Sask. government pledges new laws to combat family violence

According to Statistics Canada, the province's family violence rate was double the national average in 2015, leading the provinces.

In 2015, Saskatchewan's family violence rate was double the national average

Saskatchewan leads the provinces in domestic violence rate for the third year in a row. (CBC)

Saskatchewan's alarming rate of family violence prompted provincial Justice Minister Gordon Wyant on Thursday to promise to address the problem.

Wyant said he will propose a number of new laws in the upcoming legislative session. One would allow those fleeing domestic abuse to break lease agreements. Another would create a database of protection orders for victims and police to access.

"We take this very, very seriously," Wyant said. "I can tell you that it's a priority of mine and a priority for the Government of Saskatchewan to do what we can do to help reduce the incidence of interpersonal violence."

I can tell you that it's a priority of mine.- Justice Minister Gordon Wyant 

However, Wyant wouldn't say whether family violence programs would be immune from provincial budget cuts next month. He said the province must use existing funds as efficiently as possible. 

Grim situation

According to a new report from Statistics Canada, the province's family violence rate was double the national average in 2015, leading the provinces.

The study compiled statistics from police forces across the country, and includes everything from uttering threats to physical and sexual violence to homicide.

In 2015, there were 5,272 cases of family violence reported to police in Saskatchewan. That's a slight decrease from 2014.

Across the country, women were twice as likely as men to be victims of family violence, the study found.

Saskatchewan also led the country in family violence in 2013 and 2014.

Sask. issues, including domestic violence, motivated local women to march in solidarity with an anti-Trump protest in Jan. 2017. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

Wyant said he hopes the provincial review on domestic violence deaths, as well as the national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, will yield even more useful suggestions.

YWCA executive director Shannon Zook said the situation is grim. She said it's not just a problem for women and girls. Every individual and organization must take responsibility. That's why she brought her son to a recent march against domestic violence.

Shannon Zook is Saskatoon's YWCA executive director. (Jason Warick/CBC)

"I think we have to remain optimistic. We have work to do as a community and we need to start with children when they're very young," Zook said. "I know I have a young son, and he came with me on the walk and he knows about these issues. It's very important we do it collectively as a community."

The Saskatchewan government's Domestic Violence Death Review Panel began its work with a pilot review in 2016. Six cases were selected for the pilot review 

A final report from the review is expected in fall of 2017.