Saskatchewan legislation calls for unpaid leave for domestic violence victims
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REGINA — Saskatchewan has introduced legislation that would give victims of domestic violence 10 days of unpaid leave to seek help or to move.
"We know that Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of police-reported interpersonal violence across Canada,” Justice Minister Don Morgan said Wednesday.
"As government and other agencies work toward long-term solutions for this issue, survivors need immediate supports to escape dangerous situations."
Saskatchewan defines interpersonal violence as violence between people who know each other within or outside a family.
Under the government's proposal an employee could use the time off to seek medical attention, counselling, services from a women's shelter, move, or speak with police or a lawyer.
Employees would have to provide proof of the services they obtained and employers would have to keep information about the leave confidential.
The government's move follows the release of a report in October by a group that represents women's shelters in the province that urged the province to bring in a strategy to deal with domestic violence.
The Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan said surveys and focus group interviews it conducted indicate that 83 per cent of victims say domestic violence affected them at work.
Jo-Anne Dusel, the association's executive director, praised the government for taking action, but said the province is not going far enough.
"At least it is a step being taken, an acknowledgment that intimate partner violence does impact people in the workplace," she said.
"We think there is far more work to be done to address the very high rate of intimate partner violence in Saskatchewan."
The association wants the province to include domestic violence measures in occupational health and safety legislation.
Dusel said this could include requiring employers to have a written policy about how they should respond if they hear of a worker being threatened and training human resources staff about how to notice and respond to signs of domestic violence.
"In a smaller organization it might be as simple as having information in the staff room on where are the local women's shelters and counselling agencies," she said.
Dusel said women's shelters in Saskatchewan, especially in urban areas, are often full.
A YWCA domestic violence shelter in Regina turned away 4,000 women over the past year, she said.
Morgan said there needs to be a shift in attitudes about such violence and acknowledged the province needs to develop ways to prevent abusive relationships.
He said Saskatchewan is working with other provinces to reach an agreement with Ottawa to extend employment insurance benefits to victims.
— By John Cotter in Edmonton
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