New Ontario Provision: A Progressive Plan to Aid in Domestic and Sexual Violence in the Home

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains mention of sexual violence and abuse. Please read at your discretion.

A young woman packs the last of her things into a box, places it onto the U-Haul before sending it off. She fondly looks upon her small studio apartment of three years, slides into her beat-up 2009 Toyota Corolla with her long-term boyfriend, and drives down the road towards their long-awaited new beginning. Or, so she thought. Instead, she is met with the reality of living with an abusive, alcoholic boyfriend. She is unable to break her lease. She is among a countless number of people who find themselves in this exact situation. What do you do when your home is no longer a place to live? What do you do with yourself when suddenly, you belong nowhere?

Before September 8, 2016, women suffering from domestic and sexual violence could not terminate their lease as doing so would still force them to stay legally liable to the living space for 60 days. Now, a new provision of Ontario’s Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan was revealed, allowing termination of lease from 60 days to 28 days. The plan was created in order to aid tenants who felt that their safety, as well as their children’s safety, were threatened to breaking housing leases. Despite the positive and hopeful future that this new plan is allowing for, some are still skeptical and unsure that this plan will help to solve the problem itself.

Although the provision cannot be shorter, it does provide such tenants opportunities to give notice if necessary and at any time during the lease. It is a small step for the bigger picture, but quite a large one given that there are a handful of out-dated policies related to domestic and sexual violence in the home across Canada and North America as a whole.

In order to use the provision, the tenant must provide the landlord with two documents: a notice ending the lease because of fear of abuse, and a copy of court order (restraining order or peace bond) or a signed statement confirming the abuse. This new provision will be of immense help to many individuals struggling with domestic and sexual violence in their homes. It will not solve the problem of domestic and sexual violence, but it is slowly creating awareness for the many layers that come with an abusive and toxic relationship. It is not simply a matter of leaving the abuser. Alongside the mental and emotional damage, financial struggles arise, making it difficult to find an escape route.

The next question to be answered, perhaps is after the fact that the tenant has given notice and left. She has packed her things into a minivan. She is ready to leave. But where? Where can she escape to? Again, these are questions that ought to be discussed but not used to slander the progressive decisions made to serve the community. In due time, new solutions shall surface in hopes to do the same thing that the new provision is doing: make positive change.