For Immediate Release
Justice or “Just” a piece of paper?
Let’s talk about protection orders in British Columbia.
April 3, 2023. (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh)/Vancouver, B.C) – Over 24 women in BC were victims of femicide in 2022 alone. This is almost double from an average of 12 women per year between 2010 and 2015.
This increase in violence constitutes a ‘shadow pandemic’, a public health and safety concern with dire implications.
Everyday victims of intimate partner violence are at risk so an anti-violence organization in British Columbia is asking for help to understand victims’ and frontline workers’ experiences of protection orders and peace bonds.
Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) is conducting two surveys to better understand the challenges and barriers that survivors’ and front-line workers’ experience with obtaining and seeking enforcement of family law protection orders and peace bonds in British Columbia.
Since 2013, family law protection orders under BC’s Family Law Act have been available to survivors of intimate partner violence who are fleeing to safety. Along with Criminal Code peace bonds, these mechanisms are intended to act as legal remedies to protect women by preventing escalating and lethal forms of violence.
“We know from our experience on the frontlines that women face numerous challenges and barriers to obtaining family law protection orders and peace bonds.” Says Summer-Rain Legal Advocate and Indigenous Justice Lead, Justice Centre at BWSS, “These surveys come at a critical time of rising rates of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and femicide in BC.”
“Family law protection orders and peace bonds are important legal tools in ending intimate partner violence and gender-based violence, but we know that the legal system can be complex and retraumatizing for survivors.” Said Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director at Battered Women’s Support Services. “Survivors often require assistance to navigate these intimidating processes. On top of that, victims and advocates must fight to have the protection order enforced by police if it is breached by an abusive partner. Police enforcement of protection orders plays a crucial role in holding an abusive partner accountable, yet police are often unwilling to enforce a breach of a protection order.”
This examination of protection orders in BC comes after the death of Stephanie Forster, a Coquitlam, BC, woman who had a protection order against her former partner at the time it is believed she was killed by her ex-husband. Stephanie’s ex-husband Gianluigi Derossi had a long history of predatory actions, some of which he was charged and convicted for, while in other cases charges were not made.
The results of this study will inform broader law reform and systemic change including legal, policy and police reform, public education and awareness campaigns, and training programs for survivors and the anti-violence workers who support them.