Noting that Saskatchewan continues to have the highest rate of domestic violence among the provinces, the NDP used the Official Opposition’s first opportunity to focus the debate in the House to draw attention to and seek solutions for the tragic reality.
“We’ve heard the Sask. Party talk a lot about getting work started but they have yet to take any real action,” said NDP Justice, Policing and Corrections Critic Nicole Sarauer, who has raised the issue of domestic violence in the Legislature several times and led the debate on the subject on Thursday. “We’re happy that they are apparently moving forward with a review panel but, aside from re-announcing the same panel over and over again, we need to see some real action now.”
Thursday, the Sask. Party recommitted to review domestic violence deaths that they first announced in October, but said that the panel is still only partially assembled. The initial findings of the panel aren’t expected to come out until late 2016 and recommendations aren’t going to be coming out until the fall of 2017.
“There are many people throughout Saskatchewan that are in dire situations right now – many suffer in silence and many suffer because the right supports aren’t in place,” Sarauer said. “Waiting for reports to be written won’t make these families any safer.”
In its own poverty reduction strategy, the government said it would tackle domestic violence “when the province’s fiscal capacity allows.” However, a recent study by The Circle Project Association shows that – beyond the human cost – one domestic violence incident costs the Saskatchewan economy more than $100,000.
“It’s disgraceful that the Sask. Party would cite the cost of oil as the reason for not addressing domestic violence,” Sarauer said. “It’s tragic that the growing human crisis isn’t enough reason to act but, beyond that, the evidence is clear; if the province’s high rate of domestic violence is lowered, it’ll save Saskatchewan millions in healthcare, justice and policing costs.”
Other provincial governments have taken action and, beyond great strides happening in Ontario, our provincial neighbours have already moved forward as well. In Alberta, legislation has been passed to allow victims of domestic abuse to break a lease early and in Manitoba, victims of domestic abuse have the right to take time off and get treatment without fear of job loss.