence committees across the province. Local Family Violence Committees established in each region of New Brunswick are made up of partners from both government and non-government agencies who come together to work on violence prevention initiatives within their respective communities.

Family Violence Action Plans

  • The Women’s Equality Branch, Executive Council Office, continues to implement the government’s strategic plan to end violence against women. Highlights include:
    • Transitional supports for women and services to women and children;
    • Access to justice services- specialized court model;
    • Education and prevention initiatives;
    • Ongoing Better World for Women commitments; and
    • Leadership and co-ordination.
  • Action Plan for Mental Health in New Brunswick 2011-2018 includes a commitment for government to continue funding outreach programs which support women who have experienced violence and/or sexual assault.

New Initiatives (Non-Justice)

  • The “Shelter Training Manual”, launched province-wide March 30, 2012, is for staff at shelters for victims of abuse, community based family violence outreach workers and staff at second stage housing. This was a community driven initiative funded by government and private foundations.
  • The Integrated Service Delivery pilot for at-risk children and youth with complex needs is mandated to focus upon five core areas: educational development; emotional/behavioural functioning; mental health and addictions; family relationships; and physical health/wellness. Goals are to streamline access to government and community services and provide prevention and early intervention services to prevent child abuse, emotional/behavioural problems, substance abuse and criminal behaviour. It is led by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
  • Public Legal Education Information Services – “Navigating the Family Justice System” is a two year project piloting and evaluating monthly bilingual workshops in every judicial district to educate the growing number of individuals handling their own family law matters. Based in the community and led by pro bono lawyers, the workshops explain the rules of court and proper legal procedures associated with the most common family law matters such as uncontested divorces, support variation and applications for custody/access.
  • Domestic Violence Death Review Committee – Advisory body to the Office of the Chief Coroner, New Brunswick has been in place since 2010.
  • www.familylawnb.ca; is a web site created by Public Legal Education and Information Services (PLEIS-NB) that provides information on the separation and divorce process. Included on the website are: Ask Expert Videos; FAQs; Going to Court; Family Law Forms; Family Law Publications; Find a Lawyer; Get Help and Self-Help Guides; and fillable forms (Launched March, 2010).

Existing Initiatives

  • Intimate Partner Violence “Train the Trainer program” for Police and Social Workers was launched in the fall of 20008. It was prepared by the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Family Violence Research Center -University of New Brunswick.
  • The Healing Journey: Family Violence Prevention in Aboriginal Communities Toolkit and Website http://www.thehealingjourney.ca/
  • New Brunswick Family Violence and the workplace toolkit http://www.toolkitnb.ca/emain.asp
  • The New Brunswick Silent Witness Project is a travelling exhibit of life sized silhouettes representing women killed by their intimate partners. The goals of the project are to remember, create awareness and promote action to end all forms of violence in our society (2001) http://www.silentwitness.ca/
  • University of New Brunswick Family Violence Certificate Program.

Key Reports

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