EDMONTON — Alberta is the second province to bring in a law that could help people at risk of domestic violence learn about their intimate partner's past.
The legislation, which is informally known as Clare's Law, is to come into effect Thursday.
"Alberta is currently the fourth highest in Canada for rates of police-reported intimate partner violence," Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney said Tuesday. "In fact, Lethbridge has the highest rate in the country.
"Between 2008 and 2019, we lost 204 Albertans to family violence-related deaths. This is unacceptable."
Sawhney said that's why the government brought in the Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence (Clare's Law) Act.
The law originated in the United Kingdom and is named after Clare Wood, a woman who was murdered in 2009 by a partner she didn't know had a violent criminal history.
A similar law came into force last June in Saskatchewan and one is also in the works in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In Alberta, the law will allow people who feel they may be at risk to apply online for information related to a current or former partner's potential risk for domestic violence.
Police can also choose to warn potential victims if there's a sense they are in danger.
TsuuT'ina Police Service Chief Keith Blake, who spoke on behalf of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, said it's an important step.
"One of the most difficult calls a police officer must respond to is that of domestic violence in an intimate-partner relationship," he said. "Domestic violence can also turn deadly.
"There is a common misconception that a victim of domestic violence can easily leave their violent partner, but sadly the reality is not that simple."
Victims will also have the ability to ask for additional help.
"There is a support system ready to help them and keep them safe if they need it or want it, regardless of their risk level," said Justice Minister Kaycee Madu.
Advocates suggest a positive outcome is more probable when social service supports are added into the mix.
"The Clare's Law application process provides a crucial window of opportunity for violence prevention," said Andrea Silverstone, executive director of Sagesse Domestic Violence Prevention Society in Calgary.
"The bottom line is if you are worried about it enough to fill out a Clare's Law application, you can benefit from social service support."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2021
The Canadian Press