by Morinville News Staff

The implementation of Calgary MLA Deborah Drever’s private member’s bill makes it easier for victims of domestic violence to flee abuse; the government announced Aug 9.

The Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act came into effect Aug. 8. It allows survivors of family violence to end a tenancy agreement early, without financial penalty, by presenting their landlord with a certificate verifying that they are at risk.

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

Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever said she brought the bill forward last November because she felt finances should never be a barrier to fleeing domestic violence. “These changes will make a real difference for survivors of domestic abuse,” she said. “I am honoured it passed unanimously and that today, it’s the law.”

The 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 to get the certificate.

The government says 1,064 Emergency Protection Orders were issued between Apr. 1, 2015 to Mar. 31, 2016.

Jan Reimer, Executive Director of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters sees the new law as another positive move in a line of important supports brought out over the past year, including increased financial support through the child tax benefit program to increased funding for women’s shelters. “Collectively, we have the power and the wherewithal to end violence against women and girls,” she said.

Wildrose Shadow Human Services Minister Angela Pitt also had positive things to say about the bill.

“The implementation of this bill will begin to help women suffering from domestic abuse and find safe shelter, but there is still much work to be done,” Pitt said. “Far too many women in Alberta are victims of domestic violence. Our justice system is still clogged with delays, while women too often do not know where to turn for resources and support.

“It is our hope that this program is strictly monitored and measured to ensure victims are afforded the adequate safeguards this law aims to provide. I am always optimistic about any program which aims to remove victims from violent situations.”

The government says in addition to being able to end a lease early; tenants will receive other services and supports for survivors of domestic violence.

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