Final Report of the Ad Hoc Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group Reviewing Spousal Abuse Policies and Legislation

SECTION IV: SUMMARY

Spousal abuse is a complex problem, one that requires interventions from a number of sectors, including the criminal justice sector and the child welfare, education, social and health services sectors. The Ad Hoc Working Group therefore took a broad, multi-sectoral approach to its review of spousal violence policies and legislation. The Ad Hoc Working Group collaborated with other federal, provincial and territorial working groups, as well as with representatives from law enforcement, corrections, social services, statistics and other related fields. As a result, the process leading to the elaboration of this final report was both an enriching and informative experience for the Ad Hoc Working Group members and their colleagues and an excellent example of cross-jurisdictional and multi-sectoral collaboration. In fact, among the many lessons learned through this process, the need for comprehensive and co-ordinated strategies to address the problem of spousal abuse stands out as the key lesson learned.

An Effective Strategy to Respond to Domestic Violence

The elements of an effective response to domestic violence are common to each initiative undertaken and each focus of intervention:

  • shared goals and objectives (that is, ensuring victim safety and holding offenders accountable) among all participants from a variety of disciplines;
  • a sound procedural framework with clear protocols for intervention and information-sharing for each component, sector and discipline;
  • commitment to co-ordination, collaboration and co-operation among all partners;
  • training that emphasizes individual roles and responsibilities and links with other components;
  • consistent policies that underscore commitment to goals at all levels of the organization;
  • appropriate resources to provide services; and
  • accountability mechanisms (for offenders, for justice system personnel, and for professionals of other systems and disciplines).

Within each jurisdiction, a comprehensive, co-ordinated strategy is needed to address the problem of domestic violence and the factors that contribute to it. Such co-ordination needs to occur across policy sectors (social, justice, education and health) and at all levels within each jurisdiction: at the provincial level (to establish a policy framework); at the local community level (to co-ordinate services and to identify needs, gaps and solutions); and at the individual level (to provide effective case management and conferencing mechanisms). The essential ingredients of an effective strategy addressing domestic violence within each jurisdiction include resources, a focal point of leadership and co-ordination, senior-level commitment and support to undertake these initiatives, and an accountability framework based on commitment to a long-range vision.

The Working Group acknowledges that many gaps remain in our understanding of the causes of spousal abuse; of the impact of the justice system response to this form of violence; and of the effectiveness of the various programs and services for victims and offenders. The Working Group recommends that jurisdictions support research to address these information gaps in order to provide a foundation for building a more effective response to spousal abuse.

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