Peace bonds and family law protection orders

Provincial Court
Supreme Court
If you think you, your children, or other people are in immediate danger from someone, call 911 right away. If your community doesn't have 911 service, call your local police emergency phone number.

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 or RCMP to help you get a peace bond, 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 some extra 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 are peace bonds and family law protection orders?

Peace bonds (now called a "surety to keep the peace") and family law protection orders are both court orders intended to protect people from harm.

All protection orders list conditions set by a judge for one person to follow. Usually they tell that person to have either no contact or limited contact with the person being protected. But they can include many other things. For example, they could tell the other 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.

Which one should you choose?

It might take weeks or even months to get a peace bond. If you need protection urgently, call 911 (or your local police emergency number) and tell them you're afraid your partner might injure or sexually assault you or your child. The police and court need evidence of the risk to you. Tell the officer:

  • why you feel afraid for yourself or your children, especially about what just happened
  • if your partner has:
    • been violent to you or other people in the past
    • been using alcohol or drugs
    • threatened or attempted suicide recently or in the past
    • access to weapons such as guns or knives
  • 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

If the police agree you have a good reason to be afraid, they start the application for a judge to order a recognizance in criminal court. If there's a hearing, someone from the Crown counsel office contacts you.

When you speak to the police
Make sure you write down the police file number and the officer’s name. If you have questions or concerns, you can then talk to the same officer, who is familiar with you and the case. Your local Crown counsel office can also answer your questions by phone.

You can get an urgent family law protection order within a few days. But if you think this is still too long, call 911. You might be able to get the other person arrested.

If you can wait for a peace bond or protection order, do as much safety planning as you can and then look at whether a peace bond or a family law protection order will best protect you. There are several important differences between them. Use the chart below to help you decide which one looks best for you.

You can get both a peace bond and a family law protection order at the same time.

In the chart, the word "partner" means the person you:

  • are or were married to,
  • live or lived with in a marriage-like relationship for any length of time, or
  • have a child with.

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Comparing peace bonds and family law protection orders

A peace bond made under the Criminal Code of Canada in criminal court

A protection order made under the BC Family Law Act in family court
Can protect you from anyone, including someone you have only dated, such as a boyfriend or ex-boyfriend

Can protect you from a family member. This includes:

  • your partner
  • your child's parent or guardian
  • a relative of any of the people above who lives with them
  • a relative of yours who lives with you

Protects:

  • you
  • your children
  • your current partner
  • other family members who live with you
  • any other children living in your home, the home of your partner, or the home of your child's parent or guardian
  • your property

Protects:

  • you
  • your children
  • your current partner
  • other family members who live with you
  • any other children living in your home, the home of your partner, or the home of your child's parent or guardian
  • your property

Protects you and the people listed above from violence by a family member or non-family member. This includes:

  • physical abuse (or attempts), including being locked up, or denied food or other basic needs
  • emotional or mental abuse, such as being intimidated, harassed, stalked, threatened, or having your property damaged
  • sexual abuse (or attempts)
  • children being exposed to family violence

Protects you and the people listed above from violence by a family member only. This includes:

  • physical abuse (or attempts), including being locked up, or denied food or other basic needs
  • emotional or mental abuse, such as being intimidated, harassed, stalked, threatened, or having your property damaged
  • sexual abuse (or attempts)
  • children being exposed to family violence
  • You don't need a lawyer to apply
  • Call the police or RCMP and tell them you need a peace bond and why
  • The police might charge the person you're reporting and recommend a peace bond
  • If an application goes ahead, Crown counsel will be involved (A Crown counsel lawyer is not your lawyer. They represent the whole community.)
  • The police could also decide that you need more immediate protection than a peace bond.
  • If the police don't agree to ask Crown counsel to apply for a peace bond, you might be able to get a protection order under the Family Law Act if you or a child living in your household needs protection from the person you're married to or living in a marriage-like relationship with
  • Apply to court with or without a lawyer (but it's a good idea to use a lawyer)
  • You might have to pay lawyer fees, unless you qualify for a lawyer paid by legal aid
No fee to apply
  • No fee to apply for an order in Provincial Court
  • You must pay a fee to apply in Supreme Court. If you'd find it difficult to pay, apply to have the fee waived
Your partner will either be arrested or given a notice to appear in court. You might have to go to a hearing in criminal court after that.
  • You can ask to have your application handled quickly if you feel it isn't safe to wait. Your partner doesn't have to know you're applying if this would increase the risk to your safety (called making an order without notice)
  • Or, you and your partner will go to a hearing in family court
  • Lasts up to one year
  • After it ends, you can ask for another one if you still don't feel safe
  • Lasts until the end date the judge put on the order
  • If the judge doesn't put a date on it, it lasts one year
  • After it ends, you can ask for another one if you still don't feel safe
Can be enforced by police and RCMP anywhere in Canada. If the person named in the order breaches (disobeys) it, they can be arrested and charged with a criminal offence.
  • Can be enforced by police and RCMP anywhere in BC. If the person named in the order breaches (disobeys) it, they can be arrested and charged with a criminal offence.
  • If you leave BC, you:
    • might be able to register your existing order with the courts in your new location, or
    • might have to apply for another order in your new location

For more information, see:

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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