Emergency Protection Orders – EPO’s as they are commonly known by the court system are granted on an emergency basis to individuals who are experiencing family violence. An EPO is granted by a Provincial Court Judge or a Justice of the Peace.
The EPO does not allow the party against whom it is sought to come within a certain distance of the person seeking the EPO. Shortly after being granted, typically within 2 weeks, the EPO is reviewed by a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. Both parties are present and the presiding Justice makes a determination as to whether the EPO should be confirmed or sent to a hearing with live evidence for a final determination.
While the EPO is reviewed within 2 weeks the hearing is not before the court for months because of delays and backlog within the system. Until the hearing the EPO remains in effect.
What is a frequent occurrence is that the EPO is granted by the Provincial Court or Justice of the Peace and there are baseless accusations made that can be refuted by the other party. However, there day in court is not for months because of the backlog. Until then they have strict conditions which may include not returning to the matrimonial home. Effectively the EPO is used as a sword and not a shield as it is intended to be.
Parties are using the EPO as a vehicle to obtain relief that they may not be granted if they were to apply to court by way of an Application. EPO’s are a restraint on personal liberty and all too often they are being used for an improper purpose. Judges are left in an untenable situation as any allegation of violence, no matter misleading it may ultimately be found to be, must be treated extremely carefully.
It is an imperfect system being used advantageously by those who know how to work the judicial system.
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