Following Alberta's historic provincial election in May, in which the long-reigning Progressive Conservative Party was nearly decimated and the NDP was installed in a majority government, one rookie Member of the Legislative Assembly in particular received a huge amount of media attention: Deborah Drever.
Drever was elected to represent the riding of Calgary-Bow for the NDP, and at 26 she's an outlier in Canadian politics, for both her age and her gender (27 women were elected in Alberta this year out of 87 seats, a historic but still rather unimpressive number). Reports surfaced almost immediately after Drever's victory of untoward posts on Facebook and Instagram, ranging from flipping off the Canadian flag to more unambiguously offensive fare like insinuating two conservative male politicians are gay. In a matter of days, premier-designate Rachel Notley suspended Drever from the NDP caucus, and while Drever apologized, she decided to remain on the job as an independent MLA.
After several months of near-silence, in November Drever introduced a private member's bill intended to make it easier for survivors of domestic violence to break leases without penalty. While private member's bills rarely have even a chance of becoming law, Drever's proposed legislation has acquired significant support among her former party members. One MLA, Maria Fitzpatrick, gave a speech in support of the bill in which she recounted her own experiences of abuse.
The bill has now passed both its first and second readings in legislature, meaning it is likely the bill will become law. When asked late last month why she chose this topic for her first piece of legislation, Drever said her own early life was a huge part of it.
"My mom, she experienced a lot of domestic violence," Drever told VICE. "I just have memories as a child... being exposed to that, waking up in women's shelters, fleeing from a really hostile situation. It's something that's always really stuck with me throughout my life, and I thought, you know, with women's issues, it's really a continuum of factors. But right now, I think it's a good step, especially in Alberta with the growing rate of domestic violence, it's somewhere to start, tackling this issue."
As Drever mentioned, domestic violence is a huge and growing issue in the province that has arguably been hit worst by the year-long slump in oil prices. Last December saw the largest mass murder in Edmonton history, when Phu Lam shot his ex Cindy Duong, two other women, and three young boys before committing suicide. Edmonton police called it an "extreme case of domestic violence."
If it becomes law, Drever's bill will allow victims of domestic violence to attain a signed document to that effect (from a doctor, nurse, social worker, psychologist, or other support worker) and break their lease within 28 days with no financial or legal penalties.
"When I decided to do the bill around helping victims of DV," Drever said, "one of the first people I went to was my mother. She was a victim of domestic violence and growing up we stayed in various women's shelters around Calgary. I also remember staying at the children's cottage, which is a place for children to go in emergency situations. These places act as a safe haven to those fleeing domestic violence."
The bill will have a third reading soon, after which it will likely become law.
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