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About Our Project > History of the Canadian observatory

History of the Canadian observatory

In 2004 the development of this strategic research cluster on the justice system’s response to intimate partner violence was initiated by the Alliance of Canadian Research Centres on Violence (the Alliance) which follows the research tradition implemented at the research centres to involve people working on intimate partner violence at the local level (regions) first. This collaborative process ensured that priorities from each province would be addressed in the design of a Canadian observatory on the justice system response to intimate partner abuse. Consequently, regional meetings were held in seven provinces with people from the university, the community and the government to discuss priorities in their respective regions related to justice, community and policy responses to intimate partner abuse. Regional consultations took place in diverse cities in Canada including Calgary, Edmonton, Fredericton, London, Montreal, and other regions in Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. A broad list of themes on research, service delivery, and policy issues were explored during the consultations, including:

► Human service delivery;

► Justice system treatment of domestic violence cases;

► Successful initiatives put in place under the jurisdictions (governmental, community);

► Absence of initiatives (reasons and consequences);

► Development of public policies;

► Research conducted on justice response;

► Mechanisms and strategies put in place to address family violence issues (partnership, protocols in the province); and

► Priorities in the province in terms of service delivery, justice response, policy, and research.

From these regional consultations, it became clear that, while there are a number of issues and concerns across the country, there are also distinct interests and various issues that need to be addressed from provincial/territorial perspectives. The content of discussion held at regional meetings reflect, for a large part, the specificities of provincial policies and programs on the issue of intimate partner abuse. The consultations also pointed to regional particularities. For instance, in some consultations, participants were concerned about aboriginal communities and the justice system treatment of intimate partner violence in those communities; in others, there were concerns about the need for programs and policies that are sensitive to the diversity of the population; still in others the unique realities faced by those living in rural areas was important. Yet, these consultations revealed major research priorities that were similar for all the regions.

Most importantly, the emergence at the local level of the lack of a national, comprehensive, and cohesive justice system response to intimate partner violence was a consistent theme that has become the vital focus of this knowledge cluster design. The Alliance recognizes that it needs to have a clear understanding of the national picture on the justice system’s response to intimate partner violence in order to work more efficiently on finding solutions to eliminate violence. Moreover, the Alliance recognizes the necessity to be inclusive of regional particularities in the development of such a knowledge cluster design.

At a national meeting held in Montreal on February 22, 2005, participants from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick identified some of the key emerging themes and specificities that need to be taken into account at the national level. The objective of that meeting was to develop the research design, to agree on broad directions to be taken by the group over the coming years, and to create a synergy among participants around a common theme that would also respect regional specificities. Out of this meeting, a concept paper was developed.

In winter 2006, a Strategic Knowledge Cluster grant from SSHRC and a National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) grant provided the opportunity to expand partnerships with the provinces and territories on national research priorities. This grant supported the development of a connective/cohesive cluster model to establish the Canadian observatory. It also provided the resources to hold a two-day workshop in Fredericton in June 2006 to examine the data collection practices related to the justice system’s in response to intimate partner violence and explore possibilities for developing a shared method of data collection in Canada. This workshop reaffirmed the importance of establishing the Canadian observatory. Moreover, it became clear during the workshop that it is necessary to establish a structure that will create and sustain synergy among people involved in the issue. Delegates were invited from each of the thirteen provinces and territories, including academic researchers and provincial and federal government departments. Delegates presented on the data collection methods in each of their respective provinces and territories. A panel presentation by four provinces and territories with specialized domestic violence courts (Manitoba, Yukon, Ontario, Alberta) provided delegates with an opportunity to explore some of the challenges and possibilities in developing a shared method of data collection on the justice system response to intimate partner violence. Out of this two-day meeting came three research priorities:

► Do specialized courts make a difference in eliminating intimate partner violence?

► Can we chart the flow between policies and practices within each jurisdiction?

► What are the experiences of victims/outcomes for victims within the justice system, and with other systems such as child welfare, mediation/arbitration processes?

The workshop concluded with delegates agreeing to the next steps of the Canadian observatory: to seek substantive funding to support the Canadian observatory, to invite international researchers, and to further develop partnerships with community stakeholders and federal, provincial, and territorial governments.

Official launch of the Canadian observatory on the Justice System Response

The official launch of the Canadian observatory was held at the University of New Brunswick on September 24, 2007. Dr. Carmen Gill, the director of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton was congratulated on success by Dr. John McLaughlin, UNB President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Greg Kealey, Vice President of Research for the University of New Brunswick, Mr. Thomas J. Burke, New Brunswick Attorney General and Minster of Justice, and Ms. Pam McKay, Chair, Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research.


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