The Manitoba government has introduced Bill 43 (Clare's Law) to give Manitobans access to an intimate partner's documented history of violence as well as access to supports. 

"Manitoba has some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence and family violence in Canada," said Families Minister Rochelle Squires, minister responsible for the status of women, in making the announcement. 

"These types of violence primarily affect women and girls, disproportionally affect those living in rural, remote and northern communities, Indigenous people, people of colour and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. The purpose of Clare's Law is to provide Manitobans with access to information on whether their partner has a documented history of violence, as well as access to public and community-based supports to promote safety and end the cycle of violence."

Angela Braun, Executive Director at Winkler's Genesis House, says the new law will mark a huge shift for Manitoba. 

"Clare's Law has been in place in a couple of provinces already - Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland is in the process of implementing it as well. It's another layer of protection that people can use when entering a new relationship and [are] not quite sure about the background. There will have been some red flags and they now have opportunity to explore what those red flags might be, like has there been past violence in relationships?"

In a media release, the minister stated that Manitoba's proposed version of Clare's Law takes a unique disclose and support approach. Manitoba would be the first jurisdiction in the world to have access to public or community-based supports as a stated goal in legislation. 

Manitoba's law will be informed by similar implementations in other provinces, said Braun, including pieces that have not been in place before. 

"They've included previous sexual assault or history of previous sexual violence as part of Claire's Law, so you will be able to have access to that type of information. As well, for minors, if you have a 16 or 17-year-old involved in a relationship, their guardians would also be able to have access to some information. Of course there will be a process and regulations around how that is done so that it's done appropriately."

Clare's Law is named after Clare Wood, a British woman who was murdered by her partner in 2009. Wood's family fought to put a disclosure protocol in place that would enable people to obtain information from police about a partner's documented history of violence in hopes they may safely leave relationships when a risk of violence may be present. 

Braun applauds the minister for taking major steps in supporting the work of Genesis House and in hearing the needs of shelters across Manitoba. 

"We have been at stagnant funding for many many years. At this point, we're on the cusp of signing a new service purchase agreement with the province that will change our circumstance considerably and improve the situation for the women seeking our support as well as for the staff that's providing that support. The province has really heard what we're seeing and of course, [Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen], has been instrumental in helping this process along for sure."

Using innovative techniques, the Manitoba Status of Women Secretariat and Manitoba Justice have brought together a working group of police services, community organizations and provincial departments to co-design Manitoba's approach to Clare's Law, noted Squires. They have also worked closely with leading international researchers on Clare's Laws to identify and proactively address known gaps, risks and challenges experienced by other jurisdictions around the world. 

Any extra practical tool to offer women and men who want to take advantage of it is gladly accepted, said Braun.

The minister noted the act would come into effect upon proclamation within the next 18 months to allow time for further consultations and co-design work to be completed.