Domestic Violence Treatment Options (DVTO) Court

Program snapshot

Age group: Young adult (18-24); Adult (25-64); Seniors (65 and older)

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Adult offenders

Topic: Family (domestic) violence/child maltreatment; Recidivism

Setting: Rural/remote area; Urban area; Criminal justice setting

Location: Northwest Territories; Saskatchewan; Yukon

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 1

Continuum of intervention: Tertiary crime prevention

Brief Description

The Domestic Violence Treatment Option (DVTO) Court is an alternative court in the Northwest Territories (NWT) for people who have been charged with violence against their partner and/or spouse. DVTO Court allows people to accept responsibility for their behaviour and receive support and counselling to address emotional and psychological causes of domestic violence. The Department of Justice, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), courts and community programs work together to plan and implement relevant programming for violent offenders in order to help reduce recidivism and/or crime severity.  

Participants enter the specialized 8-week Planning Action Responsibility Toward Non-Violent Empowered Relationships (PARTNER) program that requires participants to commit to 2-hours of mixed-gender group meetings per week. The program is delivered in Yellowknife, Hay River, and Behchoko in the Northwest Territories.


The main goals of the DVTO Court program are to:

  • Provide individuals with information and tools to reduce future incidents or escalation of domestic violence in their relationships;
  • Addresses high rates of domestic violence; and
  • Help break the cycle of domestic violence.


DVTO Court is for low- to medium-risk perpetrators of domestic violence that are 18 years of age or older residing in the Northwest Territories. Offenders must accept responsibility for their violence by pleading guilty in order to be accepted into the program. Both the Crown and Defence must agree for the accused to be accepted into the program and individuals are considered for acceptance at a pre-court meeting involving the team, Defence, Crown, and Bail supervisor. Participants must meet the assessment criteria for the 8-week PARTNER program to be accepted.   

Cases where domestic violence is alleged are sent to the DVTO Court. When the RCMP makes a charge alleging domestic violence, the first appearance of the accused will be set to a DVTO Court. The Crown Counsel reviewing files can flag a file for possible transfer from the Territorial Court to the DVTO Court. The defence representing the accused can advocate for the acceptance of the accused into the program as well.

Core Components

The DVTO Court implements a specialized 8-week PARTNER program. The program components include the following:

  • Emotional and psychological causes of domestic violence are addressed;
  • Clients can access additional counselling to assist with other emotional or psychological causes of violence such as an alcohol addiction;
  • Clients are encouraged throughout the program and are required to report back to Court to monitor progress;
  • Probation Officers, Bail Supervisors, the DVTO coordinator, victims services, and counsellors regularly attend Court to provide assistance; and
  • After program completion, the treatment team reports on the progress of the participant and the sentencing judge can review any information/report submitted by the team. 

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: Collaboration of departments and community organizations is crucial for effective implementation of the DVTO Court program. The Crown and defence must also both agree to the participation of the accused in the program.  
  • Partnerships: Partnership between the Northwest Territories (NWT) Territorial Court, Department of Justice, NWT regional office of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC), the Defense bar, and RCMP is necessary for effective program implementation. DVTO Court is held in Yellowknife, Hay River and Behchoko, while those who attend court in Behchoko will need to attend their programming in Yellowknife.
  • Training and technical assistance: Programs are administered by trained staff within varied organizations and a suitability assessment is done by staff.
  • Risk assessment tools: The Spousal Assault Risk Assessment (S.A.R.A.).
  • Materials & resources: PARTNER Program Facilitators and Wellness Court Workers are needed to facilitate the implementation of the DVTO Court program.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

The DVTO Court was implemented in Yellowknife by the NWT Government in 2011, and was then implemented in Hay River in 2015. The DVTO Courts in the NWT are operated by the NWT Government and requires collaboration by partnership organizations to be successfully implemented.

Similar programs have been implemented in other provinces and territories in Canada such as:

  • Yukon: The Yukon Government implemented the Yukon DVTO CourtFootnote1 in Whitehorse in 2000. The Yukon DVTO Court is operated by the Yukon Government and requires collaboration by partnership organizations (e.g., Territorial Court, Department of Justice, and community programs) to be successfully implemented; and
  • Saskatchewan: The Government of Saskatchewan implemented three Domestic Violence Courts (DVC)Footnote2 in Saskatchewan: the Battlefords DVTO Court in North Battleford (2003), the Saskatoon DVC (2005), and the Regina DVC (2008). The collaboration between the justice and health sectors and community health agencies led to the implementation of these programs.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

No information is available for the implementation of the DVTO Court and its associated PARTNER programs in the Northwest Territories.

Information on the implementation of programs similar to the DVTO Court in the Northwest Territories is available: 

  • Yukon: Department of Justice Canada funded an evaluation of the DVTO Court in Whitehorse, Yukon from 2002 to 2005 by the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family. A process and outcome analysis was done to evaluate the program. Data was collected from  key informant interviews (i.e., program administers, Steering Committee and Working Committee members, and representatives from partnering agencies), observations of pre-court meetings, court proceedings, and Steering/Working Committee meetings, and the review of records (i.e., program component protocols and minutes of meetings).

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • DVTO system and the associated Spousal Abuse Program (SAP) were effective interventions to prevent domestic violence and reduce re-offending;
  • Clients showed an improvement in their attitudes, self-esteem, and personality; and
  • Clients classified as ‘other’ including self-referred clients did not demonstrate the same improvements over time.

For more information, refer to the Hornick et al.’s (2005) publication.

Cost Information

No information available.


Government of Northwest Territories. (2015). Domestic Violence Treatment Option and PARTNER Program Expand to Hay River. Available from:

 Hornick, J. P., Boyes, M., Tutty, L., & White, L. (2005). The Domestic Violence Treatment Option (DVTO), Whitehorse, Yukon: Final Evaluation Report. Canadian Research Institute on Law and the Family, University of Calgary. Available from:

For more information on this program, contact:

Specialized Courts
Department of Justice
4903 49th Street
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories X1A 2N4
Telephone: (867)873-7643
E-mail: N/A

Record Entry Date - 2018-02-21
Record Updated On - 2021-04-29
  1. 1

    For more information on the Yukon Domestic Violence Treatment Options Court, refer to

  2. 2

    For more information on Saskatchewan Domestic Violence Courts, refer to

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