Protection orders: how can we use them to protect victims of human trafficking?

April 2, 2024

In Alberta, the court has the authority to issue various orders that prohibit one individual from contacting another. If the conditions of the order are broken, there may be civil or criminal ramifications. In this blog we will explore the different orders available, including Human Trafficking Protection Orders, and how they can be implemented to protect victims of human trafficking.

Restraining Orders in Alberta

A restraining order is a court order that orders someone to stay away from you and to stop contacting you.  

You can apply for a Restraining Order against any person who has made you afraid for your safety, regardless of your relationship with the individual. Conduct does not have to be threatening or criminal to get a restraining order.  

Some examples of conduct that would be conducive to a restraining order include:

A restraining order can require the respondent to stay away from your home, workplace, school, and other places you frequent. It can also order the respondent to stop harassing, stalking, watching, and contacting you. The court cannot order the respondent to move out of a residence, even if you live there as well.

Restraining orders must be applied for during regular court hours. In an emergency you may apply without notice to the respondent. This means the respondent will not know about the order until it has been served to them. If the situation is not an emergency, you must give notice to the respondent. The order must be served at least ten days before the court date, and the respondent can come to court and share their side of the story. There are no fees for applying for a restraining order.

Restraining orders are typically in place for one year, although they may be granted for longer, or even permanently. The order starts as soon as it is granted, however it cannot be enforced by the police until the respondent receives a copy.

If the restraining order is breached, the individual may be arrested until a hearing takes place. Breaching an order can result in fines and/or jail time.

Protection Orders in Alberta

There are different types of protection orders available to individuals in Alberta.  

A human trafficking protection order (HTPO) is a form of no-contact order that is specifically tailored to address situations of trafficking and exploitation. It can include any terms necessary to protect victims and survivors of human trafficking. These terms may include:

A HTPO can be applied for without advance notice being given to the trafficker. This is called a without notice or ex parte application. Evidence must be given under oath, in a hearing that may be completed in person, over the phone, or via teleconference. When deciding whether to grant a HTPO, the court looks at several different factors. These factors include, but are not limited to:  

If these or other factors are deemed to be met, the court may grant an HTPO. The order is not effective against the trafficker until they are provided a copy of the order. A police officer or other individual named by the court will deliver the order.

HTPOs are granted for three years. An application may be submitted before the order expires, for up to three years at a time.

If the conditions of the HTPO are broken by the trafficker, they face penalties of up to two years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $50,000.

HTPOs are often overlooked and underutilized. While they do appear on some pages of the Alberta Government website, they are left out of their overview of available orders. Raising awareness about HTPOs is important, as they can provide better tailored protection for victims. These orders are specially designed for human trafficking cases and should be considered in any instance where a victim of human trafficking is seeking a protection order.

An emergency protection order (EPO) is available for protection against family violence, as defined in the Protection Against Family Violence Act. Types of family violence include:

While navigating the process of obtaining and enforcing a restraining order can be challenging, for many it is a crucial step in rebuilding a sense of security and moving forward from exploitation and abuse.  

To qualify for an EPO, you must be a family member of the individual in question. Under the Protection Against Family Violence Act, family members include anyone who is or was married to you, an intimate partner who lives/lived with you, has a child with you, is your parent or child, or is related to you by blood or adoption.

An EPO can:

The judge or justice will consider a number of factors when deciding whether to grant the order, such as:

You can get an EPO 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A Provincial Court judge or a justice of the peace can grant an EPO in person or over the phone. The process varies depending on your city or town, but generally you can apply for an EPO during business hours by contacting Legal Aid Alberta’s Emergency Protection Order Program (by phone or in person) or going to the nearest Provincial Court building. To get an order after hours you can contact the Hearing Office for your part of the province (until midnight) or the Calgary Hearing Office (24 hours). You can also contact your local police or RCMP and they will be able to assist you.

The importance of protection orders

These orders are a legal shield. They offer legal recourse for protection and play a crucial role in safeguarding individuals and their families from potential harm. In cases of human trafficking, these orders offer survivors protection from their trafficker without having to go through the reporting process and flags the trafficker to law enforcement.