Through Clare’s Law, Albertans have the right to know and ask about an intimate partner’s past and whether they have a history of violence. People who feel they may be at risk can submit an online application through the Clare’s Law website at no cost.
Clare's law has recently changed to make it more accessible. The process of applying for information has been made easier to access and further changes enable individuals to receive that information at a faster rate. As well they have introduced new information onto the database from a backlog.
These changes were made based on the applicant's comments and concerns about both the time it takes to receive results and the ease of filling out the proper paperwork.
Courtney Helfrich the program manager at the Wheatland Crisis Society (WCS) explains exactly what Clare's Law does for domestic abuse victims and individuals concerned about a potential partner.
“My understanding is the law is based on an event that happened over in the UK, essentially someone was murdered by their partner. After the fact, it was found out that this partner had an extensive history of domestic violence and a criminal history. Now that we have this law here in Alberta, our clients are able to work with the RCMP or CPS to make an application so they can find out the history of potential partners. I think it's important to be able to have that background so that clients are able to make a more informed decision for themselves and their relationship."
The Wheatland Crisis Society has been offering Clare's Law as a resource for many years as well as offering assistance in understanding and implementing the procedure.
Carol McLeod, the WCS Executive Director explains that she and her organization have been working hard in providing Wheatland County with services and resources like Clare's Law for many years. However, she states that due to the recent easing of Covid regulations the shelter has had its hands full.
“Unfortunately our services have been extremely busy lately with a higher demand for support and so we help if somebody needs someplace safe to stay immediately, if they don't want to come to the shelter or they would like to stay with their partner, then we'll continue to provide support and guidance to help anybody who's going through any kind of domestic violence or crisis.”
The WCS is also struggling with a lack of financial support as recent economic and Covid-related troubles have reduced spending on food and housing. Housing is also another important issue. Strathmore struggles from a lack of low-income housing, forcing low-income residents suffering from domestic abuse to either find housing away from friends and family or stay in an abusive relationship to keep a roof over their heads.
Mcleod and Helfrich are thankful and hopeful for both the community and what's coming next for the WCS.
“I really would like to thank the community for their ongoing support. We've been around for 29 years and the community has been extremely supportive of us. You're going to start seeing a bit more fundraising. We have a golf tournament coming up as well as a gala in the fall as well. We're trying to create awareness of domestic violence and obviously to raise money to help us continue with our operations," said Mcleod.
As well Helfrich wants to illustrate what's being done for the WCS in the community.
"There's such a housing crisis right now in terms of longer-term housing options and safe supportive housing options. We've joined a kind of task force with many other agencies in the town here that are really talking about what are the needs of this area and how can we best support those needs. This collaboration is huge and I hope that we can all continue to work together to really find out what the need is and then move forward."
Overall from WCS it was a message of thanks for the support and collaboration the community has given over the years, and for the continued belief in the work the WCS is doing.
The importance of the WCS can't be understated as often financial and parental obligations can keep people from leaving or escaping abusive situations. Resources like Clare's Law and the ones offered by the Wheatland Crisis Society can make a substantial difference in the trajectory of someone's life and relationships.
With seemingly more and more troubles on the horizon, it's important to recognize and uplift programs and organizations that can help some of the most vulnerable people in our society out of the situations that made them so vulnerable in the first place.
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