The Manitoba government has introduced Bill 43, otherwise known as Clare's Law, to give Manitobans access to an intimate partner's documented history of violence as well as access to helpful supports.
in making the announcement, Families Minister Rochelle Squires noted "Manitoba has some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence and family violence in Canada."
"These types of violence primarily affect women and girls, disproportionally affect those living in rural, remote and northern communities, Indigenous people, people of colour and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. The purpose of Clare's Law is to provide Manitobans with access to information on whether their partner has a documented history of violence, as well as access to public and community-based supports to promote safety and end the cycle of violence."
Andrea Kirkwood is the Outreach Councillor Advocate for Agape House in Steinbach. They say Clare's Law could be a valuable prevention tool.
"If someone maybe sees some red flags in a relationship or maybe there has been some preliminary behaviour that might be abusive and they want to see what their partner's history is like, if there is a history of violence or abuse that means that person might be at risk, then that person would be able to know that."
Kirkwoods says this may also lend some weight to people who are already in the midst of a tough custody battle or are already trying to leave a partner that has a history of violence.
Manitoba's law will be informed by similar implementations in other provinces, however, in a media release, the minister stated that Manitoba's proposed version of Clare's Law takes a unique disclose and support approach. Manitoba would be the first jurisdiction in the world to have access to public or community-based supports as a stated goal in legislation.
In addition, there are provisions for the guardians of minors. If there is a 16 or 17-year-old involved in a relationship, their guardians would also be able to have access to some information. Of course, there will be a process and regulations around how that is done so that it's done appropriately.
Looking forward, Kirkwood says Clare's Law may allow survivors of domestic violence to engage in future relationships with some peace of mind.
"Especially for someone who has been through some trauma or some violence in their relationships, getting some background information to see what is going on or what has been going on, maybe they could move forward in a relationship with more confidence."
Clare's Law is named after Clare Wood, a British woman who was murdered by her partner in 2009. Wood's family fought to put a disclosure protocol in place that would enable people to obtain information from police about a partner's documented history of violence in hopes they may safely leave relationships when a risk of violence may be present.
Kirkwood applauds the minister for hearing the needs of shelters across Manitoba and taking steps to provide necessary supports.
"Anything to support survivors and bring awareness to the issue is huge for us. We do a lot of individual work and we are really trying to get this out there as a public issue, as a community issue, there is a collective responsibility, we think, to bring an end to family violence."
Using innovative techniques, the Manitoba Status of Women Secretariat and Manitoba Justice have brought together a working group of police services, community organizations and provincial departments to co-design Manitoba's approach to Clare's Law, noted Squires. They have also worked closely with leading international researchers on Clare's Laws to identify and proactively address known gaps, risks and challenges experienced by other jurisdictions around the world.
The minister noted the act would come into effect upon proclamation within the next 18 months to allow time for further consultations and co-design work to be completed.