Stalking, or criminal harassment, is illegal and can have devastating consequences for victims. It is often an extension of family violence, and can be motivated by a desire to control a current or former partner.
According to Section 264 of the Criminal Code of Canada, criminal harassment can involve repeatedly following, communicating with, watching, and/or threatening a person either directly or through someone a person knows. A person being stalked must fear for their own safety or the safety of someone they know in order for charges to be laid. (Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children).
Research shows that stalkers can be intimate partners or former intimate partners. According to a Statistics Canada 2009 report, female victims are more often harassed by a former (45%) or current intimate partner (6%), while male victims are more often harassed by a casual acquaintance (37%) than by a former (21%) or current (2%) intimate partner.
When relationships end, most people have the resiliency to move on in a healthy manner. However, sometimes a partner may find it difficult to let go of the relationship and they may demonstrate unhealthy, abusive or even violent behaviours. One of these behaviours is stalking, and it is against the law.
Examples of Stalking
The following examples are only some of the possible signs of stalking. Trust your instincts and get help if you feel you or someone you know is being stalked, particularly if you see any of the following behaviours:
- Following someone around or parking close by and watching where they live or work;
- Excessive or unwanted texts, emails, phone calls or visits;
- Contacting friends, relatives or co-workers and asking them questions about someone’s actions or whereabouts; or
- Threatening behaviours, like leaving notes on someone’s vehicle windshield or the door to their home or workplace.
How the law protects people from stalking
In order to provide better protection to those who have left a violent relationship, stalking is included in the Protection Against Family Violence Act (PAFVA).
This law protects all family members from family violence through protection orders. Family members include seniors, women, men and children – whether they reside together or apart.
Alberta was the second province after Manitoba to include stalking in its family violence legislation.
Where to go for help
If you or someone you know is being stalked, help is available:
- Call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger;
- Talk to a trusted family member, close friend, teacher or counsellor; or
- Call the 24-hour Family Violence Info Line, toll-free in Alberta at 310-1818.