New Law Breaks Down Barriers for Survivors of Domestic Violence

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19) and The Canadian Press
August 9, 2016 - 1:23pm

EDMONTON - Legislation aimed at making it easier for victims of family violence to leave an unsafe home is now in effect in Alberta.

Victims can end a tenancy agreement early, without financial penalty, by presenting their landlord with a certificate verifying they are at risk.

Status of Women Minister Stephanie McLean said safety -- and not financial expense -- can now be the first consideration in leaving and breaking the cycle of domestic violence.
"Today, we stand up for Alberta women by making it easier for them to leave an unsafe home and maintain their independence," said McLean. "Safety, not financial expense, can now be the first consideration in leaving and breaking the cycle of domestic violence.
McLean estimates between 60 and 100 Albertans, mostly women, will utilize this new law in the coming year. 

She also clarified that a tenancy agreement would actually end altogether if a person applied this law. That would leave the door open for a landlord to renegotiate a new agreement with a different tenant or maintain the person in the other half of the relationship if they so choose.
Ian Wheeliker, Executive Director at the Central Alberta Women's Emergency Shelter, said it's very important that this legislation specifies that shelter workers can provide domestic and family violence victims with the certificate they need.
A tenant can get a certificate by providing the Human Services ministry with an emergency protection order, a peace bond or a statement from a certified professional confirming they or their children are in danger.
Wheeliker also touched on the cycle of poverty often created by domestic violence and where he believes the government needs to continue to make progress.

"This government has talked about increasing access to affordable housing, through developing new housing and revamping social housing programs and homes already available," he said. "One, you've got to be in a safe place and two, you've got be able to afford to live and eventually move into financial security in the community. Those are the key elements of escaping domestic violence."
The Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act came into effect on Monday. It was first introducted in the legislature last November by Calgary MLA Deborah Drever.

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


(with files from The Canadian Press)

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