The territorial government has admitted it’s not currently clear who holds responsibility for driving down rates of domestic violence in the NWT and providing supports.
Justice minister Caroline Wawzonek said on Thursday: “I will be frank about it. There is not one single department responsible for domestic violence, nor is there a minister responsible for domestic violence.
“What there is, fortunately, is a recognition by this cabinet of that gap, and a recognition of the need to fix that gap.”
Wawzonek was responding to questions from Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland, who said she was fielding an increasing number of inquiries about supports for people experiencing domestic violence.
While supports do exist, the territorial government acknowledges they are provided by a range of agencies spanning multiple departments – with no obvious lead authority.
More information: Getting help with family violence
“I think it’s really important, with us having the second-highest rate of domestic violence in Canada, that we need to give this an owner right away, preferably by the end of this sitting,” said Cleveland.
“Over the course of gathering information from multiple different departments, it took my constituency assistant and I about a month to put together all of the information and resources.
“That’s not very useful or realistic for someone who is suffering from domestic violence.”
Cleveland asked the minister if a lead department would be in place by the end of the legislature’s current sitting, in April.
Wawzonek felt that might be unrealistic but said she would, at least, make that deadline “a target.”
NWT action plan
Meanwhile, Wawzonek said the NWT government was waiting for a forthcoming federal action plan on domestic violence before developing its own.
“It would be prudent for us to at least see what progress is made at a federal level,” the minister said.
“If there is funding associated with whatever might be happening at that level, we can ensure the identified departmental lead can then try to access that funding.”
A working group involving several departments has commissioned the Aurora Research Institute to look into best practices for addressing domestic violence, Wawzonek added.
“I will wait until we have that back, see what that recommends, and at that point we can move forward and determine whether that will be the foundation for an action plan or not,” she said.