Breaking barriers for survivors of domestic violence

Province introduces legislation to help victims end tenancy agreements early

 

The government has taken a step in the right direction in helping to protect victims of domestic violence.

The prevalence of domestic violence is shocking and disturbing. According to statistics from the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter, family violence accounted for 26% of all police reported violent crime in 2011. It’s also estimated that two-thirds of all criminal victimization are not reported to the police. And on any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women along with their 2,500 children are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence.

Recently, the government implemented a private member’s bill put forward by Calgary MLA Deborah Drever that makes it easier for victims of domestic violence to flee abuse.

Survivors of family violence now can end a tenancy agreement early, without financial penalty, by presenting their landlord with a certificate verifying that they are at risk.

The Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act, came into effect on Aug. 8th. It had been introduced by Drever on Nov. 15th, 2015.

Drever said that she brought the bill forward because finances should never be a barrier to fleeing violence. She also added that these changes will make a real difference for survivors of domestic abuse. “I am honoured it passed unanimously and that today, it’s the law.”

To get a certificate, a tenant must give the ministry of Human Services an emergency protection order, a peace bond or a statement from a certified professional including a doctor, nurse, social worker or psychologist confirming they or their children are in danger.

Tenants will also be connected with other services and supports for survivors of domestic violence.

Sadly, as mentioned, family violence is one of the most underreported crimes in Canada. Estimates are that one in three women will experience it, but only one in 10 will report it.

A total of 1,064 Emergency Protection Orders were issued from April 1st, 2015 to March 31st, 2016.

The Government of Alberta provides about $95 million annually to support Albertans affected by family violence. This includes $20 million in 2015/16 for 76 community-led projects under the Family and Community Safety Program grants from Human Services, $15 million in new funding for women’s emergency shelters and second-stage shelters, and $49.8 million given to Alberta women’s shelters in 2015-16 to support 4,990 women and 4,567 children seeking refuge.

Drever’s bill required amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act. This is the law in Alberta that applies to most people who rent where they live. It sets out the requirements and minimum standards of conduct for landlords and tenants during the term of a tenancy.

We commend the province for this move; anything that can support families that find themselves in such devastating circumstances is a welcome shift for our society.