Department of Justice     

Government Response
Framework for Action Against Family Violence, 2001 Review

[ Summary of Government Response to Recommendations ]

The Framework for Action Against Family Violence was initiated in 1995 in order to improve the response of the justice system to incidents of spousal/intimate partner violence. Elements of the Framework included:

  • improved procedures for responding to family violence (pro-arrest, pro-charge, pro-prosecution policy)
  • comprehensive training program for all justice workers
  • enhanced victim support services
  • interagency coordination
  • accountability
  • advocacy

On February 28, 2000 Bruce Allan George and Lori Lee Maxwell were found dead in their home, victims of a domestic murder-suicide. Individual internal reviews conducted by the Departments of Justice and Community Services made several recommendations for improved response. In addition, the Department of Justice, in October, 2000, commissioned Dean Dawn Russell and Assistant Professor Diana Ginn of Dalhousie University Law School to conduct an external review of the Framework for Action. The terms of reference of the review included an assessment of the current level of support for the Framework among justice workers and in the community; how the policy is currently being implemented in practice; as well as recommendations for improving the response of the justice system to incidents of family violence.

Dean Russell's review concluded that there is "strong support among justice workers in Nova Scotia for the Framework for Action Against Family Violence" and that "there was consensus that the Framework was a very positive step in dealing effectively with intimate partner violence". The report did, however, include a number of recommendations for strengthening the Framework and making it more flexible and responsive to the needs of all persons affected by intimate partner violence.

Key recommendations include:

  • Strengthen the coordination of measures to address spousal/intimate partner violence, within and external to the Department of Justice, involving both government and community stakeholders
  • Deliver ongoing training for all justice workers, building on the successful model used during the implementation of the Framework in 1996-97
  • Initiate a diversion pilot project in Cape Breton for intimate partner violence
  • Initiate a specialized domestic violence court as a pilot project in the Halifax Regional Municipality, with possible expansion based on monitoring results
  • Consider adopting domestic violence legislation as a supplement to the Framework for Action
  • Reinstate the Family Violence Prevention Initiative
  • Develop and/or expand victim support services; programs for assaultive partners; and programs for children exposed to family violence
  • allocate adequate funding for the Public Prosecution Service and Correctional Service.

Response to Key Recommendations

A pro-charge, pro-prosecution philosophy will be maintained as the cornerstone of the Framework for Action Against Family Violence. The following provides an overview of responses to key recommendations.


A Deputy Ministers Leadership Committee on Family Violence will be established to provide support at the most senior levels of government for interdepartmental and community/government collaboration and a comprehensive response to spousal/partner violence.

Protocols requiring the referral of high risk cases to primary service providers (police, victims' services, child welfare, transition houses and men's intervention programs) for case management and monitoring will be instituted. The Department of Justice, Public Prosecution Service, police agencies, Department of Community Services and community agencies will review (and revise/reinforce, where necessary) existing interagency protocols, with priority being given to protocols between child protection and police to improve information-sharing, case planning and coordination. Specialists in child protection and domestic violence will be consulted.

The Department of Community Services, as part of an internal Maxwell/George Review, has undertaken protocol development and revisions to existing protocols and will work jointly with the Department of Justice to implement these protocols.

A workshop on risk assessment, sponsored by the Victims' Services Division, Department of Justice, was held in September 2001, with participation from all components of the justice system as well as community agencies and other government departments. Standardized risk assessment tools will be identified for use by justice workers.

Ongoing Training

A Justice Learning Centre will be established in Truro by the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Nova Scotia Community College, to serve as a focal point for the comprehensive training recommended by Dean Russell. Training will focus on protocols for interagency collaboration in response to incidents of spousal/partner violence. It is anticipated that some components of the training will be delivered via distance education technology.

Staff orientation manuals and policy and procedures manuals will be updated to ensure relevant, updated information regarding response to family violence is included.

Training will include sensitization to the special circumstances of Aboriginal and diversity groups in order to enhance the response of the justice system to reports of family violence in these communities.

A specialized training program regarding the proposed domestic violence legislation will be developed and delivered to police, justices of the peace and court staff.

Victim Support Services

Government acknowledges that victim support programs are important not only to provide for the safety and well-being of victims and their children, but also to ensure effective implementation of Framework policies. Funding will be provided to establish 3.5 domestic violence victim assistance coordinator positions to work with police agencies to provide victim assistance and support and to identify and refer high risk situations to relevant primary service agencies for case management and monitoring.

Government agrees that programs for children exposed to family violence are important in order to assist in the healing process and to break the cycle of violence. An approach that supports varied delivery mechanisms is recommended. The Department of Community Services will explore opportunities for establishment of new programming through the Mental Health Project.

Domestic Violence Legislation

A review by the Department of Justice of domestic violence legislation enacted in six provincial/territorial jurisdictions has revealed that provisions such as the emergency intervention order (which can incorporate a variety of conditions, for example, granting the victim exclusive occupation of the home for a defined period) are a useful addition to the mechanisms for responding to spousal/partner abuse. Legislation will be introduced in the Fall Session of the Legislature

Domestic Violence Court Pilot Project

Examination of the organization and operation of specialized domestic violence courts has been undertaken by the Department of Justice and the Federal Provincial Territorial Working Group on Spousal Abuse, of which the Nova Scotia Department of Justice is a member. While there is some evidence that specialized courts have produced positive results, the costs associated with the establishment and operation of these courts are significant. Due to fiscal restraint, this recommendation cannot be implemented at this time.

Diversion Pilot Project

The Department of Justice and Public Prosecution Service accept in principle the recommendation to initiate a diversion pilot project in Cape Breton. Implementation has been deferred due to fiscal restraint.

Family Violence Prevention Initiative

The objectives of providing government leadership in efforts to prevent and respond to family violence; promoting effective community-government partnerships; and facilitating interagency collaboration at the local level will be addressed through the establishment of a Deputy Ministers Leadership Committee on Family Violence and through the efforts of the Interdepartmental Committee for the Prevention of Family Violence, working together with local interagency family violence committees throughout the Province.

A detailed response to each of the recommendations is attached here.


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