Emergency Protection Order Program Reduces Barriers for Indigenous Women Facing Family Violence

Legal Aid Alberta (LAA) recognizes that reducing barriers to obtaining protection orders is necessary in order to help Indigenous women stay out of harm’s way when faced with a violent partner.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murder Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) final report calls on all governments to “ensure that protection orders are available, accessible, promptly issued, and effectively serviced and resourced to protect the safety of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.” LAA’s Emergency Protection Order Program (EPOP), launched in 2001 in Edmonton and 2011 in Calgary, and aims to improve the protection order system for all Albertans.

An Emergency Protection Order (EPO) is a legal tool intended to protect individuals that are experiencing family violence. It is an order granted under the Protection Against Family Violence Act that gives victims of family violence a legal mechanism to protect themselves against an abuser. Individuals who apply for EPOs are called ‘Claimants’ and individuals with EPOs granted against them are called ‘Respondents’.

LAA lawyers support EPO Claimants by representing them in court throughout the EPO application process. Since applying for an EPO can be an overwhelming, emotionally charged and confusing process for many, the program makes the process easier and reduces those barriers. In addition to working with Claimants the program seeks to educate key stakeholders, such as the police services, victim’s services and shelter staff, so they can better support victims of family violence. 

The EPO Program in Calgary was recently reviewed to determine its effectiveness and opportunities for continual program improvement. The results of this review indicate that 95% of clients felt that obtaining an EPO had protected them from experiencing violence.

In their own words, clients who felt the EPO had protected them from violence said things like:

  • “Obtaining the EPO helped me leave the violent situation safely.”
  • “I was able to protect myself and the children because of this process and feel safe.”
  • “[The EPO] stopped the harassment immediately.”
  • “[The best thing about having the EPO] is feeling safe.”

Articulating their feelings about EPOP, clients said things like:

  • “Having the staff complete the paperwork with me was crucial as I was very distressed and would have struggled to know how to properly convey my concerns.”
  • “It was helpful to have a lawyer there for the review so that I didn’t have to speak in court.”
  •  “The legal counsel responded quickly to any questions I had. They explained things simply. They made a bad experience easier to process.”
  • “Legal aid helped me understand the process and how to make it successful.”

Please visit the Legal Aid Alberta website for more information on the Emergency Protection Order Program.

If you or members of your family are dealing with family violence, please call the Emergency Protection Order program during office hours:

  • In the Edmonton area: 1-780-422-9222
  • In the Calgary area: 1-403-297-5260
  • In the Lethbridge area: 1-403-388-3162

If you live outside of these areas, go to your local courthouse during regular business hours or call the courthouse. After business hours, contact your local police or the RCMP.

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