A bill that’s currently being reviewed would allow people fleeing domestic abuse to break a lease without penalty and be able to take a certain amount of paid and unpaid days off work.
Rebecca Stepan left her husband six years ago and said this bill can be a great help for women.
“I wish that would have been in place when I was going through that,” she said.
In 2011, Stepan had already moved out of the home she shared with her ex-husband. She said this was a step in slowly separating from him. Her decision to separate fully came one night in July.
“He got very aggressive. He scaled three floors up to my apartment building and tried to pry the patio door off its hinges,” she said.
“He did that on more than one occasion, in which case I had to continue to file reports with police.”
The situation began to sort itself out once Stepan’s ex-husband moved away. However, that was far from the end.
“He still periodically will make drop in visits, he still stalks me, he’s still trying to gain access to our son, he’s still not paying child support,” Stepan said.
This has resulted in six years of reports to the police, court appearances, and counselling for her son.
Under the proposed legislation, people fleeing abuse are eligible for 10 paid days off and an unpaid leave of up to 17 weeks per year.
“Within the last three weeks of my life there’s been numerous times I’ve had to call my boss and say I can’t make it in today; I’ve got court or I have to go talk to the chief of police today,” Stepan said.
Stepan said her current employer is supportive of her situation, but she’s had to leave jobs in the past because she couldn’t get the necessary days off.
“It’s pretty much all life consuming,” Stepan said.
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When Stepan made the final decision to leave he then husband she’d already moved into her own apartment. She’s thankful she didn’t have a lease acting as an obstacle, but other women she’s met through support groups weren’t as fortunate.
“It’s a fear that you shouldn’t have to be concerned about, whether or not you’re going to have to sit it out for year,” she said.
Bill 603 was tabled by NDP justice critic Nicole Sarauer, and is supported by both parties. On Thursday Justice Minister Gordon Wyant said his ministry is reviewing the language of the bill. Wyant talking with the Ministry of Labour Relations about the days off.
The bill is expected to pass into law by the end of the spring legislative session.
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