The NDP’s Kate White wants to address what she says are misconceptions related to her push to assist victims of domestic violence through changes to Yukon’s tenancy laws.
The proposal would allow victims to break a lease early and remove an abuser’s name without penalty.
White has been hearing concerns that this could result in undue “victimization” of landlords. White said there are concerns that allowing renters who are victims of abuse to break lease early could leave landlords in the lurch.
White said that one solution being floated could see Yukon Housing Corp. help landlords fill vacancies in these circumstances, or help provide emergency funds for landlords.
“I think it is important that we don’t let the misinformation circulate,” said White. “This is not against landlords, it is for domestic violence victims.”
“I think when you have conversations with organizations in town there are still lots of barriers for victims, and this is a way to remove those barriers.”
Some concerns held by landlords may be valid, but they could be addressed through consultations with stakeholders and community interest groups, said White. That’s part of the plan, after White’s motion on the matter, introduced on April 20, was amended by Community Services Minister Currie Dixon. The original version called on the government to “introduce amendments,” while the amended version simply called on the government to “consult” on the matter.
White said her proposal could be accomplished through simple regulatory changes made by cabinet, rather than having legislators go through the more burdensome task of amending the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. This route may also remove the burden of paperwork formal changes to the act can create for landlords, she said.
The Yukon has a high prevalence of domestic violence. In 2014, 3,583 violent incidents were reported, which includes sexual assaults and robberies with a weapon.
This translates into a rate of 120 violent incidents per 1,000 people aged 15 years and older, according to Statistics Canada. The rate for non-violent incidents – including property damage, theft and vandalism – is around double that rate.
Yukon’s statistics on domestic violence sit at a staggering four times the national average. Statistics Canada estimates that about 70 per cent of spousal violence is not reported to police.
White pointed out that from 2013 to 2014, 288 adults and 171 children went through Kaushee’s Place emergency shelter. “In a population of around 35,000 this is a really high number,” she said.
While there are currently measures within Yukon Housing Corp. to help prioritize victims of abuse, White pointed out that given the shortage of affordable housing, any measures to help keep victims of domestic violence in their homes is good for housing supply. Securing housing helps victims move forward with their lives beyond temporary solutions such as shelters.
According to White, the NDP based the motion on an Alberta bill that recently passed unanimously. Many provinces have made similar amendments to their tenancy laws, including Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia and more recently Ontario and British Columbia.
White said she looks forward to conversations with other stakeholders like women’s organizations and First Nation governments to help come up with solutions.
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