Change to tenancy legislation 'difference between life and death': PATHS

The changes to provincial legislation will allow victims of domestic abuse to flee, potentially saving lives, says a Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services representative.

Tenants now able to end fixed-term rental agreements earlier if abuse in home taking place

Saskatchewan's rate of domestic violence is the highest in Canada. (CBC)

The Saskatchewan government has passed new legislation that aims to provide additional support to victims of domestic abuse and those who are living with family trauma.

The legislation changes should help victims of domestic violence escape their situations.

Amendments to the Victims of Interpersonal Violence Act and Residential Tenancies Act will allow a tenant to end a fixed-term agreement within 28 days if they or their family members are experiencing abuse by another resident or former resident of the home. 

The change will allow people who are in an abusive relationship, who would not normally be financially able to leave, a way out, says Jo-Anne Dusel, provincial co-ordinator for the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services.

"Staying in an abusive relationship, especially near the end, is the most dangerous time," Dusel said. "The ability to leave and not stay in that situation means, possibly, the difference between life and death."

Jo-Anne Dusel says she would also like to see provincial legislation to look at the effects of domestic violence in the work place. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

The fact that an individual has signed, for example, a year-long lease will no longer factor into their decision to leave, provincial justice minister Gordon Wyant said in a press release.​

Victims will have to obtain a certificate from victim's services documenting such things as a protective order which could be used to terminate a lease.

Previously, people were locked into leases unless there were specific clauses that allowed them a window to provide a notice of vacating the property.

Expanding to the work place

Dusel said she would like to see expanded legislation to look at the impact of domestic violence in the workplace, which would allow someone to take paid and unpaid leave to seek legal advice, counselling or a new place to live. 

There is a lot of work to be done but legislation could be tabled in the fall — though there were no concrete plans, Wyant said.

Consultations would also need to include Minister of Labour Don Morgan, Wyant added. 

Counselling compensation expanded

Other amendments to the Victims of Interpersonal Violence Act will include parents, siblings, and adult children in its compensation of counselling costs if an adult family member were killed in violent crimes.

"Right now, we are not able to compensate these family members for counselling that is so crucial following a traumatic event," Wyant said.

Previously, compensation was limited to a spouse or children of an adult victim, and the parent or sibling of a child victim.

Saskatchewan's rate of domestic violence is the highest in Canada. 

With files from Stefani Langenegger