New relationships can be fun and exciting, but sometimes there are signs that your new partner isn’t The One, such as disproportionate anger or controlling behavior. If you have concerns about your safety, there is a now a way for you to get information about your partner’s history, which can help you decide whether it’s time to leave.
On November 2, 2023, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador proclaimed into force the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act, also known as Clare’s Law. Clare’s Law is named after Clare Wood, a British woman who was murdered by her ex-partner in 2009. Wood’s family fought for a disclosure protocol that would enable individuals to obtain information from police about a partner’s violent past, so that they may safely leave a relationship when there is a risk of violence. Newfoundland and Labrador joins Alberta and Saskatchewan in passing a law based on Clare’s Law, and other jurisdictions in Canada are considering similar legislation.
Under the new legislation, a person may request information about their risk of interpersonal violence from a current or former intimate partner (Right to Ask). In some circumstances, a police officer may proactively disclose information to a person at risk (Right to Know).
An application may also be made by a support person on behalf of the person at risk, with that person’s consent The support person may assist with making the application, communicate with the police on behalf of the person at risk, and attend any meetings.
To be eligible to make a Right to Ask application, the applicant and/or the person at risk must:
Under the legislation, interpersonal violence means actual or threatened acts of violence in an intimate partner relationship. It may include a single act of violence or a number of acts forming a pattern of abuse. It includes physical and sexual abuse, criminal harassment, threats to harm children, other family members, or pets, property damage, coercive control and emotional and psychological abuse.
An intimate partner relationship means a current or former relationship between 2 people that can be reasonably characterized as being physically or emotionally intimate, or both.
The following individuals may act as support persons for the person at risk:
The Right to Ask application may be made online (see link below) or directly to the police. In some cases, there may be a pre-disclosure meeting with the police in order to provide information about safety, confirm consent for the application and establish additional details.
If the police determine that a person is at risk from a violent or abusive individual, they may initiate the Right to Know disclosure process. When it is safe to do so, the police may contact the person at risk to advise of the risk of interpersonal violence. The person at risk may have a support person accompany them or may refuse to accept disclosure. Refusing to accept does not preclude the person from making a Right to Ask application at a later time.
As part of the disclosure process, police will conduct a risk assessment, to help determine the likelihood and degree to which the person may be at risk of experiencing interpersonal violence. The level of risk falls within one of four categories: Insufficient Information; Low; Medium; or High. It is important to note that a determination of Insufficient Information or Low risk does not mean that a risk of interpersonal violence does not exist. Regardless of the category of risk, the police will assess each situation, and may provide information about interpersonal violence and local services.
Disclosure meetings usually occur in-person at a police station, though alternative arrangements may be made. The person at risk will be orally informed of their risk level and may be provided with contextual information, but will normally not include specific details about the current or former partner’s personal history or interactions with the criminal justice system. In some cases, information that is publicly available, such as relevant criminal convictions, may be provided. The disclosure provided is confidential and may only be used by the recipient to safeguard themselves, and both the person at risk and the support person must sign a confidentiality agreement.
- Kathleen Healey
Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol
Interpersonal Violence Disclosure (Clare’s Law) Application
Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Fact Sheet
Domestic Violence Help Line 1.888.709.7090
Please call 911 if someone you know is in immediate danger.
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