I chose to pen this article because in recent times I have read a number of news articles about the increase in reports of domestic violence brought about by the Pandemic and the restrictions governments all over the world have put in place to halt the spread.

I am of Nigerian descent and I know first hand how unwilling Africans and other immigrants are to report domestic abuse because of the culture, pressure from family and religious leaders as well as a general unwillingness to see the perpetrator face criminal charges with its attendant consequences. It is common knowledge that the yuletide can be a stressful period and with the addition of Covid-19 restrictions to the mix we can reasonably expect tempers to be at an all-time high.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination and I would very much prefer that victims of domestic violence report same to the Police, insist on charges being laid and follow the matter to its logical conclusion but we all know that is wishful thinking.

I am writing this to inform anyone who is or knows someone who is, has been, or is likely to be a victim of domestic violence in the Province of Alberta that there are options that will safeguard themselves and their family members without requiring them to press criminal charges or risk the perpetrator being convicted.

The Protection against Family Violence Act of Alberta allows anyone to apply for an Emergency Protection Order(EPO) in circumstances where :

a. there has been violence or threatening behaviour exhibited by a family member;

b. there is a need for urgent protection.

An Applicant for an EPO does not need to hire a lawyer or pay any fees, you simply need to contact your local police and request for same. It is usually granted by a Provincial Court Judge on the basis of the Applicant’s oral testimony and without the appearance of the other party. There are a number of measures in place to guard against abuse, however, including the requirement for the Order to be reviewed by a Justice of the Court of Queens Bench within 9 days of the grant. The Respondent is usually served with the EPO by the Police and if he/she resides in the same location as the Applicant, the Police would typically escort him/her from the premises and explain the fact that a breach of the EPO would result in criminal charges. If the Order is confirmed it will usually stay in place for a period of one year.

The grant of an EPO against an individual simply prevents that individual from being within a certain number of meters from a named individual/and or location and/or from contacting the aforementioned individual. It is granted in Family Court and is not a criminal conviction so it does not result in a criminal record and if parties patch things up down the line such that there is no longer any risk to either party the EPO can be revoked on application to the Court.

One of the advantages of living in Canada is access to proper governmental infrastructure which includes the Justice system. I would strongly advise that anyone who requires one immediately take steps to obtain an EPO and safeguard the life of themselves and any dependents they might have.

More information about the various types of protection orders can be found on the Government of Alberta website at https://www.alberta.ca/restraining-protection-orders.aspx .

If you would like legal assistance with your family matters please contact us by sending an email to info@omenelegal.ca or by calling (587) 288-5856.