VICTORIA, B.C. — Renters who are victims of violence at their home are one step closer to being able to break their fixed term lease and seek safety after the B.C. Greens’ Private Member’s Bill amending the Residential Tenancy Act garnered broad tripartisan support from NDP and Liberals when passing committee stage today.
“No one should be forced to live in close proximity to their perpetrator - this bill supports survivors,” said B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver. “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 and cooperation with the legislative drafters, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and House, and stakeholders like West Coast LEAF and Ending Violence Association of B.C., 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.”
There are approximately 60,000 incidents of sexual and domestic violence in British Columbia each year, according to Ending Violence Association of British Columbia. That equates to more than 1,000 incidents per week.
Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and her staff in particular were instrumental in assisting with seeing this legislation through the drafting process and making it before the House.
“Everyone should feel safe in their home,” Minister Robinson said. “The Province is proud to support this bill as it aligns with government’s commitment to take a stand against violence. Our government is also committed to strengthening protections for renters and recent improvements to the Residential Tenancy Branch are ensuring renters get the help they need, when they need it.”
“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. Earlier this week, our caucus introduced legislation to ban the conversion therapy among minors in B.C. These types of human rights protections are nonpartisan issues that the B.C. Green caucus is proud to unite the parties around.”
This is the second Private Member’s Bill from the BC Greens to pass third reading this session. The caucus made history earlier this month with the passing its first ever PMB in the province’s history and the first PMB from an opposition party to pass in decades. The Greens also positioned the province as a leader nationally with that legislation by making B.C. the first province to formally provide a legal framework for businesses committed to pursuing social and environmental goals to incorporate as benefit companies under the Business Corporations Act.
- A number of House amendments were moved by MLA Weaver at committee stage to accommodate feedback received from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and legislative drafters.
- The bill amends the Residential Tenancy Act to add “household violence” to the existing family violence and long term care provisions.
- “Household violence” was proposed as a House amendment in committee stage to replace “occupant violence” as written in the original Private Member’s Bill because of feedback that suggested “occupant violence” could be confusing given its overlap with the term “tenant.” For example, a tenant is an occupant, but an occupant is not necessarily a tenant.
- Regulations specify which expert professionals and practitioners are authorized to provide third-party confirmation for victims who need to end their fixed term lease: police, listed medical practitioners, counsellors, First Nations support workers, victims support workers, etc.
- Having regulations that extend verification powers beyond law enforcement is vital as not all survivors will be able or willing to involve police. In cases of domestic violence, risk of injury or death can actually increase if a violent partner learns their spouse has contacted police or is planning on leaving.
- The bill is intended to protect anyone who lives in the household whose safety, security, or physical wellbeing has been adversely affected by violence associated with the rental home, including but not limited to: physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, threats of physical or sexual abuse, or exposing a child directly or indirectly to violence.
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