Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'm pleased to be addressing you today as you undertake your study of the network of shelters and transition houses serving women and children affected by family violence.
This afternoon, I'll be sharing information with you on Canada's strategy to end and prevent gender-based violence, with a focus on the initiatives Status of Women Canada is leading, as well as a focus on barriers marginalized women face when accessing shelters.
Violence against women, intimate partner violence, family violence and other forms of gender-based violence are powerful barriers to the empowerment, equality and full participation of women and girls in Canadian society.
Women and girls may experience violence in many different ways: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, financial manipulation or control, spiritual abuse, criminal harassment or stalking. Violence may occur in the home, at work, at school or in the community.
According to a key stakeholder, Women's Shelters Canada, shelters and transition houses are much more than refuge from violence. They're where women rebuild their lives and plan ways to move forward in a life of safety and security. Unfortunately, space is limited. In 2014, on a snapshot day, more than 300 women and 200 of their children were turned away from a shelter—more than half, 56%, because shelters were full.
In 2016, the Minister of Status of Women was mandated to develop and implement a gender-based violence strategy. In 2017, the strategy was launched following budget 2017, which announced $100.9 million over five years, and $20.7 million per year ongoing, to establish the first federal strategy of its kind in Canada. “It's Time: Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence” is a whole-of-government approach to ending gender-based violence. The strategy focuses on preventing and addressing GBV, or gender-based violence, a term used to describe violence directed at individuals because of their gender, gender identity or perceived gender.
Since its launch, Status of Women Canada and federal partners have been working to implement actions under the strategy's three pillars: prevention, support for survivors and their families, and promotion of responsive justice systems.
This year, budget 2018 announced an additional $86 million over five years, and $20 million ongoing per year, to expand the strategy. The strategy is the first federal strategy to address all forms of violence through a gender and intersectional lens. It's informed by grassroots activism, feminist action and engagement with survivors, front-line workers, researchers and advocates. It builds on current federal efforts and seeks to align with provincial and territorial initiatives related to GBV. It will fill gaps in knowledge and provide support for diverse, under-represented and often marginalized populations.
It includes investments from Status of Women Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Public Safety Canada, the Department of National Defence, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Strategy investments will focus on preventing violence against children and teens; enhancing and developing preventative bullying and cyber bullying initiatives; equipping health professionals to provide appropriate care to victims; addressing online child exploitation; enhancing immigrant and refugee settlement programs; providing cultural competency training; and supporting sexual assault centres in close proximity to Canadian Forces bases, among other actions.
The strategy also includes initiatives from other departments and agencies beyond the six funded partners whose work is critical to ending GBV in Canada. These include work by Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada as well as by StatsCan, CMHC, and ESDC—all of whom you'll hear from in this study—as well as other federal departments.
For our part, Status of Women is focusing our efforts on coordinating all federal actions related to GBV through a new knowledge centre on gender-based violence housed within Status of Women Canada, on delivering a program on gender-based violence, and on supporting gender-based violence research initiatives.
The knowledge centre, which we'll launch this fall, will be a focal point of the strategy, and be responsible for coordination, data and research, reporting and knowledge mobilization on GBV-related content. To ensure that interested individuals, organizations and communities are able to access timely information and evidence, the knowledge centre will combine resources and research into a single platform as well as provide a searchable online platform.
The strategy has also created a program that is population-specific, with the objective of supporting organizations working in the GBV sector in developing and implementing promising practices to address gaps in support for indigenous and underserved populations in Canada.
While important work has been done to advance knowledge on GBV, there remain major data gaps on topics such as patterns of intimate partner violence, experiences of diverse populations, issues such as female genital mutilation, technology-assisted violence and dating violence.
To fill these gaps, Status of Women is collaborating with Stats Canada on three national surveys that will result in much-needed data and information on sexual harassment and gender-based violence in public and private spaces, post-secondary environments and workplaces. We also have a very robust qualitative research agenda to delve deeper into people's lived experiences and to explore partnerships with vulnerable communities.
In addition, through our women's program, we have provided funding to women's shelters and shelter networks for time-specific projects to address gender-based violence. For example, some of these projects support collaboration between local shelters to identify and pilot promising practices to improve women’s access to support services. They improve first-responder screening and referral practices for women victims of domestic violence, and they address barriers to improving access to second-stage services for women.
For marginalized and victimized women, shelters, housing and safety from violence are inseparable; however, marginalized women face additional barriers when accessing shelters. We know that indigenous women and girls experience violent victimization at twice the rate of non-indigenous women, and spousal violence at three times the rate of non-indigenous women, yet there is a lack of shelter services in indigenous communities. The north has some of the highest rates of family and gendered violence in the country. Construction and maintenance costs lead to crowded living conditions, which are a risk factor for violence.
We do know that, despite efforts to date, more than 70% of the 53 Inuit communities spread across four geographic regions of the Canadian Arctic still don't have access to shelters, although the situation is improving. LGBTQ communities experience high rates of violence, but we still hear stories of people being turned away from women's shelters. Immigrant and refugee populations are at high risk of homelessness due to their higher rates of poverty, interpersonal dependency, child care responsibilities and interpersonal violence, and yet immigrant and refugee women overall may not have access to shelter systems for a number of reasons and are, therefore, more likely to experience homelessness and overcrowding.
Status of Women and other government departments are, of course, listening to concerns of stakeholders. For example, co-hosted by Status of Women, CMHC and ESDC, a group of more than 50 women from every province and territory took part in the first pan-Canadian voices for women in housing symposium. The symposium provided an opportunity to hear from women about their lived experiences.
Status of Women looks forward to hearing the testimonies of stakeholders who you will be hearing from. We thank you for this study.