Panel to start reviewing domestic violence deaths in Saskatchewan

A panel reviewing domestic violence deaths in Saskatchewan is to begin its work next month.

Jennifer Graham, The Canadian Press 
Published Thursday, June 16, 2016 11:01AM CST 
Last Updated Thursday, June 16, 2016 4:30PM CST

The provincial government says there will be a pilot review of three to five cases this summer, with an interim report expected later this year. The panel will then begin a formal review of all domestic violence deaths in Saskatchewan between 2005 and 2014.

A final report with recommendations is to be released by the fall of 2017.

"The one thing they won't be doing is they won't be reinvestigating these cases. They won't be opening up the cases," Justice Minister Gordon Wyant said Thursday.

"But they'll be ... looking for commonalities, seeing whether our programming is effective, what changes we need to make to our programming or whether ... we need to take the resources that we use for domestic violence programming and deploy it in different ways."

The panel will include the chief coroner, a domestic violence worker, social services and police.

Wyant said the panel could look to a similar committee in Ontario for guidance.

"But certainly we need to do something, we need to continue our work in this area to reduce the amount of domestic violence that does happen in this province."

Statistics Canada says Saskatchewan has the highest police-reported family violence rate of any province at 489.4 per 100,000 people. That's about double the Canadian average and nearly three times higher than Ontario, which has the lowest provincial rate.

Saskatchewan says there have been 11 homicides and three suicides in the last 20 months that are related to domestic violence.

New Democrat Nicole Sarauer said the review is good news, but she also suggested the province could take action now.

Sarauer pointed to Alberta where legislation has passed that allows domestic violence victims to break a lease early and without penalty if they are trying to escape an abusive relationship. Manitoba has a law that allows employees who are victims of domestic violence to take leave from work.

"We do need a Saskatchewan-specific response here, absolutely," said Sarauer. "But there are jurisdictions that we can be looking at in terms of getting real results now."

Because the overall review period ends at 2014, it may not include the murder-suicide of a couple and three children just over a year ago in Tisdale.

Mounties discovered the bodies of Latasha Gosling and three of her children in their mobile home in April 2015. Officers said at the time that Gosling's boyfriend, Steve O'Shaughnessy, had fled the trailer with their six-month-old girl and driven to Prince Albert, where he killed himself. The baby was found unharmed.

O'Shaughnessy's family said at the time that he suffered from mental-health problems, but had no history of violence.

Wyant said it's still possible the panel will want to review the Tisdale case.

"If it's closed, it could certainly be considered for review."

RCMP say their investigation is nearly completed, but is not yet closed.