Criminal or family law orders for protection

Provincial Court
Supreme Court
If you think you, your children, or other people are in immediate danger from someone, call 911 right away.

If someone in your family has threatened you or been violent toward you in the past, or you fear for your or your children's safety, you can:

  • ask the police to help you get protection, or
  • apply to court for a family law protection order.

If you don't feel you're in immediate danger, talk to a victim service worker in your community for support.

See the VictimLink BC website to find out more or call them at 1‑800‑563‑0808, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What type of protection can you get?

To get protection for you and your family, you can use:

  • criminal law,
  • family law, or
  • both.

The best idea is to get help from both criminal and family law at the same time. This will give you as much protection as possible.

To get protection under criminal law:

  • go to a police station, or
  • call 911.

The police will tell you what to do next.

If you need protection urgently, call 911 and tell them you're afraid your partner might hurt or sexually assault you or your child. Tell the 911 dispatcher:

  • why you feel afraid for yourself or your children, especially if your partner:
    • has been violent to you or other people in the past,
    • has been using alcohol or drugs,
    • has threatened or attempted suicide recently or in the past, or
    • has access to weapons such as guns or knives; and
  • if you have other evidence, such as notes about past incidents, threatening letters, voicemails, or online messages, or anyone who saw your partner being violent or threatening you.

The police will immediately come to your home and get an idea about what’s happening.

In most of BC, people with speech or hearing impairments can now text 911 but you have to register for the service. See Text with 9-1-1 for information about this.

You can get an urgent family law protection order the same day you apply for the order or within a day or so. But if this is too long to wait, call 911. You might be able to get the other person arrested immediately.

If you feel it isn't safe to wait, ask to have your application handled quickly. No one needs to know you're applying if this would increase the risk to your safety (called making an order without notice).

See Family law protection orders and Apply for a family law protection order without notice to find out more about how to get a protection order under family law.

What happens when the police arrive?

Depending on what's happening when the police arrive and what people say:

  • the police will likely tell the person who's being aggressive to find somewhere to stay for the night and calm down, OR
  • if it's clear a crime might have been committed (for example, there was physical violence or a threat of physical violence), they'll likely:
    • take the person to the police station, and
    • release them on the condition that they stay away from you and the children until further notice.

If you can wait a day or two for the police to help, you can go to a police station and make a report or call the non-emergency number. The process will be the same as it is when you call 911.

The police and criminal prosecutors (lawyers who deal with criminal issues) will decide if the aggressive person should be charged. If they're charged:

  • they'll likely be charged with assault or making threats, and
  • there will be a trial, OR
  • the court will order a peace bond.

If a peace bond (they're now called a "surety to keep the peace") is ordered, the person accused of being aggressive usually has to agree:

  • that they did something wrong, and
  • to do certain things for a year, for example, staying away from you.

If the violence was serious, the other person will likely:

  • have to go to trial, or
  • have to agree to do certain things (for example, go to counselling) so that they can get probation (they won't go to prison if they do those things).
Many people are afraid to call the police if their spouse is violent because they don't want them to go to prison. Usually they won't go to prison unless:
  • there's serious repeated violence, or
  • the violence was extreme.

If there's a trial, it won't happen until about 6 months after you call 911. So there's a chance things will get sorted out before then.

Don't worry about what might happen later. Call 911 as soon as you can to get the protection you need right away.

A judge will write certain conditions on a family or criminal order for protection. Usually they tell the abusive person to have either no contact or limited contact with you. But they can include many other things. For example, they could tell the abusive person not to go to:

  • your place of work,
  • your children's school,
  • your family’s home,
  • your place of worship, or
  • your local playground.

They basically list whatever you and your family need to feel safe.

Usually people are only arrested for a short time. If you're worried that the abusive person will come back to your home as soon as they're released:
  • tell the police that you're worried about this, and
  • call 911 immediately if the person comes back.

If you're very worried about this, stay with someone you trust for a few days or ask someone to come and stay with you.

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For more information, see:

Get help to stay safe

Read about James and the help he can get to stay safe after leaving his abusive partner in our illustrated story Protection orders.

Illustration to introduce story



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Updated on 29 March 2023