Province launches plan to address domestic violence

Police chief weighs in on regional unit

The province is asking for feedback into a three-year plan to address domestic violence – a move that Oak Bay Police Chief Mark Fisher is applauding.

“It reflects some of the work we’ve tried to do in our response to domestic violence across policing,” Fisher said of the online questionnaire launched last week by the Provincial Office of Domestic Violence. “You get a sense of awareness of what is working and what isn’t and the service gaps: co-ordination around government organizations, community organizations to support victims and witnesses of domestic violence. I was happy to see that.”

Fisher chairs the steering committee for the Regional Domestic Violence Unit, formed in July 2010 as a result of the Lee-Park inquest. In 2007, Peter Lee killed his estranged wife, Sunny Park, their young son and his wife’s parents in their Oak Bay home before taking his own life.

While the unit, comprised of police officers, social workers and victims services workers, is able to monitor and advise on any domestic violence files across the CRD, its focus rests on high-risk files.

Individual police departments have also come a long way since the inquest and the formation of the unit, Fisher added.

“I feel there’s more awareness of risk factors, that our members know to look for and ask victims about in a relationship that are indicators of higher risk. …There’s more information out there for officers than there was five or six years ago, pre-Peter Lee.”

Awareness by friends and neighbours, as well as the support programs available, Fisher said, are key components to curbing domestic violence.

“Every community has domestic violence, obviously in varying degrees, but it does happen.”

The questionnaire is available at mcf.gov.bc.ca/podv/questionnaire.asp until Feb. 18. Respondents will answer questions dealing with six themes related to domestic violence in B.C.: public awareness and prevention; supports and services for victims, survivors and offenders; justice system response; co-ordination, information-sharing and referral; research, training and evaluation; and approaches to address the unique needs of vulnerable persons.

The province hopes to develop a comprehensive plan that will include an Aboriginal strategy and will address the needs of immigrant and refugee women and women with disabilities, to be implemented this summer.