Women’s Shelters Canada (WSC) welcomes the release of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women’s report, “Surviving Abuse and Building Resilience – A Study of Canada’s Systems of Shelters and Transition Houses Serving Women and Children Affected by Violence.” It was released last week on May 1, the same day WSC launched its report, “More Than A Bed: A National Profile of VAW Shelters and Transition Houses.”
WSC staff attended all of the public meetings for this federal study on the “system of shelters and transition houses serving women and children affected by violence against women and intimate partner violence.”
Both this report and WSC’s More Than a Bed report found that there is a wide gap between the supply of and demand for beds in violence against women (VAW) shelters and transition houses. The affordable housing crisis across the country only exacerbates this gap. Much more funding is needed to ensure that no woman is left without a safe place to stay and the supports she needs to live a life free from violence.
We welcome the recommendations that address the imbalance in funding for on-reserve shelters serving First Nations women and girls, as well as those that stress the importance of collaboration between the federal government and the provinces and territories.
We are especially pleased that the Committee’s list of recommendations includes the creation of a National Action Plan (NAP) on gender-based violence. In 2015, WSC and over 20 partner organizations developed a Blueprint for Canada’s National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Girls and continue to advocate for its implementation. Our goal is for every woman and child to have access to comparable levels of services and protection, no matter where she lives in Canada. An NAP would ensure a shared understanding of the root causes of VAW as well as coordinated and effective efforts across the federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal levels.
It is imperative that the continuum of violence women and girls experience be included in such a plan.
We wholeheartedly agree with the Committee’s final paragraph in its summary:
“The Committee applauds the important and difficult work being carried out by staff working in shelters and transition houses in Canada. The Committee believes that the implementation of its recommendations will support shelters and transition houses in meeting the needs of women and children escaping violence, and help women and children affected through their healing process.”
However, we were disappointed to see that the Supplementary Opinion of the Conservative Party of Canada focuses on the idea of home ownership and the “continuum of housing” rather than the mandate of this study – VAW shelters and transition houses. It is disappointing that, of the 16 quotes cited as expert testimony in support of their recommendations, not one was from a VAW shelter/transition house or another organization focusing on violence against women.