Sask. amends tenant legislation to provide more protection for people experiencing sexual violence

The Saskatchewan government passed legislation Wednesday that will allow people experiencing sexual violence to end a long-term lease on short notice.

Provincial government also passed new legislation to protect victims, survivors of human trafficking

The tenancy amendments are an extension of changes made in 2017 to protect people from domestic violence, said Justice Minister Gordon Wyant. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

The Saskatchewan government passed legislation Wednesday that will allow people experiencing sexual violence to end a long-term lease on short notice.

Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act will allow tenants experiencing sexual violence to end a lease without penalty if they give 28 days notice to their landlord, the province said in a news release.

"We know these situations can be extremely difficult. The length of a survivor's lease should not be an added challenge," Justice Minister Gordon Wyant said in the release.

The amendments can extend to survivors of sexual violence who are at risk in their current residence. Saskatchewan Victims' Services will evaluate applications to determine if that person would be at risk if they keep living at their current address, the release said.

Other amendments include "a series of administrative improvements that revise and expand existing provisions to reflect current practices, create more efficiency, and allow more equity between the parties," the release said.

The Residential Tenancies Act was amended in 2017 to allow people experiencing domestic violence to vacate a long-term lease. Wednesday's revisions are an extension of that, Wyant told reporters after question period at the Saskatchewan Legislature on Wednesday.

New human trafficking legislation

The provincial government also passed new legislation aimed at protecting people experiencing human trafficking in Saskatchewan and survivors of trafficking.

The Protection From Human Trafficking Act aims to create a simple process for victims to get a protection order against their traffickers, which will prohibit their traffickers from contacting them in any way, a news release from the province said.

"It's really another tool in our tool case to be able to help victims of human trafficking in circumstances where we can help," Wyant told reporters.

Penalties such as fines, driver's licence suspensions and jail time will be issued if someone violates a protection order, the province says.

Applications for the protection orders will go before the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench, Wyant said, adding that the courts tend to be "very, very protective when it comes to these kinds of things and are keen to issue those emergency orders."

The new legislation also allows victims to start a lawsuit against their traffickers to seek compensation for harm suffered, and will make it easier for law enforcement to search residences or vehicles where victims may be held, the release said.

The law aims to provide an approach to human trafficking protection similar to those that exist in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta.

With files from Adam Hunter