Legal Aid Alberta hosts first ever public event in response to growing family violence during COVID-19

“Family violence should not be a private matter. Everyone in the community needs to be vigilant.”

Communications and Public Relations
November 23, 2020

Incidents of family violence are on the rise during COVID-19 and as the pandemic worsens and winter hits, more people are at risk. On November 25, Legal Aid Alberta lawyers are hosting their first ever public online event to talk with Albertans about their legal options when someone is in a dangerous domestic situation.

“We are concerned about the number of families in Alberta that are experiencing family violence and are unable to access help due to social isolation requirements due to COVID-19,” says Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyer Christina Riddoch, team lead of the Emergency Protection Order Program in Edmonton. “Some cases involve family violence, while others are complicated high conflict parenting situations.”

At the virtual session, Legal Aid lawyers will explain how an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) can keep someone safe from an abuser. A recording of the session will be made available on the Legal Aid website afterward.

“It’s important for everyone to know what to do so they can help a friend or loved one in a dangerous situation,” says Riddoch. “Family violence should not be a private matter. It impacts all of society and has a cost to all of society. Everyone in the community needs to be vigilant.” Her office has seen a 10 percent increase in applications for EPOs since the spring.

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

Worried mother holding her child, making a phone call.

Police and shelters are also reporting a rise in domestic violence cases. Changes to schedules – with people working less or not at all or being home more often – has been cited by many Legal Aid clients as an exacerbating factor in the violence and conflict happening at home.

Before the pandemic, a victim may have felt they could manage the situation because the abuser was away from the house for long periods, but now the abuser is home all the time and there’s no break.

“With winter here and the pandemic worsening, families are feeling overwhelmed again by the substantial changes occurring in their households,” says Bernadette LaBrie, staff lawyer and head of Legal Aid’s Emergency Protection Order Program in Calgary. “Spending more time indoors with family has created unprecedented stressors along with limited access to resources and loss of support networks.”

Event details

How to help someone in a family violence situation

November 25, 2020
Noon – 1 p.m.
Register online

Key facts about family violence

  • Alberta ranks third among the provinces for rates of police-reported family violence and intimate partner violence.
  • Alberta has the fourth highest rate of police-reported sexual assault among all provinces; however,
  • 95 percent of survivors do not report their assaults to the police, making sexual violence the most underreported crime in Canada.
  • Women are more likely to experience severe spousal violence compared to men.
  • Indigenous women are more likely to experience spousal violence.

Safety tips during the pandemic

  • Check in on family, friends and colleagues you haven’t heard from in a while.
  • Believe them if they tell you they’re feeling scared.
  • Seek out information about the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse.

About Legal Aid Alberta

Legal Aid Alberta is a not-for-profit organization that provides legal representation and support for Albertans facing legal issues.

LAA provides legal services to clients in support of fairness in Alberta’s justice system – services that help ensure Albertans in all circumstances can understand and defend their legal rights.