LETHBRIDGE - In the last year-and-a-half, 379 certificates have been handed out by the provincial government, allowing victims of family violence to end their leases early, without financial penalty.
Status of Women Minister Stephanie McLean says they originally anticipated 100 to be issued, but the need was much greater than they thought it would be, which is concerning.
"We know that the numbers of violence against women is higher in this province than it is for women in any other province, and so unfortunately I'm not terribly surprised. It shows that there is more work to be done.
"But we're also proud of the fact that this legislation is helping people leave a violent situation whereas they may have felt financially trapped staying in it before."
McLean cites an example of one women who had to take out a certificate.
"One woman was living in her car until she discovered that she could end the lease that she had entered into with her spouse, and that she was on the hook financially for, and that allowed her to go and find other living accommodations."
The Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act, was first introduced by Calgary MLA Deborah Driver in 2015.
To further support survivors a $50,000 grant is now being given to the Centre for Public Legal Education to train landlords and property managers how to recognize signs of family violence, and to equip them with resources to help their tenants.
"This has been a response, really, from an application that came forward as a result of this legislation that came out," explains McLean. “So, we're really proud to be able to provide wrap around supports to women to fill in some of the gaps where they previously were, and to continue to put women and their safety at the forefront."
The Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act, was first introduced by Calgary MLA Deborah Drever in 2015.
To get a Safer Spaces certificate, a tenant must give the Ministry of Community and Social Services an emergency protection order, a peace bond or a statement from a certified professional (i.e. doctor, nurse, social worker or psychologist), confirming their children are in danger.
Tenants will then also be connected with other services and supports for survivors of domestic violence.
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