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B.C. Greens introduce legislation to allow victims of abuse to get out of property leases

B.C. Green party leader Andrew Weaver speaks to media at the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, May 30, 2017.
B.C. Green party leader Andrew Weaver speaks to media at the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The B.C. Green caucus introduced a private members bill on Thursday that would allow tenants to break fixed term leases if staying in their rental unit is a threat to their safety or security.

“No one should be forced to live in close proximity to their perpetrator — this bill supports survivors,” Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said. “We are building upon the good work of the BC Liberals in 2015, when they added the family violence provision with support from the BC NDP.”

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It is unclear how many victims would need to break leases under these circumstances. The West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund says it is difficult to gauge given these types of crimes are under-reported, but the changes are needed.

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According to the organization, family violence accounts for approximately 25 per cent of all reported crimes in Canada.

“The proposed amendments are a welcome step towards ensuring that survivors of all forms of violence are able to relocate to keep themselves and their families safe,” director of Law Reform for West Coast LEAF Elba Bendo said.

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The Ending Violence Association of BC estimates there are approximately 60,000 incidents of sexual and domestic violence in British Columbia each year, equating to over 1,000 incidents per week.

“Most often, this violence takes place in a home and once that happens, the ‘home’ may not be a safe place any longer,” Ending Violence Association of BC executive director Tracy Porteous said.

“The previous Act allowed for women affected by family violence to be released from the confines of their lease, so they could be free to seek safety, however that provision did not extend to survivors of sexual assault or survivors of other acts of violence.”