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Seeking Protection Orders for Intimate Partner Violence in Ontario: What are the Options?

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

By: Anne-Marie Langan*

People who are attempting to flee violent relationships in Ontario often face hurdles when trying to obtain a protection order. They may report the violence to the police, hoping that the perpetrator will get arrested and charged and they will be safe. In this case, there may be terms of release preventing the perpetrator from returning to the home or communicating. Another option is to go to family court and seek a restraining order against the perpetrator from a family court judge. It may also be possible to seek a peace bond from a Justice of the Peace. Sound simple enough? The reality is anything but!

There is information and advice about how to go about obtaining a protection order on the Steps to Justice website which will guide you in choosing the appropriate option in your situation. Victims can also call their local Victim Witness Assistance Program office for further guidance and support in enforcing protection orders. As well, nine community legal clinics, including the Peterborough Community Legal Centre, have received funding from the Government of Canada to provide support to victims of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.

To obtain a criminal protection order, a victim of intimate partner violence first has to report the violence to the police. There are many barriers preventing victims from taking this step including fear of retaliation, fear of losing custody of their children, financial dependence on the perpetrator, distrust of police officers, language barriers, and/or other obstacles caused by a disability (Barett et al., 2011). Of the roughly 30% of victims who called the police to report violence, only 27.3% reported that the police removed the violent person from the premises, much less charged them (Barett et al., 2011). Police reports can be used as evidence in obtaining a family court restraining order and/or peace bond.

A victim of intimate partner violence can also obtain a restraining order from a family court judge. This option is only available for those who are living with the person at the time of the violence, or who have a child with them (CLEO, 2023). This type of order can be requested on an urgent, and even ex-parte (without notice) basis in some cases, but the average time for obtaining a protection order is three months (Ciavaglia-Burns, 2021). Victims may be reluctant to go to family court due to concerns about their privacy, inability to find adequate legal representation, fear for their safety, and lack of knowledge or understanding of the family court process(Carmen et. al, 2022). When victims do bring the violence to the attention of the court without the assistance of counsel, they often find that their concerns are minimized and not taken into consideration when it comes to custody and access arrangements (Carmen et. al, 2022). It is strongly recommended to seek legal advice from a family law lawyer for guidance in bringing this type of application. Victims of intimate partner violence in Ontario are eligible to receive 2 hours of legal advice from a lawyer for free.

Another option for obtaining a protection order is to apply for a peace bond, which is done through a Justice of the Peace or directly through the provincial court office (CLEO, 2022). A peace bond can contain conditions that prohibit communication, attendance at locations such as the victim's home or work, and possession of weapons (GOC, 2021). The conditions may also require keeping the peace, being of good behavior, and other terms to keep the victim safe (GOC, 2021). In order to succeed at obtaining a protection order, the victim must provide sufficient evidence to show that they have a reasonable basis to fear for their safety, the safety of their property, or pets (CLEO, 2022). The process of obtaining a peace bond can take as much as two or three months (President, 2019). If a peace bond is issued and then breached, the police should enforce it through the criminal court (OWN, 2022). For assistance in enforcing a protection order, victims can call their local Victim Witness Assistance Program office.

Legal Aid Ontario encourages you to call their contact center at toll-free: 1-800-668-8258 for more information about your legal options and how to access these certificates. You can also contact your local shelter for more information about where to access legal and other support. As mentioned above, there are nine legal clinics across Ontario that are providing legal advice and support to victims of intimate partner violence, the contact information for which can be found here.

*Anne-Marie Langan B.A., B.S.W., LL.B., LL.M. is the project lead for the sexual violence projects at Peterborough Community Legal Centre, including the Your Way Forward project which provides support for victims of intimate partner violence. She can be reached directly at

Betty Jo Barrett, Melissa St. Pierre & Nadine Vaillancourt (2011) Police Response to Intimate Partner Violence in Canada: Do Victim Characteristics Matter?, Women & Criminal Justice, 21:1, 38-62, DOI: 10.1080/08974454.2011.536057

Carmen, T., Wesley, A., & Ward, L. (2022, April 30). Domestic violence survivors say family courts are failing them | CBC News. CBCnews.,the%20child%20to%20have%20contact%20with%20both%20parents.

Ciavaglia-Burns, L. (2021, June 28). Profile of family law cases in Canada, 2019/2020. Government of Canada, Statistics Canada.

Community Legal Education Ontario. (2023, January 11). How do I ask for a restraining order in My Family Law Application?. Steps to Justice.

Community Legal Education Ontario. (2022, March 18). How do I apply for a peace bond?. Steps to Justice.

Government of Canada, D. of J. (2021, July 7). Peace bonds fact sheet. Victims Right’s in Canada –.

Legal Aid Ontario. (2022, March 23). Legal clinics get funding to support survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.

Legal Aid Ontario. (n.d.). Domestic violence.,hours%20of%20free%20legal%20advice%20from%20a%20lawyer.

Ontario Women’s Justice Network. (2022, December 15). Protection Orders – Part 3: A Basic Guide to Peace Bonds. OWJN.

President, C. (2019, August 4). How peace bonds can seriously hurt you. Canlaw About the Criminal Defence Law Process.

Shelter Safe. (2021, November 2). Find a shelter. ShelterSafe.

Victim Witness Assistance Program. (n.d.). Victim/witness assistance program.

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