The PARS Program — which stands for Partner Assault Response Services — is an important component of Ontario’s Domestic Violence prosecution strategy. It consists of a specialized counseling and educational service for those individuals who are found guilty of a domestic violence-related offence. Upon a finding of guilt, the individual will be referred to PARS either by the Domestic Violence co-ordinator or by the Probation and Parole office.
The PARS Program lasts sixteen weeks in total. During those sixteen weeks, participants learn about appropriate behaviour towards their partner and non-violent ways to deal with their anger. Participants are expected to attend the program for one hour each week. The program is available in both English and French, and translator services can be provided for most other languages.
In order to be eligible for the program, the offender must be at least 18 years old, must be referred by a courts or probation office and must agree to participate in the program. Participation in the PARS program is voluntary. However, Toronto courts will often give individuals charged with an offence an incentive to participate in PARS, by offering a reduced sentence or probation if the accused individual agrees to enter the program. In most cases, before an individual is eligible for PARS there must be a finding of guilt against them. In some cases, an individual may participate in the program on the understanding that upon successful completion, they will receive a Peace Bond. As criminal defence lawyers, we always strive to avoid a finding of guilt for our clients and urge them only to enter the PARS program if they understand that although an absolute or conditional discharge does not constitute a criminal record, it is a finding of guilt and will show up as such on CPIC the police database.
Those who live in the Toronto Area and want to learn more about the PARS program can attend an information session on the PARS Domestic Assault Program held at the 1000 Finch courthouse on Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. in courtroom 303. You may also call 1-888-579-2888 (outside Greater Toronto Area) or 416-314-2447 (inside Greater Toronto Area) to get more information and find the PARS location nearest you.