National Newswatch

REGINA — Domestic violence victims in Saskatchewan will be able to break a lease early and without penalty if they're trying to escape an abusive relationship.

The Saskatchewan government has passed legislation allowing a tenant to end a rental agreement with 28 days notice if they or their family members are being abused by another resident or former resident.

The legislation was introduced and passed Monday with the co-operation of the Opposition.

Justice Minister Gordon Wyant says having signed a year-long lease will no longer factor into someone's decision to leave.

"We don't want people to be stuck in a domestic violence situation because they're stuck in a lease," Wyant said at the legislature.

The amendments bring Saskatchewan in line with other Canadian jurisdictions, including Alberta, which passed similar legislation last year.

Jo-Anne Dusel, with Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan, says she's worked with women who have stayed in residences with their abusers because they couldn't afford to leave.

Dusel says the legislative change will make a big difference for people who are locked in a lease.

"Staying in abusive relationship, especially near the end, is the most dangerous time, so the ability to leave and not stay in that situation means possibly the difference between life and death," said Dusel.

Statistics Canada says Saskatchewan has the highest police-reported family violence rate of any province at 489.4 per 100,000 people — about double the Canadian average.

New Democrat Nicole Sarauer suggested the legislative change last June as a way for the province to quickly help domestic violence victims.

Sarauer has also suggested Saskatchewan look at a Manitoba law that allows employees who are victims of domestic violence to take leave from work.

Wyant says consultations will be done over the summer and there could be legislation this fall.

Jennifer Graham, The Canadian Press

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