Get help with family violence
Who can help?
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. If your area does not have a 9-1-1 service, call your local police emergency number. The police are trained to help you deal with dangerous situations. They are there to investigate and can also help you to get a peace bond. They can also refer you to victim services. Victim services or a lawyer can help you get a non-criminal protection order to keep the person who abused you away from you.
If the situation isn't dangerous right now, you can also call a health centre, victim services, community organization, shelter, or the local police and tell them about the abuse. They can help you to figure out what to do next.
When you ask officials like the police, a social worker or a lawyer for information, you can ask them to keep your concerns confidential.
The list below can help you find people or groups that might be able to help you with information, support or emergency assistance.
These numbers or links may change. Remember to keep them up to date.
Victim services organizations work with the police to help victims of crime. They can help you develop a plan and find ways to protect yourself. They can connect you with services for food, clothing and shelter and may be able to provide interpretation services so you can speak with someone in a language you are comfortable in. See the Victim Services Directory to find services across Canada.
Many community organizations provide social services. These organizations may have someone who can listen to you and talk about your choices. They may be able to refer you to a lawyer if you need one or refer you to other services such as financial assistance. Some of these community organizations may have services in your first language. Multicultural or immigrant serving organizations may be able to give you information and refer you to helpful services. See also, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada Directory of Newcomer Services.
Family doctor or public health nurse
Your family doctor can give you advice on what to do if you are being abused. He or she can help you with your physical or psychological injuries or may refer you to someone who can. Many provinces and territories also have 24-hour health telephone help.
Call your provincial or territorial government for information about health and social support services in your community or ask your local community centre for advice. They may be able to offer information, counselling and provide referrals to social workers. You can look in your phone book or on the internet for your local number.
Friends, family, neighbours
Speak with someone you trust about the abuse. People cannot help you if they do not know what is happening to you.
There are many telephone services (sometimes called crisis lines) that you can call for free 24 hours a day without giving your name. The person who answers the phone will listen to you and can help you make important decisions to stay safe and to keep your children safe. Look in your phone book or on the internet for phone numbers. If you choose not to call for help right away, then keep a list of these phone numbers in a safe place you can get to easily.
If you have serious injuries, you should go to a hospital. Hospitals have emergency staff who are there to help you if you are hurt or having a health emergency. They may also have special knowledge about family violence. It is best for you to tell the doctors and nurses the truth about what happened.
If you are not a Canadian citizen, you may still have access to health care. If you are legally entitled to be in Canada - as a refugee, a permanent resident or a sponsored spouse - you may be entitled to free health coverage after three months under provincial or territorial health insurance. Refugee claimants may have access to health care coverage from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Tourists or temporary visitors can buy health insurance. For any questions regarding your health coverage, see your province's or territory's health information website or call your provincial or territorial health service. You may also go to the website of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Legal help may be available from a lawyer or a legal aid office. Contact a lawyer referral service, a legal aid office or a public legal education and information association to find out where you can get legal help and if you can get help free of charge.
Many police officers are trained to respond to family violence. Many police services across Canada have special domestic assault units with police officers and other professionals who will listen and try to help you. The police can also refer you to victim services. Check the first few pages of your telephone book for the phone number.
If there is someone at your place of worship whom you trust, tell them what is happening.
If you or your children are in danger, a shelter can give you temporary help and somewhere safe to stay. Staff there have special training to deal with family violence victims and can give you advice on what to expect and how to stay safe and keep your children safe.
What about the children if you decide to leave?
If you leave an abusive situation, you can still apply for custody of your children. If you think your children might be in danger, contact the police and ask them to take you and your children to a shelter or somewhere else where you will be safe.
Once you are safe, contact a lawyer to help you apply to the court for a custody or parenting order. If you can safely contact a lawyer before you leave, it might be helpful to get legal advice as early as possible. If your child will be visiting the other parent, you may want someone else (such as a grandparent or other relative or friend) to be there when the children go or come back from the other parent's home. In some places there may be a service available for supervised exchanges. If you are worried about your child's safety with the other parent, ask the judge to order supervised visits. In very rare circumstances, if the other parent poses a danger to the child even if they are supervised, you can ask the judge to order no visits.
You can find a list of family justice services where you live at: Inventory of Government-based Family Justice Services.
The safety of your children and your safety come first. Do not stay in a dangerous situation because you are worried about money. Shelters can provide you and your children with short-term help while you look for housing and long-term support. They can also help you look for financial support.
Parental child abduction
Contact a lawyer if you think the other parent or someone else will try and take your children out of the country. If you ask, the judge may order that the child's passport be kept by the court. If your children are Canadian citizens, call Passport Canada toll-free at 1-800-567-6868 or TTY services 1-866-255-7655. Ask them to put your child's name on a list so you can be called if anyone tries to get another passport for them.
Most abducted children are taken by someone the child knows. The person who takes them is most often a parent.
Parental child abduction happens when one parent takes a child without either the legal right or the permission of the other parent. Parental child abduction is a crime in Canada. An exception may apply when a parent takes the child to protect them from immediate harm.
What to do if you are afraid the other parent may abduct your child
- Contact a lawyer.
- Contact your local police.
- Keep records of all important information about your child and store it in a safe place.
- Keep a copy of your custody or parenting order or agreement with you.
- Ask your local passport office to add your children's names to the Passport Control List. If your children are citizens of another country, contact that embassy or consulate to ask them to refuse passports for your children.
- Talk to your child about using the phone and explain how your custody situation works if you are separated or divorced.
- If it is safe to do so, try to maintain good relations with the other parent and any extended family.
- Keep photos, recordings or other proof of the family violence.
If your child is abducted
- Contact your local police immediately.
- If you are out of the country, make sure to report the disappearance to the federal government's Consular Services at 613-996-8885. You may call collect, where available.
- If you are inside Canada and you think your child is outside Canada, call the federal government's Consular Services at 1-800-387-3124.
- Contact a child search organization in your province or territory and register your child as missing.
Links to family violence resources
Department of Justice Canada family violence public legal education and information publications
- Abuse is Wrong (2009) (PDF Version, 521 Kb)
- Child Abuse is Wrong: What Can I Do? (2012) (PDF Version, 2.66 Mb)
- Abuse is Wrong in any Language (2011) (PDF Version, 2.06 Mb)
- Elder Abuse is Wrong (2011) (PDF Version, 2.09 Mb)
- Abuse Is Wrong In Any Culture: Inuit (2011) (PDF Version, 1.93 Mb)
- What's Wrong with Spanking - Positive Parenting Tip Sheet
- Stalking is a Crime Called Criminal Harassment (2003) (PDF Version, 338 Kb)
The Department of Justice offers a number of other publications on family violence available on the Publications section of our website.
Government of Canada resources
- Government of Canada Family Violence Initiative
- Policy Centre for Victims Issues (Department of Justice)
- End Violence Against Women and Girls (Status of Women Canada)
- Spousal and Partner Abuse -- It can be stopped (RCMP publication)
- Stopping Child Abuse - Protecting Our Future (RCMP publication)
- Criminal Harassment: Stalking - It's NOT Love (RCMP publication)
- Dating Violence - Say NO ! (RCMP publication)
- Effects of Domestic Violence on Children - Where does it Hurt? (RCMP publication)
- Family Violence Prevention Program (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada)
- Elder Abuse Awareness
Provinces and territories are responsible for the administration of justice and the provision of services related to family violence in their jurisdiction. Links to provincial and territorial government websites and resources are noted below:
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Disclaimer: Links to websites not under the control of the Government of Canada (GoC) are provided solely for the convenience of users. The GoC is not responsible for the accuracy, currency or the reliability of the content. Information on websites not subject to the Official Languages Act, may only be available in the language in which it was written.
Safety planning means identifying steps you can take to reduce the risk of further violence to you and your family. Creating a safety plan is a way to think in advance about what you and your children can do during a violent incident, the people you can turn to for help and important documents you will need if you have to leave quickly. It can also help you prepare to end an abusive relationship when you are ready. A safety plan should be a personal plan that sets out your strategies to be safe.
A local women's shelter can provide safety planning assistance.
Additional information about safety planning can be found at: Safety Planning for Women Who are Abused.
Cover your tracks
When using a computer to find information on family violence, remember that other people who have access to the computer may be able to "track" your computer use. For information on safe computer use, do a Web search on "cover your tracks" and/or "cyberstalking." When in doubt, try to find a computer that your abuser will not check, such as one at a public library or shelter for women.
If you call for information or assistance and your phone has a re-dial feature, then call some other number after calling the police, crisis line, women's safe shelter or victim services worker. Or if you called from a cell phone, don't forget to clear the number from your list of past calls. That way the abusive person won't know what you're doing or planning.
Offender treatment programs
Most provinces and territories in Canada offer treatment programs for offenders who abuse their partners. Depending on the individual case, participation in these programs may be voluntary or mandatory. Treatment programs use a variety of approaches including individual and group counselling. Although most treatment programs are open to all abusive partner offenders, some programs may assess offenders to confirm the program being offered will help them.
For more information: Canada's Treatment Programs for Men Who Abuse Their Partners (2008)
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