In Canada, on average, a woman is killed every six days by a current or former intimate partner.[i] Between 2009-2014, 342,000 women were victims of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).[ii] On a single day in 2014 there were 6,216 women and children staying in shelters across the country because of abuse. On that same day, over 300 women and children were turned away from shelters operating at maximum capacity.[iii] These figures tell us too many women and children in Canada continue to experience alarming rates of violence and that current demands exceed existing resources; but the issue goes beyond the number of beds available.

Survivors and the shelter sector have repeatedly called for greater cohesion within and across jurisdictions and sectors to better align the many moving and interconnected parts involved in preventing and responding to Violence Against Women (VAW).[1] They report chronic systemic barriers that hinder women from living violence-free lives and prevent shelters from delivering much-needed services; these include poor legislative protections, insufficient social and housing supports, inadequate funding & increases, deficient data collection and monitoring, and convoluted and overlapping information.[iv]

National Action Plans are considered a critical framework for coordinating efforts and maximizing resources to address VAW.[v] Canada does not currently have a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women (NAP on VAW).[vi] A key component of a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women is the rigorous and ongoing collection of national data on the prevalence and impacts of all forms of gendered-violence, as well as on shelter service delivery[vii], without which it is impossible to assess, respond to and fund VAW effectively[viii].

Presently, provincial and territorial governments develop and implement VAW response systems independently, based on differing understandings and definitions of violence, without reliable, generalizable data, and independent from a federal strategy. 12 of the 13 provinces and territories have versions of Action Plans on VAW in place, though degrees and verifiability of their substantiveness vary.

The implications of this fragmented and discretionary approach on the shelter sector include: a missed opportunity to capture and disseminate knowledge and best practices; guidelines and levels of support that do not correspond to the range of services offered by shelters; significant variances in funding; and ultimately, a structural climate that is not conducive to working toward, monitoring, and achieving lasting change.

This report will examine some of the governmental systems and structures survivors and the shelter sector must navigate and operate within to access and deliver services. Specifically, it will provide a cross-jurisdictional comparison of: I. Coordinating Mechanisms; II. Operational and Capital Funding of Shelter Associations and Shelters; III. Existence and Support of Key IPV Services and Programs; IV. Public Policy and Legislation directly or indirectly impacting VAW; and V. Data Collection & Monitoring.

The objective of the report is to illuminate policy, funding and service gaps and variabilities across the country. Key findings will be shared at the end of each section, and summarized in the Conclusion.

Our hope is that this compendium will be a useful resource and tool for VAW advocates, researchers and policy-makers. The information gathered herein provides proof of the need at the federal level for a unified and concerted commitment to preventing VAW, and for guaranteed social supports to enable women in Canada to remove themselves and their children from a life and cycle of violence.

We believe the most pragmatic, efficient and cost-effective way to address the challenges and inconsistencies outlined in this report is a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women.

Items highlighted in this report are based on concerns and recommendations frequently cited by the shelter sector, and are not representative of all the components that make up VAW architecture. For example, the report does not cover VAW prevention or legislation, and will only highlight select justice system responses.

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