Last week, the Rogers family celebrated the company’s 60th anniversary by granting $60 million to several Canadian charitable organizations. Women’s Shelters Canada (WSC) was thrilled to be one of these recipients, receiving a generous grant of $4.5 million.

Thank you to the Rogers family for recognizing the critical work carried out by Canada’s 500+ violence against women (VAW) shelters, and the importance of investing in our sector to ensure that we can provide the best services possible to women and children fleeing violence. The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to re-imagine an environment where there is greater social, economic, and climate justice. All three are inter-related. All three can help reduce and eventually end violence against women.

Since mid-March, when self-isolation measures came into place across Canada, shelters have innovated and adapted to the tremendous challenges that suddenly fell on their doorsteps.

How we are allocating funds

What does this gift mean for Women’s Shelters Canada? So many things!

This gift will allow us to build the capacity of our sector. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that a sector is only as good as its people.

A total of $2,275,000 will be distributed amongst the provincial/territorial shelter associations that make up WSC’s full members. Each organization will determine its priorities as it responds to COVID-19 and to the systemic issues of VAW that preceded it. We will be adopting an equity model in distributing the funds to ensure that smaller provinces and their associations can further increase their capacity.

At the national level, an investment of $1,225,000 in the following three areas will help us support shelters from coast to coast to coast.

First, WSC will develop a training program(s) to support shelters in serving marginalized women, with an emphasis on First Nations, Metis, and Inuit women in the spirit of reconciliation. We found in our More than a Bed report that, while 80% of shelters served Indigenous women, less than 20% felt they could serve them in culturally appropriate ways. This training program will help non-Indigenous shelters better serve Indigenous women and children. We will work with Indigenous women’s shelters to develop and deliver the training.

Second, we will implement a Knowledge Exchange Strategy from a COVID-19 perspective, ensuring that shelters continue to work together and learn from each other in this new, more digitally focused context, to support women and children fleeing violence.

Finally, we will engage to ensure that systemic change is part of the COVID-19 recovery. There will be two areas of focus: Canada’s National Action Plan on VAW and safe and affordable housing for women fleeing violence.

An investment of $1 million will go towards a national awareness campaign that focuses on violence prevention. This will include information on programs for perpetrators and will continue to highlight as a tool for women to find their nearest shelter and its 24/7 crisis number.

Over the coming months, the provincial and territorial associations, as well as our team at WSC, will be determining our priorities to make the best use of the incredible generous gift from the Rogers family. Stay tuned!

Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash