VICTORIA, B.C. — The B.C. Green Caucus has introduced an amendment to the Residential Tenancy Act that, if passed, would provide tenants with the ability to end their fix term lease if staying in their rental unit is a threat to their safety or security.
“No one should be forced to live in close proximity to their perpetrator - this bill supports survivors,” said MLA Andrew Weaver, who introduced the bill on the eve of International Women’s Day. “We are building upon the good work of the BC Liberals’ in 2015, when they added the family violence provision with support from the BC NDP. This bill, drafted in consultation with the legislative drafters and stakeholders like West Coast LEAF and Ending Violence Association of BC, expands on existing provisions to insure that all victims have the same rights. It gives, for example, someone who is sexually assaulted by their roommate or neighbour the right to break their lease so they can move somewhere safe.”
West Coast LEAF says the scope of crime against tenants is difficult to gauge given these types of crimes are underreported, but the changes are needed.
“While family violence continues to account for a significant portion of all reported crimes in Canada – approximately 25% - other forms of violence remain prevalent in B.C. and disproportionately impact marginalized communities including sex workers, Indigenous women, and LGBTQIA2S+ individuals,” said Elba Bendo, director of Law Reform, West Coast LEAF. “The proposed amendments are a welcome step towards ensuring that survivors of all forms of violence are able to relocate to keep themselves and their families safe.”
Ending Violence Association of BC executive director Tracy Porteous estimates there are approximately 60,000 incidents of sexual and domestic violence in British Columbia each year.
“That equates to over 1,000 incidents per week,” said Porteous. “Most often, this violence takes place in a home and once that happens, the ‘home’ may not be a safe place any longer. The previous Act allowed for women affected by family violence to be released from the confines of their lease, so they could be free to seek safety, however that provision did not extend to survivors of sexual assault or survivors of other acts of violence. We would like to applaud the B.C. Green Party for introducing this proposed amendment to the Residential Tenancy Act today that will constitute a step forward toward making B.C. a safer place for all citizens. We think a plan that leaves no one behind is the best plan, and we thank Andrew Weaver for his leadership in this regard.”
“B.C. Green Caucus believes updating current legislation or drafting new bills to advance protections for women and other vulnerable groups is simply good governance,” said MLA Weaver, “whether it's workplace protections like the 2017 bill preventing employers from requiring select employees to wear high-heeled shoes in the workplace, or in 2016 when I brought for the Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Policies Act.”
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