New Brunswick will begin analyzing all deaths resulting from domestic violence to find ways to prevent future tragedies.
The Department of Public Safety announced last week that a new 11-person domestic violence death review committee has been struck and it will act as an advisory body to the Office of the Chief Coroner.
The committee will begin reviewing the circumstances leading up to these deaths, take note of any risk factors or trends, and make recommendations.
Martine Stewart, the director of violence prevention initiatives with the province’s women’s issues branch, said it’s hoped the analysis will lead to intervention in similar cases down the road.
“My first thought would be ultimately to prevent them, to learn from them and be able to assist family members that go through this,” Stewart said.
“But ultimately, it’s the prevention of death and the prevention of domestic violence in general.”
Once it reviews a domestic homicide, the committee will make recommendations to the chief coroner.
Jérôme Ouellette, the province’s acting deputy chief coroner and chair of the new committee, said once the panel submits its recommendations the chief coroner will send them to the relevant government agencies and departments.
The recommendations will be made public in the chief coroner’s annual report.
New Brunswick isn’t the first province to set up a committee to review these deaths.
The Ontario government also has a domestic violence death review committee. The British Columbia government also announced in January that it was creating a similar domestic violence death review panel.
New Brunswick has a child death review committee that probes the deaths of children younger than 19, who were in the legal care of the Department of Social Development or whose families were in contact with the child protection system within 12 months prior to their death.
The absence of a domestic death review committee was highlighted in the case of John McKendy, the popular St. Thomas University professor who was killed on Oct. 31, 2008.
McKendy’s son-in-law was charged with first-degree murder, but he killed himself before police could catch him.
Now that New Brunswick’s domestic violence death review committee is operating, it has commissioned an analysis of domestic violence deaths in the province form 1999 to 2008.
Carmen Gill, the director of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research in Fredericton, said the idea is to prevent similar deaths from happening in the future.
“We know each time when there’s a homicide, it’s a unique situation,” Gill said. “That’s clear to everyone.
“But is there a pattern we can find among those cases that can be learned so we can learn from those deaths and better intervene in the future.”