Peace Bonds: What They Are and How to Get Them
Understanding the Process of Obtaining a Peace Bond
If you fear that someone might harm you, your partner, your child, or damage your property, or share intimate images or videos of you without your consent, you have the option to apply for a peace bond against them.
A peace bond is a legal order issued by a judicial official, such as a justice of the peace or a provincial court judge, that requires the person named in the order to keep the peace and behave appropriately. The terms of a peace bond can include restrictions on the person's actions, movements, and contacts, such as:
- Prohibitions on contacting or visiting you or your family members
- Staying away from your property or certain locations
- Not possessing any weapons
- Other specific requirements tailored to your situation
A peace bond can be valid for up to one year and is designed to provide you with protection and peace of mind. If the person named in the peace bond violates any of its conditions, they could face criminal charges.
It's important to note that a peace bond is not the same as a restraining order, which is a separate legal mechanism. For more information on restraining orders, please consult the relevant resources.
Eligibility for a Peace Bond: Who Can Apply
If you suspect that someone might pose a threat of harm or injury to you, your intimate partner, or child, damage your property, or distribute intimate images or videos of you without your permission, you or a representative acting on your behalf may pursue a peace bond against that individual. It's not necessary for the person to have been previously involved with you; for instance, you could seek a peace bond against a neighbor or a co-worker. Note that a peace bond is distinct from a restraining order.
To obtain a peace bond, you'll need to demonstrate that you have a reasonable 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)
Seeking Legal Assistance for Peace Bond Applications
While it's not mandatory to receive legal advice when applying for a peace bond, it can be helpful. Keep in mind that judges, justices of the peace, and court staff are not permitted to offer legal guidance. Only a legal representative, such as a lawyer or paralegal, can offer legal advice. You can search for licensed lawyers and paralegals in your province through the Law Society's directory.
Initiating the Peace Bond Application Process at Your Local Courthouse
Step 1: Locate a nearby courthouse
To apply for a peace bond, you can visit the criminal service counter at your local provincial courthouse, either on your own or with someone else on your behalf. The criminal service counter staff 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'll need to complete the application form, which requires you to provide information on why you're seeking a peace bond and the defendant's address. Once you've filled out the form, you can return it to the criminal service counter staff. A judicial official will then review your application and decide whether there are sufficient grounds to proceed. If not, your application will be denied, and the matter will not proceed.
If there are enough grounds to proceed, the staff will prepare an "information" document for you to sign under oath, which begins the peace bond hearing process. The judicial official will then issue a summons for the defendant to appear in court on a specific date and time, or a warrant if there's a risk they may pose a danger or not show up.
The court will notify you of the date, time, and location of the first court appearance, which you're required to attend. If you or your legal representative miss the initial court appearance, the proceedings will be terminated, and you'll have to reapply if you still wish to obtain a peace bond.
Step 3: Attend the first court appearance
At the initial court appearance, the defendant will learn the reason behind your request for a peace bond, and they'll decide whether or not to consent to it. If the defendant agrees, they'll sign the peace bond document confirming that they accept its terms.
If the defendant doesn't consent to sign the peace bond, the judicial official will schedule a peace bond hearing.
Mutual peace bonds
In some cases, the judicial official may suggest a mutual peace bond or the defendant may request one, which requires both parties to comply with the conditions. For instance, a mutual peace bond may prohibit both parties from contacting each other.
Step 4: Go to your peace bond hearing (if applicable)
A peace bond hearing is required when the defendant doesn't agree to the peace bond. During the hearing, the judicial official will listen to evidence from you and any witnesses, as well as from the defendant and their witnesses. After reviewing the evidence, the judicial official will decide if there are enough grounds to issue a peace bond.
The Peace Bond Hearing: What to Expect
At a peace bond hearing, you will have the opportunity to provide additional evidence to the court under oath and further explain why you need a peace bond against the defendant. Witnesses may also be called to testify under oath.
The defendant will also have the chance to provide their own evidence and call their own witnesses. If you testify, the defendant can ask you questions 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 determine whether to order the defendant to sign a peace bond or dismiss the application. If a peace bond is ordered, the judicial official will decide 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.
Peace Bond Hearings: Do I need a Lawyer?
It is not necessary to have a lawyer present at your peace bond hearing, but 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.
Importance of Keeping Copies of Your Peace Bond
After the judicial official orders a peace bond, it's crucial to ask for a certified copy of the document from the court and keep it with you at all times.
If the defendant fails to follow the conditions of the peace bond, the police may need to review a copy of the peace bond before taking action. The police may warn or caution the defendant for non-compliance or may take them into custody for a bail hearing.
You may find it helpful to provide a copy of the peace bond to a trusted person, like your child's teacher or principal, if it includes conditions that prohibit contact with your child.
Life After a Peace Bond is Ordered: What You Need to Know
Peace bonds can be enforced by police anywhere in Canada. Defendants who agree to a peace bond won't have a criminal conviction record, but they could face criminal charges if they violate any of the conditions specified in the bond.
A peace bond typically lasts for a maximum of 12 months. If you still have valid reasons to fear the defendant when the bond expires, you can apply for a new one without having to wait for the current one to run out.