Understanding Peace Bonds: An Introduction
If you're concerned that someone might harm you, your partner, your child, damage your property, or share intimate images or videos of you without your consent, there's an option to seek a peace bond against them.
A peace bond is a legal order authorized by a judicial official, such as a justice of the peace or a provincial court judge. It compels the person named in the order to keep the peace and exhibit proper conduct. The terms of a peace bond can entail specific prohibitions and limitations, such as:
- Restrictions on contacting or visiting you or your family members
- Staying away from your property or designated locations
- Not having any weapons
- Other customized requirements based on your circumstances
A peace bond typically lasts for up to one year and aims to provide you with a sense of security and tranquility. If the individual named in the peace bond contravenes any of its terms, they may face criminal charges.
It's crucial to note that a peace bond isn't the same as a restraining order, which is a distinct legal mechanism. For more information on restraining orders, please consult relevant resources.
Eligibility for a Peace Bond: Who Can Apply?
If you have reasonable grounds to believe that someone might harm you, your intimate partner, your child, damage your property, or share an intimate image or video of you without your consent, you or someone acting on your behalf can apply for a peace bond against that person. It's not necessary for the person to have been in a relationship with you. For instance, you could apply for a peace bond against a neighbour or a co-worker. A peace bond is distinct from a restraining order.
To obtain a peace bond, you'll need to demonstrate that you have a legitimate fear that the other person will:
- Inflict harm or injury on you, your intimate partner, or your child
- Cause damage to your property, or
- Share an intimate image or video of you without your consent (as outlined in section 162.1 of the Criminal Code)
Obtaining Legal Advice for Your Peace Bond Application
Getting legal advice for applying for a peace bond is not obligatory, but it can be beneficial. Judges, justices of the peace, and court staff members are not authorized to offer legal advice. Only a legal representative, such as a lawyer or paralegal, can provide legal counsel. The Law Society keeps a database of all licensed lawyers and paralegals in the province.
Applying for a Peace Bond at Your Local Courthouse
Step 1: Find a Courthouse Nearby
You can apply for a peace bond by visiting the criminal service counter at your local provincial courthouse, either alone or with someone representing you. The staff at the criminal service counter will provide you with a form (DOCX) to initiate the application process.
Step 2: Submit Your Application and Meet with a Judge or Justice of the Peace
You must complete the application form, providing details on why you are requesting a peace bond and the defendant's address. After completing the form, you can return it to the criminal service counter staff. A judicial official will then review your application to determine if there are sufficient grounds to proceed. If not, your application will be denied, and the matter will not proceed.
If there are sufficient grounds to proceed, the staff will prepare an "information" document for you to sign under oath, which initiates the peace bond hearing process. The judicial official will then issue a summons for the defendant to appear in court on a specified date and time, or a warrant if the defendant poses a danger or may not appear.
The court will notify you of the date, time, and location of the initial court appearance, which you must attend. If you or your legal representative fail to appear, the proceedings will be dismissed, and you will have to reapply if you still want a peace bond.
Step 3: Attend the Initial Court Appearance
At the first court appearance, the defendant will learn the reason for your request for a peace bond, and they will decide whether or not to consent to it. If the defendant agrees, they will sign the peace bond document acknowledging that they accept its conditions.
If the defendant refuses to sign the peace bond, the judicial official will schedule a peace bond hearing.
Mutual peace bonds
In some instances, the judicial official may suggest a mutual peace bond or the defendant may request one, which obligates both parties to comply with the conditions. For example, a mutual peace bond may prohibit both parties from contacting each other.
Step 4: Attend the Peace Bond Hearing (if necessary)
A peace bond hearing is required if the defendant does not agree to the peace bond. During the hearing, the judicial official will hear evidence from you and any witnesses, as well as from the defendant and their witnesses. After reviewing the evidence, the judicial official will determine if there are sufficient grounds to issue a peace bond.
The Peace Bond Hearing: What to Expect
During a peace bond hearing, you will have the opportunity to present additional evidence to the court under oath and further clarify why you need a peace bond against the defendant. Witnesses may also be called to testify under oath.
The defendant will also have the opportunity to present their own evidence and call their witnesses. If you testify, the defendant can question you about your evidence, and they can also question your witnesses about their evidence.
After reviewing all of the evidence and testimony, the judicial official will decide whether to order the defendant to sign a peace bond or dismiss the application. If a peace bond is ordered, the judicial official will determine what conditions should be included.
A defendant who refuses to sign a peace bond ordered by the judicial official can be sentenced to up to one year in jail.
Do You Need a Lawyer for Your Peace Bond Hearing?
While it is not necessary to have a lawyer present at your peace bond hearing, you may choose to hire one or represent yourself. If possible, you or your legal representative will be responsible for providing copies of any evidence presented.
Keeping Records of Your Peace Bond: Why It's Important
Once the judicial official orders a peace bond, it's important to request a certified copy of the document from the court and keep it with you at all times.
If the defendant fails to adhere to the conditions of the peace bond, the police may need to review a copy of the peace bond before taking any action. The police may warn or caution the defendant for not complying with the conditions, or they may arrest, charge, or take the defendant into custody for a bail hearing.
If the peace bond includes conditions that prohibit contact with your child it may be useful to provide a copy to a trusted individual. A trusted individual may be your child's teacher or principal.
Life After a Peace Bond: What You Need to Know
Police throughout Canada can enforce peace bonds. The defendant who agrees to a peace bond does not receive a criminal conviction record. However, if they breach any of the conditions outlined in the peace bond, they may be charged with a criminal offence.
A peace bond can remain in effect for up to 12 months. If you still have reasonable grounds to fear the defendant after the peace bond expires, you may apply for another one without having to wait for the existing one to expire.