Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Imagining Courts that Work for Women Survivors of Violence.

Pivot Legal Society

This morning, we joined forces with Atira Women’s Resource Society, Battered Women’s Support Services, The YWCA of Metro Vancouver, Kiwassa NeighbourhoodDSC_0183.jpg House and WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre to launch our latest report: Imagining Courts that Work for Women Survivors of Violence.

This report is the result of a multi-year collaboration among the women who participate in Pivot’s Jane Doe Advocate’s group, which meets monthly to network, participate in legal education and to work on access to justice issues impacting vulnerable women. The catalyst for this project was an informal conversation at one of our meetings about whether specialized courts could better meet the needs of the women we work with.

Today’s report lays out concerns with the current criminal justice system response to violence against women, but the real focus of this project is on imagining an DSC_0102.jpgachievable alternative for British Columbia. None of the concerns raised in our research were unique to British Columbia, so we were able to evaluate a broad range of program and practice solutions from other jurisdictions in our quest for solutions.

In the report we make the case that BC is falling behind other jurisdictions when it comes to innovation in the area of violence against women. With the exception of a small pilot program in Duncan, British Columbia is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada without specialized courts mandated to hear cases involving violence against women in relationships.

BC is at a critical juncture on the path to developing an effective system response to violence against women. We didn’t plan it this way, but we are excited to be launching this report in the midst of the BC Justice Reform Initiative and less than two months after the new Provincial Office of Domestic Violence released its preliminary action plan.

There have already been calls for specialized courts in British Columbia, including from the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth and, more recently, from Geoffrey Cowper who suggests specialized courts in his report commissioned by the Minister of Justice as part of the BC Justice Reform Initiative.

Our research highlights the diversity of specialized court models and demonstrates that the most successful specialized courts rely heavily on partnerships with women-serving agencies that have a deep understanding of the dynamics of violence against women. As relative latecomers to the discussion on specialized courts, I believe we have an opportunity to draw on the best aspects of specialized courts in other jurisdictions in order to create the most effective justice system response to gendered violence in this county. In order to seize that opportunity we now begin the difficult work of turning a report into action.

We have sent copies of this report to the Minister of Justice and to the new Provincial Domestic Violence Office. Along with copies of the report, we have extended an invitation to government to meet with us to talk about the way forward. In so doing, we are presenting government with an opportunity to make the most of the Justice Reform Initiative by developing partnerships with women’s organizations and community-based agencies that have a wealth of expertise to contribute to project of ‘modernizing’ BC's justice system and creating courts that work for women survivors of violence.

Darcie Bennett
Campaigns director, Pivot Legal Society

P.S. Read the whole report by clicking here.
Our mailing address is: 121 Heatley Ave, Vancouver, BC V6A 3E9, Canada
Copyright (C) 2012 Pivot Legal Society All rights reserved.

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