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Stalking: Taking Legal Action

CW: Discussion of abuse and harassment

Writer: Rachel

As heightened surveillance is increasingly normalized through technology, stalking–or criminal harassment, as the Government of Canada refers to it–is a very real and valid fear in our modern society. From Ring doorbells (which one UK judge found to be a breach of privacy, The Guardian) to Apple AirTags (which people have found discreetly placed on their cars, NPR) invasive technology creates more avenues to stalk victims. While anyone can experience criminal harassment, data from Statistics Canada show that nearly 8 out of 10 victims are women, and 9 out of 10 stalkers are men. Further, in around 88 percent of criminal harassment cases, the stalker knows their victim–whether they be former romantic partners, co-workers, close friends, or even acquaintances–and in many of these cases, the stalking is “an extension of family violence” (Government of Canada).

The Vancouver Police Department advises it is important to inform those in your life of the potential threat and document harassment, suggesting that people on the receiving end of a stalker should:

  • Keep a log or journal of all contact with the stalker, including the date, time, location, what happened, and what was said or written.

  • Take a screenshot and do not delete texts, emails, or messages (be sure to make a note of the date and time received) If you have received the harassment on a smart device.

  • Check the privacy settings on all of your social media accounts to ensure your account is private, only allowing access to people you know.

According to the Government of Canada, “If there is enough evidence of an offence, the police will charge the person.” However, if the police aren’t able to help or if you would like to pursue a different route, there are legal options victims of stalking can take against their harassers: such as a peace bond, restraining order or protection order. Peace bonds are court orders instituted to keep someone from committing a crime and are most commonly sought after as they can be obtained by anyone. By signing a peace bond, the offender agrees to “keep the peace and be of good behaviour” as well as obey certain conditions such as not contacting certain individuals or not visiting certain places. It is considered a crime to not follow the conditions in a peace bond. Section 810 of the Criminal Code states that you may apply for a peace bond against anyone, regardless of your relationship or lack thereof with the offender. However, in order to be granted a peace bond you need to prove you have “a reasonable fear” that the stalker will: hurt you or your family, damage your property, or share an private image/ video of you without consent. If the court finds there to be reasonable evidence, they will issue a summons to the offender for a peace bond hearing. Dial-A-Law, a service of People’s Law School, describes the steps for applying on your own (without the help of police) for a peace bond as follows:

  • Step 1. Laying an information: The process begins at your local Provincial Court registry, where you will complete a document, called an information, saying why you need the peace bond. The information is a sworn statement you complete in front of a justice of the peace, a court officer who deals with process matters. In the information, you need to show why you have a reasonable fear the other person is a danger to you, your family, or your property.

  • Step 2. Summons to court: If the justice of the peace agrees there is enough evidence to support a peace bond, they will summons the offending person to come to court. Depending on the details you provide the justice of the peace, they may issue a warrant so the police can arrest the person. If they do, the court may decide to release the person on conditions, such as they do not contact you or go to your home or work. When the person comes to court, they are asked to sign the peace bond, agreeing to a list of conditions–which can include staying away from particular people or places, not using drugs or alcohol, and not possessing weapons.

  • Step 3: Peace bond hearing: If the person refuses to sign the peace bond, there will be a peace bond hearing before a judge. At the hearing, you will need to testify (tell your story), indicating the reasons for your fear. You can have a lawyer represent you during the hearing, but you don’t have to. At the end of the hearing, the judge will hopefully order the person to sign a peace bond. But it is possible that they dismiss the application if they think your fear is unreasonable.

This was, unfortunately, the case for Jamie Coutts, who recorded herself being closely followed by a man for 40 minutes throughout downtown Vancouver in March 2021. Because of the specific wording of the law that added criminal harassment to the Criminal Code in 1993, Coutts, as well as many other women, was unable to receive justice for the terrifying ordeal she experienced. Isabel Grant, a law professor at UBC, states that “There are four different ways you can commit this crime. One of them is to repeatedly follow from place to place another person or anyone known to them. The problem with that is the word repeatedly. In this case, there was one very long incident of following. … The legislation isn’t entirely clear on how often you have to do that but where it’s following, it has to be ‘repeatedly.’ In other words, women are supposed to tolerate just being followed once” (City News).

Thus, even when victims provide clear documentation of their harassment–or the video goes viral like in Coutt’s case–it is still extremely hard for those who experience stalking to see their harasser brought to justice and finally be able to feel safe again. It is abundantly clear that Canada’s Criminal Code must be updated to remove its restrictive phrasing on what constitutes criminal harassment or more cases where obvious stalkers can walk free–and potentially harass more people–will continue to occur. We at BOLT Safety stand with victims of criminal harassment and encourage those who may be dealing with a stalker to reach out for help. Additional resources include:

  • Safe Buddies: if you are feeling unsafe walking to your destination alone, our team team of volunteers offer accompaniment over the phone Canada-wide

    • Hotline: +1(877)8992-658

  • VictimLink BC:

    • 1-800-563-0808 VictimLink BC is a toll-free, confidential telephone service available across BC and Yukon 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It provides information and referral services to all victims of crime and immediate crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence.

    • VictimLink BC is TTY accessible. Call TTY at (604) 875- 0885. Text (604) 836-6381. Email

  • Information on criminal harassment from the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime

  • Call 911 if your immediate safety is at risk, otherwise, call the non-emergency police line at 604-717-3321.

Disclaimer: Please note that our team is not claiming expertise in the topics discussed on our platforms, and we endeavor to verify any published information with reliable sources and community experts and organizations. Any content on our platforms should not replace advice given to you by professionals, and you are using our information, resources, and programs at your own risk. Please contact us if you see an error so that we can investigate the matter and make corrections where necessary.


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