The Victims of Domestic Violence Act
In Saskatchewan, the Domestic Violence Act was established in 1994. The Act was an attempt to address the needs of a victim of abuse. The Act was put in place so that victims could have immediate and safe support in their home communities.
Frequently Asked Questions on The Victims of Domestic Violence Act
Q. What is the act?
A. The Act has three types of remedies for victims of Domestic Violence: Emergency Intervention Orders, Victims Assistance Orders, and Warrants of Entry.
Emergency Intervention Orders
Available 24 hours a day from a select number of specially designated Justices of the Peace, these orders are effective upon notice to the abuser and remain in effect for as long as the Justice of the Peace directs. The order can:
- Stop the abuser from communicating with or contacting the victim or members of the victim’s family;
- Give a victim exclusive occupation of the home;
- Direct a Peace Officer to remove the abuser from the home;
- Direct a Peace Officer to accompany the victim or the abuser to the home to supervise the removal of personal belongings.
While effective as soon as the abuser is notified of it, these orders are also subject to ratification by the Court of Queen’s Bench. Review or variation of the order may be made by application to the court.
Victims Assistance Orders
The Court of Queen’s Bench can issue Victim’s Assistance Orders to allow additional remedies for the victim, such as:
- Monetary compensation from the abuser for losses suffered as a result of the domestic violence (e.g. dental expenses, moving expenses);
- Temporary possession of personal property, (e.g. vehicle, cheque book, identification documents);
- Prohibiting the abuser from attending any place attended regularly by the victim or the victim’s family (e.g. residence, business, school);
- Restraining the abuser from contacting the victim, members of the victim’s family or their employers, employees, or co- workers;
Any of the orders are available on an emergency basis.
Warrants of Entry
A warrant of entry can be issued by a designated Justice of the Peace where there is cause for concern that a person who is unable to act on his or her own (e.g. senior, disabled) is suffering from domestic violence and the abuser is not allowing others to see that person. The warrant allows police to enter the building to examine the situation and, if necessary, remove the victim to provide him/her with medical attention.
An order granted under this Act operates for as long as directed by the Justice of the Peace or Judge who made the order. The order is in force when the abuser receives notice of it and continues pursuant to its terms or until it is removed or varied by the court upon application of either party.
Q. How is an Emergency Intervention Order obtained?
A. A victim, or a person acting on behalf of the victim, may apply for an order. In most cases, the application will be made to the special Justice of the Peace by the police, a Mobile Crisis Worker or a Victim Services Coordinator. Only applications brought forward by the police, Mobile Crisis Workers or Victim Services Coordinators can be made over the phone to the Justice of the Peace. When an order is granted, the Justice of the Peace will direct the police to serve the abuser with the order and will ensure that the victim receives a copy. The order is then filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench.
Q. How is a Victim’s Assistance Order obtained?
A. Victim’s Assistance Orders are granted by the Court of Queen’s Bench. Applications are made directly to the court, usually with the assistance of a lawyer.
Q. How is a warrant of entry obtained?
A. In situations where there is cause for concern that a person who is unable to act on his/her own is suffering domestic violence at the hands of a cohabitant (as those terms are explained below), and persons are being refused access to that person, the police can apply to a Justice of the Peace for a warrant of entry.
Q. How is the Act enforced?
A. Breach of either order will be prosecuted under Section 127 of the Criminal Code. Police are authorized to arrest without warrant a person who is breaching an order.
Q. Who will the Act apply to?
A. The Act applies to any cohabitant who has suffered domestic violence at the hands of another cohabitant.
‘Domestic Violence’ is defined to include:
- Any intentional or reckless act or omission that causes bodily harm or damage to property;
- Any act or threatened act that causes a reasonable fear of bodily harm or damage to property;
- Forced confinement; or
- Sexual abuse.
‘Cohabitant’ is defined to include:
- Persons who have resided together or who are residing together in a family relationship, spousal relationship or intimate relationship; or persons who are the parents of one or more children, regardless of their marital status or whether they have lived together at any time.
This will include: spouses, common-law spouses, children, seniors, disabled persons and any other person in an intimate or family relationship.
Q. How will the rights of an alleged abuser be protected?
A. An order made pursuant to the Act will not be in effect until the abuser has been given notice of the order. An abuser may apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench to have the order removed or varied.
Q. How can these orders protect victims in remote northern or rural areas?
A. Training sessions conducted about this Act stressed that the primary consideration is safety of the victim. Exclusive occupation of the residence will not be appropriate where the safety of the victim retaining residence cannot be reasonably assured. In a rural or northern area where police services are not immediately available such reasonable safety will be difficult to establish. In such cases it may be more appropriate for the victim to leave the residence and seek the protection of a restraining order in another location rather than seeking exclusive occupation of the home. This same primary consideration for safety will occur in urban settings, however, concerns regarding enforcement are more acute in rural areas and the North.
Q. Why can’t a victim apply for an emergency intervention order by telephone?
A. One of the central focuses of this legislation is to simplify access to protection for victims. Through our consultations regarding implementation, we realize that it is unrealistic to expect a victim who has just been abused to make a legal application, requiring the presentation of evidence to a Justice of the Peace without considerable assistance. Police Officers, Mobile Crisis Workers and some Victim Services Coordinators have been designated, given their on-the-scene role, as individuals who may apply on behalf of the victim, with their consent, for an Emergency Intervention Order. We will monitor this process carefully to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach and to determine if expansion of the program is warranted.
Q. What is the telephone number for accessing the Justice of the Peace?
A. All of the designated Justice of the Peace are linked through a special telephone system accessed by a single number province wide. The telephone number is only available to police, Mobile Crisis Workers and Victims Services Coordinators. If the telephone number becomes widely known, it will be changed. This ensures a degree of protection for the designated Justices of the Peace in ruling on matters of such a sensitive and potentially dangerous nature. It also provides an effective screen by allowing only trained individuals to bring forward applications in this matter.
Victims or someone else acting on their behalf can apply for an order by appearing before a Justice of the Peace or the Court.