Women’s orgs must be key partners in justice system innovation - says new report

Vancouver- The Province of British Columbia is falling behind other jurisdictions when it comes to criminal justice system innovation in the area of violence against women according to a new report released today.

The report, Imagining Courts that Work for Women Survivors of Violence, which comes 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, makes the case that British Columbia’s justice system is at a critical juncture on the path to developing an effective system response to violence against women.

“Despite repeated commitments to addressing violence against women, government has not done enough to engage the anti-violence sector or the community organizations that support women navigating the justice system every day,” says the report’s lead author, Darcie Bennett of Pivot Legal Society. “That is why we are calling on government 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.”

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Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.

Atira Women’s Resource Society, Battered Women’s Support Services, Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre and the YWCA of Metro Vancouver have come together to endorse the recommendations in the report, including the call for deeper engagement with the anti-violence sector.

“There has to be ongoing collaboration with anti-violence organizations to enhance women’s safety and to build greater confidence that the Criminal Justice System will respond effectively to violence against women” says Rosa Arteaga of Battered Women’s Support Services.

The report’s central focus is on the criminal justice system, but through interviews with women and surveys with service providers from across the province, the report also examines the important intersection between police response and women’s experiences with the criminal justice system, the role of family law when it comes to addressing violence in relationships and the justice system response to a spectrum of gendered violence.

“Opening domestic violence courts as the only specialized courts to deal with gender-based violence would continue to fail women who want justice in sexual assault cases” says Dalya Israel of WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre.  “As we know, sexualized violence takes place both inside and outside of relationships. ”

While the report points out many ways that the justice system is continuing to fail women,  the focus is on drawing on expertise in our own communities and from around North America in order to building a better future.

"BC has a real opportunity to create domestic violence courts that both meet the needs of women and children leaving abuse and ensure that offenders are accountable," says Andrea Vollans, Legal Educator at the YWCA Metro Vancouver. "This report shows that frontline service providers are uniquely situated to help ensure that we use that opportunity to its fullest."
The report will be launched today at 9:30 am today at a press conference at the Pivot Legal Society office (121 Heatley Avenue).  Representatives from a number of women’s organizations will share stories about women's experiences with the criminal justice system and discuss recommendations for change.

View the entire report at: http://www.pivotlegal.org/imagining_courts_that_work_for_women_survivors_of_violence

Advanced Copies have been sent to the Ministry of Justice, the Representative for Children and Youth in British Columbia, the Provincial Office of Domestic Violence and relevant members of the official opposition.

For further comment contact:

Darcie Bennett

Pivot Legal Society

(604) 753-8182

Rosa Arteaga
Battered Women’s Support Services
(604) 687-1868  ext. 314

Dalya Israel
Women Against Violence Against Women
(604)255-6228 ext. 224

Chantelle Krish
YWCA Metro Vancouver
(778) 938-9544