First Nations families in Nova Scotia given equal protection from domestic violence

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People living in First Nations communities now have the same emergency protections against domestic violence as other Nova Scotians.

The provincial Justice Department said Wednesday that a First Nations family seeking immediate protection against an abusive spouse, for example, can now apply for an emergency protection order.

The short-term, temporary orders can be put in place immediately and last for up to 30 days. They are issued by justices of the peace and family and provincial court judges under the province's Domestic Violence Intervention Act.

That law, however, does not extend to First Nations communities.

Under the changes announced Wednesday, emergency protection orders can now be issued under federal or First Nations laws.

What the orders do

Pam Marche, director of court administration for the Justice Department, said the orders have several purposes.

"Some of the relief they can seek under an emergency protection might be to require a spouse to leave right away or by a certain time, or require any other person who might live in that home to leave the home," she said.

"They can also ban a person from being near the home."

Previously, victims of domestic abuse in First Nations communities could apply for a peace bond from the court during regular business hours. Families were advised to call 911 or go to a shelter in emergency situations.

Obtaining a peace bond takes longer than getting an emergency protection order and also requires the person named in the complaint to be given a chance to respond to the application. 

Applications for emergency protection orders can be heard by phone seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Overnight hearings are possible depending on the crisis, according to the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society website.

How to apply

Marche said applicants for emergency protection orders aren't required to fill out any paperwork. 

"You can call a number and they will issue an EPO," she said. "You can explain the situation and they will decide whether to issue an emergency protection order."

The number to call to apply for an order is 1-866-816-6555.