Gender-based violence strategy includes millions for centre of excellence

By Joanna Smith
National Post
June 19, 2017, 4:43 PM EDT

OTTAWA — The Liberal government has unveiled its strategy on gender-based violence, which includes creating a centre of excellence within Status of Women Canada devoted to understanding the problem so they can get better at trying to solve it.

Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef said the money will help collect and share national data on gender-based violence that other levels of government and those on the front lines are unable to gather on their own.

“It is incredibly important that our actions, how we spend money, the way that we deliver programming, is based on knowledge and evidence and that we share that knowledge across the country,” Monsef said in an interview Monday.

The Gender-Based Violence Knowledge Centre, which will act as a hub to help prevent federal departments and agencies from working at cross purposes, will receive $77.5 million over five years — plus $16 million a year going forward — for research, data collection and programming.

That makes up the majority of the $101 million over five years — plus $21 million annually going forward — the Liberal government committed to the gender-based violence strategy in the March budget.

The rest of the money will be spread across several departments as part of a federal plan aimed at prevention, providing better support for survivors and helping the justice system become more responsive to the needs of those who experience sexual assault or other forms of violence.

The announcement came with some high-level announcements — $2.4 million over five years to make sure RCMP officers get training on how to be more sensitive to both gender and culture, for example — but Philippe Charlebois, a spokesman for Monsef, said specific details will come later.

Monsef said creating a picture of gender-based violence across the country that better reflects the times — such as by studying issues like online violence and harassment — will be among the research priorities.

So will learning more about different impacts on diverse populations, including visible minorities, Indigenous Peoples and the LGBT community.

The strategy was designed to be federal, not national, in scope, but Monsef said there is much to do within her jurisdiction.

“I think it’s critical that we begin to co-ordinate our efforts across departments within the federal government and address the silos that exist,” she said.

She said she nonetheless expects to be able to co-ordinate efforts nationwide.

Lise Martin, executive director of Women’s Shelters Canada, welcomed that willingness to work together as a first step towards a national strategy, but said she would want to see the provinces and territories agree to some shared goals.

“It’s about making sure that women have access to comparable levels of services and protection,” she said.

New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson said she would have liked to see more immediate action.

“I think the government would have more credibility, and the front line workers and women in danger would feel more hope if we were seeing a parallel track of yes, research, but also action to mitigate violence right now,” she said.

Conservative MP Rona Ambrose said she was pleased to see the strategy involve more than one department, which was a goal she had when she launched a family violence initiative in 2015 in her previous role as federal health minister.

“It really needs to be a co-ordinated approach,” she said.

On that note, Ambrose said she fears a slowdown in the Senate will mean her private member’s bill C-337, which would require anyone hoping to be considered for a federal judicial appointment first undergo training in sexual assault law, will not be dealt with before the summer break.

Meanwhile, the Ontario Native Women’s Association and Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action chose to boycott Monsef’s event in Toronto. They are protesting the Liberal government’s resistance to the Senate’s efforts to expand the reach of a bill aimed at removing gender-based discrimination from the Indian Act.

“How can we participate in a strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence when right now the Canadian government is perpetuating systemic, gender-based violence against indigenous women?” said Cora-Lee McGuire-Cyrette, executive director of the Ontario Native Women’s Association.

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