Domestic Violence Laws Alberta

Under Canadian law, domestic violence may result in summary or indictable offense charges including assault, abduction, homicide, sexual assault, child pornography, and trafficking in persons. In addition, Alberta’s Clare’s law gives residents the right to get information about their partners.

What is the penalty for domestic violence in Alberta?

  • You may get a protection order if a family member threatens or harms you.
  • Once you report domestic violence in Alberta, you cannot drop the charges.
  • Assault is the use of force against another without consent under the Canadian criminal code.
  • A conviction for domestic violence may result in the termination of parental rights and contact.
  • Victims of domestic violence may seek a peace bond or no-contact orders.
  • There is no statute of limitations on domestic violence and sexual assault in Canada.

Call 911 if you or someone you know is in danger.

Note:  Alberta recently passed Clare’s Law which The Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence (Clare’s Law) Act gives people who feel at risk of domestic violence a way to get information about their partners so they can make informed choices about their safety. Alberta’s version of Clare’s Law is named after a young woman killed by an ex-boyfriend with a history of violence against women.

People at risk can find out if their partner has a history of:

  • domestic violence
  • stalking or harassment
  • breaches of no contact orders
  • other relevant acts


What is the law on domestic violence in Alberta?

Alberta’s Family Law Act defines domestic violence as quote:

“Family violence” includes behaviour by a family or household member causing or attempting to cause physical harm to the child or another family or household member, including forced confinement or sexual abuse, or causing the child or another family or household member to reasonably fear for their safety or that of another person.”

The definition does not include:

  • Acts of self-protection.
  • Use of reasonable force against a child as a means of correction.

Consequently, if a spouse or family member attacks you, you have the right to defend yourself.

Alberta’s Protection Against Family Violence act identifies 5 acts of violence that may occur at home.

  • Forced confinement
  • Sexual abuse
  • Stalking
  • Threatening a family member
  • A reckless act or intentional omission that causes injury or property damage.

In short, it is unlawful to harm, threaten, or intimidate a family member.

What is vital to remember is that the Canadian Criminal Code does not identify specific offenses related to family violence. Instead, as mentioned, if an incident occurs in your home, the perpetrator risks the following charges:

Can you go to jail for domestic violence in Canada?

Under provincial and federal laws, you may go to jail for committing any of the crimes below.

Spousal battery/ Assault/ causing bodily harm

Section 279 of the Canadian Criminal Code defines assault as the intentional application of direct or indirect force against another. Accordingly, under the statute, you are guilty of assault if you:

  • Threaten, attempt to threaten, or cause another person to believe on reasonable grounds that you can affect your purpose.
  • “While openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.”

Types of domestic violence described by the statute include:

  • Sexual assault is a hybrid offense with a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. For summary offenses, the maximum is two years.
  • Threats to a third party. Threatening to cause bodily harm to another person is an indictable offense punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison.
  • Causing bodily harm. Assault is a hybrid offense in Canada; the maximum sentence is 10 years in prison. For summary offenses, the maximum penalty is 18 months in jail.
  • Aggravated sexual assault. A hybrid offense is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Domestic violence defense

Section 279 (4) states that, quote;

“Where an accused alleges that he believed that the complainant consented to the conduct that is the subject matter of the charge, a judge is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence and that, if believed by the jury, the evidence would constitute a defense, shall instruct the jury, when reviewing all the evidence relating to the determination of the honesty of the accused’s belief, to consider the presence or absence of reasonable grounds for that belief.”

Can assault charges be dropped by the victim in Alberta?

Once you report an assault in Canada, the state becomes responsible for prosecution. Consequently, the victim no longer has the option to drop the charges.

What you must remember:

  • After you report domestic violence, the Canadian Criminal code may prevent contact between the accused and the victim.
  • Once your report an assault to the police, you cannot drop the charges in Canada.
  • The court may order a restraining order, no contact rule, or a peace bond.
  • If you qualify for a peace bond, the charges will not go on record.
  • If the case goes to trial, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offense.

What is the penalty for domestic violence in Alberta?

Apart from assault, a person accused of domestic violence in Alberta may face the following penalties:

Parental domestic abduction.

Under the Canadian Criminal Code, parental abduction of a child under 14 is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. In addition, if the incident involves violence, it may lead to other charges, including assault.

What are the consequences of parental abduction?

  • The court may terminate your parental rights.
  • You qualify for enhanced penalties if you take the child out of the country.

 Child pornography and revenge porn

Domestic violence charges that may stem from revenge and child pornography in Alberta include threatening, isolation, and abuse.

Alberta’s Non-Consensual Distribution of Intimate Images Act prohibits the distribution of intimate images of anyone with a reasonable expectation of privacy. That means sharing or threatening to distribute intimate images or videos is unlawful.

The penalty for revenge porn under the statute is:

  • Damages.
  • Special, aggravated, and punitive damages.
  • Injunction orders
  • The court may make any other order that is just and reasonable under the circumstances.
Marital rape, Sexual assault, and child pornography

Sexual assault refers to unwanted sexual activity that occurs without consent. The charges may include marital rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and child pornography.

Under the Canadian Criminal Code, child pornography, marital rape, incest, and sexual assault with a weapon are indictable offenses.

If a person is accused of marital rape, the law requires prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime and had criminal intent. “Criminal intent” means that the accused intentionally, purposefully, recklessly, or negligently committed the crime.

Under Canada’s Criminal Code section 163.1 “child pornography” it is unlawful for anyone to create, possess, or distribute child pornography. Any individual who causes or forces a child to create child pornography through violence, enticement, or other means qualifies for enhanced penalties.

Other possible charges related to domestic violence in Alberta include:

What is the penalty for marital rape and sexual assault in Alberta?

  • Up to 10 years in prison for indictable offences and not more than 18 months for an indictable offense. If the victim is below 16, the penalty is up to 14 years.
  • Sexual assault with a weapon. A minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum of 14 years.
  • Aggravated sexual assault involving criminal activity or prohibited fire arm. Minimum of five years and a maximum of life in prison.

Remember section 271 of Canada’s criminal code reads, quote:

“Everyone who commits a sexual assault is guilty of (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years or, if the complainant is under the age of 16 years, to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year; or (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 18 months or, if the complainant is under the age of 16 years, to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years less a day and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of six months.”

What happens if you are charged with domestic violence in Alberta?

Depending on the facts and the crime committed. The court may order:

  • Imprisonment. If the victim dies, the maximum sentence is life in prison for first- or second-degree murder.
  • Conditional releases. For less severe offenses, the court may order conditional release such as “no contact” with the victim.

Under Alberta’s Alberta Protection Against Family violence act, the penalties for domestic violence include:

  • Failure to comply with a protection order. For a first offense, the penalty is up to 90 days in jail and a $5000 fine.

What to remember

Under the family protection act, a peace officer may arrest anyone who violates a protection order without a warrant. The act prohibits acts including:

  • Threatening family members
  • Communicating directly or indirectly with a family member if there is a no-contact or protection order.
  • Following/stalking a family member

What is Clare’s law in Alberta?

If you are at risk of domestic violence, you have the right to get information about potentially harmful intimate partners. Under Clare’s law, you may access information including:

  • No contact order breaches.
  • Harassment and stalking.
  • Domestic violence history.
  • Other acts related to domestic violence

What can the police disclose under Clare’s law?

Remember, you have the right to ask the police for the information above, and the police may proactively provide the information if they consider you an at-risk person.

Apply here

To be eligible, you must:

  • Be a resident of Alberta
  • You must have a reason to apply for the information above.
  • You must be willing to meet and talk with the police.
  • You must have met the person whose information you seek.
  • The person must be an intimate partner.

Can you sue for domestic violence in Alberta, Canada?

Under provincial and federal laws, you may file a criminal or civil lawsuit against an abusive domestic partner or spouse. Consequently, if your partner assaults you, you may sue the individual for damages, including:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical bills
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of earning capacity and other damages.

We recommend (1) contacting law enforcement immediately after an assault. (2) filing a police report. (3) consulting with a claims attorney.

That said. A lawsuit could be expensive, and there is no guarantee that you will get the expected outcome.

What is a peace bond in Alberta?

A peace bond under section 810 of the Canadian criminal code is a protection order that a victim may obtain to prevent a defendant from committing a crime. If the defendant does not obey the conditions of the order, the individual may face criminal charges.

What to remember:

  • You may get a peace bond if you fear a family member may harm you or cause property damage.
  • A peace bond may require the defendant to practice good behaviour, stay away from the potential victim, abstain from alcohol and non-prescription drugs, forbid the ownership of weapons, or prohibit the defendant from contacting the victim.

Failure to obey a peace bond may result in imprisonment for up to four years.

Apply for a peace bond here.

Other Alberta Laws