JUSTICE: Emergency Protection Orders now available in First Nations communities
Judges and justices of the peace can now issue emergency protection orders for families living in First Nations communities.
Justice Minister Diana Whalen announced the change on March 15. It gives Mi'kmaw families the same access to protections from domestic violence that other Nova Scotians have. Until now, Mi'kmaw families could call 911 for immediate relief from an abusive spouse, but could only get a peace bond from the court to help keep that spouse away during regular working hours. Emergency protection orders allow a family to get court protection more quickly.
"Mi'kmaw families dealing with violence in the home can benefit from emergency protection orders just as other Nova Scotians do," said Ms. Whalen. "We are glad to support a process that respects First Nations laws that extend important protection to families in crisis."
Justices of the peace and family and provincial court judges are authorized to issue emergency protection orders under Nova Scotia's Domestic Violence Intervention Act. However, that provincial law does not extend to First Nations communities. They can now issue such orders in First Nations communities under federal or First Nations laws.
The Government of Canada passed the Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act to provide a framework for family law matters in First Nations communities. Emergency protection orders will be issued under First Nations law where that exists, otherwise under the federal law.
"Applying emergency protection orders on reserves gives Mi'kmaw families increased well-being and reduces the risk of harm in times of crisis," said Paula Marshall, executive director of Mi'kmaq Legal Support Network. "Having more options available to high-risk families is paramount to safety."
People living in First Nations communities should visit the Nova Scotia Family Law website at www.nsfamilylaw.ca to find out how to apply for an emergency protection order in their community.