Over the past couple of weeks, our world has changed drastically. The pandemic of COVID-19 across Canada, and the world, has affected how we live our “normal” day-to-day lives.
In a recent interview on March 24, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau firmly stated, “Enough is enough. Go home and stay home”. A similar message was shared by Premier Jason Kenney on March 25 when he implemented a fine up to $1,000 to anyone ignoring the self-isolation directives.
Stay home. Self Isolate. Social Distance. These are common requests and recommendations that we’ve heard from both our Provincial and Federal Governments.
But what happens when staying isolated at home puts you and your family’s safety at risk?
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment of uncertainty. Many individuals across Alberta are experiencing an increase in stress and anxiety as a result of job loss. With the pressure to make ends meet, and the lack of emotional support available, there is an increased risk for the safety and security of women and families living with an abusive partner.
China and other countries battling the COVID-19 outbreak longer than Canada have already seen evidence of a spike in domestic violence. In China’s Hubei province, reported cases of domestic abuse to police nearly tripled in February. On March 19, Calgary Domestic Violence Collective (CDVC) stated that they have already noticed an increase in domestic abuse as well.
Large stressors can escalate abuse, especially ones that include job loss, drop in the stock market, and a looming global recession. Anxiety is at an all-time high right now. With families now being advised to stay in their homes, there is likely an increase in tension within households. For those living in close quarters for extended periods combined with individuals not having proper coping mechanisms, family violence may escalate quickly.
Where to Turn if you are Experiencing Domestic Violence?
Those that are the most at risk of being victims of family abuse are women and children. Unfortunately, a few of the family violence assistance programs have closed due to Alberta Health Services protocols. However, some organizations are doing their best to adapt to this new situation.The Alberta Council of Women Shelters (ACWS) have recognized that their shelter workers are an essential service in our community, and are fighting to keep their services running.
On March 16, the Alberta government announced that they would be providing up to $60 million towards adult homeless shelters, women’s emergency shelters and the Family and Community Support Services programs across Alberta. Though this is a step in the right direction, individuals living with an abusive partner need access to support programs and shelters right now.
From past pandemics and natural disasters, ACWS states on its website that “domestic violence will increase during and following this health emergency.” Knowing this information, ACWS is doing their best to help local shelters prepare for this influx. To ensure their workers are safe and healthy, some shelters have had to adapt their services by providing outreach over the phone or online rather than in person.
We can all do our part as well. Now it is more important than ever to check in with friends, family members and neighbours during this time of self-isolation. You never know what may be happening behind closed doors. If you suspect that someone may be in danger, there are several free resources available that you can share with that individual or use for yourself to know the next best steps to take.
If you or anyone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.
If you are safe, victims of domestic violence are encouraged to call the , which is still available /, at 403-234-7233 for Calgary and 780-422-5916 for Edmonton. If you live outside of those regions, you can call the Toll Free number at 310-1818.
To find a shelter near you visit https://www.alberta.ca/find-shelters.aspx or call ACWS at 1-866-331-3933 (toll-free, available 24/7).
If speaking on the phone isn’t possible or safe, the Government of Alberta has an anonymous Family Violence online chat available from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. MST daily.
Lastly, if you suspect someone is experiencing family abuse there are a number of helplines available. For adults call the Alberta provincial abuse helpline at 1-855-4HELPAB (1-855-443-5722) and for children call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-387-KIDS (5437).
Contact McGuiness Law
Once you are in a safe situation, we highly recommend chatting with a qualified lawyer to understand your rights. McGuiness Law is currently offering free consultations over the phone or virtually. Whether you decide to move forward with a case or not is up to you, but it is best to know what options you have available to keep you and your family safe during this time.
Book your FREE CONSULTATION with McGuiness Law today by calling 780 900 7941.