Spreading the word: How to help someone in a family violence situation

Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyers share knowledge with the community during Family Violence Prevention Month.

Legal Aid AB
November 30, 2021

Every day, Legal Aid Alberta (LAA) helps Albertans facing family violence. This comes into sharp focus during Family Violence Prevention Month. This November, LAA staff lawyers attended public engagements across the province to spread the word about LAA’s Emergency Protection Order (EPO) program. 

An EPO is a legal tool that provides protection from an abusive family member. This court order prevents an abuser from coming near the victim and gives police the authority to remove the abuser from the home.  

In the best-case scenarios, EPOs help to prevent family violence before it happens.

LAA provides EPO services free of charge. This is available to all Albertans — regardless of their financial situation. In 2019-20, we assisted with over 2,000 EPO matters. 

In their role as EPO duty counsel lawyers, Gwen May and Julia McGraw help victims by advising them of their legal options and representing them in court during the EPO application process.  

May and McGraw spoke about EPOs at Domestic Violence and the Law: Panel of Resources. This virtual law panel, hosted by the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta, covered the laws and legal services related to domestic violence in Alberta. 

“It was humbling to be a part of a panel with so many innovative thinkers who are working really hard to prevent family violence and protect victims.”

May hosted two virtual training sessions for RCMP frontline staff in November. She has seen an increase in interest from police for further education about EPOs. 

LAA also had a strong presence at the Diverse Voices Conference, the largest annual family violence conference in Western Canada. In fact, LAA family lawyer Stephanie Ma was one of the co-chairs who helped organize the event. 

At the conference, LAA Family Law Senior Advisory Counsel Andrea Doyle covered the recent amendments to the Divorce Act as they relate to the best interests and safety of the child. Family lawyer Christina Riddoch highlighted how, for the first time, the Divorce Act mentions family violence as something the court must consider. 

Riddoch also appeared on the November segment of Ask a Lawyer on Global News Edmonton, where she explained how EPOs protect victims of family violence. 

Knowledge sharing is essential for preventing family violence and supporting victims. This month and every month, we are proud to collaborate with our justice system partners to protect individuals, families and communities. 

“It’s important for everyone to know what to do so they can help a friend or loved one in a dangerous situation.”

Family violence can happen to anyone and should not be a private matter. Everyone in the community needs to be vigilant. That’s why LAA and its partners participate in Family Violence Prevention Month. Help us spread the word.  

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