Iqaluit council pushes GN on intimate partner violence law

Clare’s Law could be a preventive tool, says Coun. Kimberly Smith

Iqaluit city councillor Kimberly Smith wants the Government of Nunavut to adopt Clare’s Law, which is designed to help people find out from police if an intimate partner has a history of violence. (Photo by David Lochead)

By Madalyn Howitt

An Iqaluit city councillor says a law that allows people to request information from police about a person’s history of violence should be adopted in Nunavut. 

Coun. Kimberly Smith put forward a motion to city council in May for council to formally request the Government of Nunavut to implement Clare’s Law in the territory. 

Council unanimously approved the motion and sent a letter to Justice Minister David Akeeagok on May 30.

Clare’s Law is named after Clare Wood, a woman who was murdered in England in 2009 by her ex-partner, a man who police knew had multiple convictions for violence against women. 

The law works in two ways: it allows members of the public to ask police for information about a potential abuser, and it allows police to disclose information about a person’s history of abuse or intimate partner violence. 

“Perhaps you’re dating someone [and] you see a red flag or you’re planning on moving in with somebody and it allows the police to look into that person,” Smith said.

“If they have a history of sexual or intimate partner violence, they can let you know in a discreet and confidential way to allow you to protect yourself.” 

Smith said the law is meant to act as a preventive tool. “Right now we have certain programs in place like the Family Abuse Intervention Act that allow for certain things like protective orders and things of that nature, but in order for that to be enacted the violence has to already be actively occurring,” Smith said.

“You already have to be in a dangerous, violent situation in order to implement an emergency protective order, so [Clare’s Law] would be a tool that would hopefully help interrupt that cycle from happening in the first place.”

Domestic violence rates are nine times higher than the rest of Canada, according to research done in 2019 by the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre.

Smith said any tool that can be implemented to help stop intimate partner violence is worth pursuing.  

So far, versions of Clare’s Law have been adopted in Canada by Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador, and other provinces have had discussions about implementing it. 

Justice Minister David Akeeagok responded to Smith’s motion in a letter on June 22, saying the GN “is committed to addressing risks of intimate partner violence and to protect victims, or potential victims, in Nunavut, including exploring potential legislative changes,” but that implementing the law would require “consultation and careful analysis.” 

One potential obstacle with adopting the law in Nunavut is that the territory’s police force, the RCMP, is a federal institution rather than a provincial police force, which would have more say in what policies they want to adopt. 

“There [are] federal privacy rules that prevent them from disclosing that type of information to individuals,” Smith said. 

“However, I do think it’s a very valuable tool, and I would hope that the Nunavut government would advocate to the federal government to have those rules changed in order to be able to implement this with the RCMP.”

In the meantime, Smith encourages anyone who’s experiencing violence or is at risk of violence to reach out to the RCMP “if you’re in immediate danger, reach out to friends and family, reach out to your community justice worker, your social worker.” 

“There are resources out there right now to help. No one should ever have to go through anything like this alone,” Smith said.

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(18) Comments:

  1. Posted by 867 on

    Domestic violence abusers and sex abusers and child abusers should be made public. How many politicians, respected elders and hunters out there fall under one of those categories and we don’t know? Protect our children and women. These are not people our children should be looking up to.

    • Posted by Putting this out there on

      Though to be fair, dont we know who they are… but they are still held up and praised for what they do (hunt, politics, sing, dogteam)… or for being old (we are getting very close to the point where being OLD is not enough to be a knowledge holder).
      Talk to your kids (when they can understand the abusive topic) and let them know about bad people and dont let your kids be around them. Also dont be abusive to other, so your kids will know they can come to you if someone is abusive to them. and when they do RESPOND accordingly.

      • Posted by Earlier. on

        > Talk to your kids (when they can understand the abusive topic)

        Tell them BEFORE they understand abusive topics so they can ask for help when they come across an abusive topic. You don’t teach your child to look both ways when they cross the road “once they understand the ramifications of death.” You’re supposed to be proactive in your protection, not retroactive.

        • Posted by Putting this out there on

          Your right. And I do talk to my kids, but I dont give names of people, or tell them exactly why I wont let them visit a certain house, until they are are old enough. The world has bad people in it and kids will learn that soon enough and its our job as parents to protect and teach them how to avoid those people. But having inocense is also a great thing for a kid to have. It is just more effort on our part to keep them safe while still very young.

    • Posted by 979 on

      Don’t forget to protect the men too, a lot of us see men getting treated very badly also, emotional/mental abuse and physical abuse too.

      It’s a “partner” violence law, goes both ways.

  2. Posted by Tim Buckle on

    Justice Minister David Akeeagok Is full of baloney when he suggests that because the RCMP is a federal force they have “more say” in implementing such a “policy”! It would not be a policy, it would be a law, passed by the Territory and the RCMP are under contract to enforce any law passed, just as they are in the other provinces that have passed a version of “Clare’s Law”.

  3. Posted by S on

    What a dangerous idea. People vet their partners through the RCMP. If a potential partner has no record, the mere request put to the police creates a red flag on the individual.

    It’ll be interesting to learn how people like Kim Smith abuse others’ rights in other ways

    • Posted by MARS on

      Court proceedings are public information. Therefore, any person can do a search on a database such as CanLi and find any court judgment from any Canadian court.

      • Posted by Not quite on

        Most court decisions are public information, yes, but CanLII contains a small subset of court decisions. Searching someone’s name on CanLII and finding nothing is by no means a guarantee that they lack a criminal record. It’s still a good idea, though.

        Court registries, though more of a hassle to access, are a source of more complete information.

    • Posted by Right to Ask not a Right to Get an Answer on

      Under the Saskatchewan statute, a number of different parties have a ‘right to ask’, including ‘the police, the person at risk, family members, medical professionals and shelter workers, among others. As of June 2020, the RCMP had stated that it would not honour requests for information made pursuant to Clare’s Law in Saskatchewan, as it is bound by federal privacy law.

      • Posted by Maq-Pat on

        “As of June 2020” is old information. Someone has already linked the update in the comments above. It changed in March 2021, RCMP now honor Clare’s Law.

    • Posted by Maq-Pat on

      Why would the RCMP knowing someone wants to date you “create a red flag” any more then the RCMP knowing someone wants to hire you?

      Why are we giving more information to employers (through criminal record checks) then we give to inmate partners?

      Is it important NorthMart know that your daughter’s new boyfriend was frequently arrested for domestically abusing his ex? Maybe she should be allowed to know?

      Even if it has been a long time and people have changed, forgiving does not mean forgetting. Nunavut’s guiding principle of Tunnganarniq is about openly sharing, this includes important information for the safety of our daughters.

      • Posted by Who is Requesting is Important on

        Your points bring attention to two distinct scenarios:

        In the first scenario, a potential employee requests their own criminal record check and provides the results to a potential employer.

        The second scenario you’ve brought up, known as Clair’s Law in some jurisdictions, allows for a potential romantic partner to directly request a police check on the person they are dating, without that person’s knowledge.

        Both scenarios involve a level of information disclosure, but the contexts and the mechanisms involved are quite different

  4. Posted by People know each other on

    People living in the north know more about each other than even the police know for the most part, but that don’t cover everyone, and it need not be that because you already know someone, that something more serious about the person is not hidden in some way. But I do believe it could be an option that people could use if they feel the need to. Police should have something like that in place as part of prevention and good well to citizens. It could really save lives.

  5. Posted by Hunter on

    We need to figure out how to break the cycle of domestic violence and intergenerational trauma or we are just raising the next generation of abusers.

    We need long term solutions that provides education, support, awareness, addiction services, counselling, etc. for BOTH the VICTIMS and OFFENDERS of domestic violence.

    Removing one party (victim or offender) is a temporary solution and does not deal with the under lying issues.

    We have to understand offenders of domestic violence are human beings that live in our communities, they are our brothers, uncles, fathers, nephews, sons. Ultimately we need these people being healthy productive members of our communities and society.

    Ultimately shaming offenders of domestic violence to changing their behavior and life choice does not work and leads to increased self harm and suicide and not healthy for our communities or society.

    • Posted by Maq-Pat on

      I agree we need to support offenders as well, pretending something didn’t happen isn’t going to help stop it. Ignoring, risks repeating, which is bad for everyone: offenders, new victims, and our communities.

      The suggestion here isn’t about shame, it is about empowering people to make informed decision about their own lives.

  6. Posted by Can the city focus on roads, water and dogs! on

    The city is a fine mess and should focus on their work instead of trying to govern a dirrerent level of government. When are the roads ever getting fixed? Is the water ever going to be stable and drinkable without the endless boil water advisories? When are all the loose dogs going to be dealt with? Fix your very own mess before trying to work on areas you can’t control.

    • Posted by Maq-Pat on

      If there is no overlap between levels of government then critical things fall through the cracks. Say for example, Territorial government support for roads (look at the systems in NWT or Yukon), or a jurisdiction wide approach to dogs (like Kalaallit Nunaat). Silos are not something to strive for.


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