Ask a Lawyer: How Legal Aid Alberta helps people facing family violence stay safe

Communications and Public Relations
November 01, 2022

November is Family Violence Prevention Month. It’s important to raise awareness of this issue and the legal tools and laws Legal Aid Alberta can use to help people stay safe in the face of family violence situations.

Register today for a free webinar on how LAA keeps people facing family violence safe

Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyer Gwen May, a member of the Emergency Protection Order Program, appeared on Global morning news to speak about what family violence is, emergency protection orders, and how LAA can help families facing domestic violence.

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Previously on Ask a Lawyer:

Full transcript of the interview:

Mike Sobel (Global News Morning Edmonton): Well November is Family Violence Prevention Month and it’s important to raise awareness of this issue and the legal tools and laws we can use that can help people in family violence situations. With us today to talk about the role that Legal Aid Alberta has in addressing family violence and an upcoming, free public webinar on the topic, is lawyer Gwen May. Good morning Gwen, thanks for coming in, we really appreciate it.

Gwen May (Legal Aid Alberta): Thank you.

Sobel: Let’s start off the legal tools, what tools do you actually use to protect people involved in these situations?

May: A key one just generally for family violence and is a legal tool is the Emergency Protection Order. That is an act in Alberta designed to protect against family violence. You can apply for it pretty much 24/7, and it gives you an immediate protection from a family member who has committed family violence. It is temporary, and it comes with a review date in court. Legal Aid Alberta has a program designed to help with that process, Edmonton Emergency Protection Order Program. We have lawyers with Legal Aid who help initially, that’s my job, and then at the review. They really are the experts on family violence in Alberta.

What you’re looking at in an EPO is something that keeps the person away from you, gets them out of the home if you’re still living together.

Sobel: Is there a definition for family violence? What exactly constitutes as family violence?

May: Depending on what kind of context you’re looking at it, there’s a few definitions. The EPOs have one. There is a broader understanding of family violence, and that includes assault, like getting hit, but it’s a lot broader than that and can include threats, anything that makes you feel unsafe or your children unsafe including coercive control which can be more pernicious, and not recognizable.

Sobel: Is emotional and psychological abuse under a different category?

May: That’s also considered family violence.

Sobel: Where are we at in terms of volume? Have you noticed any changes or trends in the past couple years, maybe since the pandemic?

May: Yes. There’s definitely been a sizable jump up. We’ve seen a 17-18 per cent increase in the number of EPOs being applied for since 2018, and the pandemic eally changed the household dynamic at least initially, people were home from work, that’s something I heard a lot: “this person is away most of the time,” and suddenly, they’re not. That created more difficulties, and people have less mobility, so less ability to just walk away from something which doesn’t always work anyway, and need an EPO instead.

Sobel: Let’s wrap up the situation Gwen with the final question, the big activiteiis planned for Family Violence Prevention Month

May: I’m excited and we’re really busy. We’re doing training for the RCMP and Edmonton Police Service over November on EPOs, we’re also offering for the first time a public webinar, open to anyone interested in learning the tools for themselves or someone else to help protect against family violence. That’ll be hosted on November 30 and you can register at

Sobel: Thanks for coming in, we really appreciate it. How Legal Aid Alberta Helps you take action seminar, takes [place Nov 30 at noon, if you need more information visit

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