Intimate partner violence in Alberta
By Greg Dunn
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is defined as any violent, threatening, dominating, coercive or controlling behaviour between past or present partners. It can take many different forms, including:
- Physical abuse, such as hitting, slapping, pushing, punching or threats to cause harm. It can extend all the way to homicide if that occurs in a domestic setting.
- Psychological abuse, which can take the form of emotional or verbal abuse, isolation from family and friends and threats to leave the relationship or to do self-damage if the victim does not cooperate.
- Sexual abuse includes unwanted touching or sexual activity.
- Financial abuse, such as forcing a person to hand over all or part of their salary or by denying someone access to their own finances.
- It can include the deprivation of food, clothing, medical attention, transportation or other necessities of life.
The majority of reported incidents involve violence against women. However, people of any gender can be a victim of IPV.
IPV is common
According to Statistics Canada, IPV, including both spousal and dating violence, accounts for one in every four violent crimes reported to police. Overall, violence against dating partners was more prevalent than spousal violence, StatsCan states, adding that young Canadians were most often the complainant. Women and men in their late 20s and early 30s had the highest rates of IPV victimization per 100,000 population, followed closely by those aged 15 to 24 years.
Sasgeese, a provincewide domestic abuse agency, says that more than four in 10 women and six in 10 Indigenous women in Alberta experience intimate partner violence in their lifetimes, with 165 deaths due to family violence between 2011 and 2020 in the province.
The limits of Clare’s Law in Alberta
In 2021, Alberta enacted a version of Clare’s Law. It originated in the United Kingdom in 2014 and is named for Clare Wood, a woman killed by her ex-boyfriend. She was unaware of his violent past.
In Alberta, the Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence (Clare’s Law) Act gives people who feel at risk of domestic violence a way to get information about their partners. People applying for this information about someone else must prove they are in an intimate relationship with the individual in question, and not simply trying to obtain personal details for other purposes.
According to provincial rules, police only provide information so a person can make an informed decision about their safety. Details cannot be shared with anyone else.
This disclosure must be made in person between police and the person requesting it. The information will only be shared verbally. The recipient must also sign a confidentiality agreement. Disclosure cannot be:
- written down;
- recorded with video or audio;
- shared on social media;
- told to another person; or
- used for any legal proceedings.
Police respond to all allegations of IPV
Police forces across Alberta give priority to reports of IPV and will investigate once a complaint or 911 call is made. If police ask you about an IPV allegation, you do not have to tell them anything. Remember, what you say may be used against you in court. Remain courteous and respectful to the officers and do not lie.
If you are arrested, you have a right to consult a lawyer. If you are charged, you need to speak to legal counsel as soon as possible. Unless you have a criminal record, you will likely be released until the case goes to court. However, a judge may make it a condition of your release that you move out of the family home and not contact your partner. This includes a prohibition on phone messages, email and text messages. If you have children you may also be restricted from seeing them.
Contact us for advice
The experienced criminal defence lawyers at Dunn & Associates have the expertise to represent a client facing IPV charges. One option is to have the Crown agree to a diversion program, which allows you to attend counselling to deal with the issues that led to the IPV allegation. This counselling could include anger management courses or programs aimed at helping with alcohol or drug addiction. If you complete the counselling and enter into a peace bond, you will avoid a criminal conviction.
The justice system treats crimes involving a domestic relationship harsher than those involving a stranger. That is because people in domestic relationships are in positions of trust toward each other and it is considered an aggravating factor when one of the parties abuses that trust. If you are found guilty of an IPV charge, the Crown may ask for incarceration.
Experienced defence counsel makes a difference
When IPV cases go to trial across Canada, 60 per cent result in a conviction, according to information from the Department of Justice. If you are facing IPV charges, contact the team and Dunn & Associates for a consultation. In Calgary, domestic charges are heard in courtroom 508. Don’t face a charge alone. Allow us to advise you on your legal options.