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Breaking down barriers for survivors of domestic violence

The government is implementing 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. 8, 2016. It had been introduced by MLA Drever on Nov. 15, 2015.

“Today, we stand up for Alberta women by making it easier for them to leave an unsafe home and maintain their independence. Safety, not financial expense, can now be the first consideration in leaving and breaking the cycle of domestic violence.”

Stephanie McLean, Minister of Service Alberta and Status of Women

“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. I am honoured it passed unanimously and that today, it’s the law.”

Deborah Drever, MLA, Calgary-Bow

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.

“The new law is another positive move in a line of important supports we’ve seen during the past year, from increased financial support through the child tax benefit program to historic increased funding for women’s shelters. Collectively, we have the power and the wherewithal to end violence against women and girls.”

Jan Reimer, Executive Director, Alberta Council of Women's Shelters

“Women tell us that economic insecurity and stress of finding a new home are among the top reasons they stay in unsafe, abusive relationships. This amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act addresses these stressors and enables women to escape abusive relationships with the supports they need.”

Sue Tomney, Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Calgary

“This is an exciting development, and we are pleased to see additional supports and resources become available to those impacted by domestic violence. A huge challenge is seeking safety, and this new bill will help protect and benefit Albertans impacted by domestic violence. We want to thank the Government of Alberta for moving this forward.”

Sonia McLean, Vice President, Alberta Police Based Victim Services Association

“Any action taken to minimize barriers for individuals impacted by domestic violence is a huge step in the right direction. We applaud and thank MLA Deborah Drever and the Government of Alberta for their commitment to ending domestic violence within our communities.”

Maggie MacKillop, Executive Director, HomeFront Calgary

Quick facts:

  • 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 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016.
  • The Government of Alberta provides approximately $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
    • $49.8 million given to Alberta women’s shelters in 2015-16 to support 4,990 women and 4,567 children seeking refuge.
  • MLA 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.

Backgrounder

Understanding domestic violence

Domestic violence includes any of the following:

Physical abuse:

  • The use of physical force that may result in pain or injury. This includes pushing, shoving, kicking, slapping, biting, strangling, hitting, etc.
    • Being locked out or denied access to the home
    • Denied help when ill, injured or pregnant
    • By physical force not being allowed to leave
    • Weapons or objects being used against an individual
  • Abandoned in a dangerous situation

Emotional/psychological abuse:
 

  • Threats to harm an individual, their family or pets
  • Manipulation through lies and contradictions
  • Being ridiculed for an individual’s beliefs, race, heritage, class, religion or sexual orientation
  • Being convinced they are to blame for the abuse
  • Stalking

Sexual abuse:

  • Forced to have sex or watch sexual acts
  • Forced or pressured to perform sexual acts or have sexual acts performed on them
  • Forced to have sex after a physical assault, when they are ill, or as a condition of the relationship


     

Economic abuse:
 

  • Partner controls all of the finances
  • Prevented from getting or keeping a job or from going to school
  • Denied access to bank accounts, credit cards or vehicle
  • Limited access to health, prescription or dental insurance

Domestic violence is committed by:

  • A current or past spouse or partner
  • A person someone is dating or has dated
  • The biological or adoptive parents of one or more children with that person, regardless of marital status
  • A person who has care and custody over them pursuant to an order of a court 

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