My name is Daisy Kler. I am a collective member at Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter as well. I've been there for about 20 years. My main area of work is in the transition house with the battered women and their kids.
Most of us have already talked about the need for funding for transition houses and affordable housing, so I'm not going to do that. I'll address other gaps in services that undermine a woman's ability to leave an abusive man.
The larger context is that in the 1990s, the federal government began downloading federal responsibilities for social programs such as subsidized housing, social assistance, child care and health care to the provinces. This dismantling of the social safety net undermines women's equality. No access to adequate housing, universal child care, health care, and abysmally low welfare rates increase women's vulnerability to men's violence.
Our recommendations are the following.
The first is about operational funding. There must be independent, women-controlled rape crisis centres and transition houses, with federal operational funding, in every community in Canada, including reserves.
The second is about welfare rates. Forty-five years of anti-violence work tells us that women need economic security in order to leave a battering husband, a sexually harassing boss or a violent pimp. Pay equity legislation is good for those who have secure work. Women in dire poverty and precarious employment need livable social assistance. The federal government should re-establish and strengthen national standards for social assistance rates with cost sharing and enforcement measures, so that each province has to comply. This step can be taken immediately.
For a long-term measure, we call on a guaranteed livable income, universally accessible, with no conditions or strings attached. This can be achieved through a negative income tax mechanism. A guaranteed livable income for a woman is how she can escape an abusive partner, and it can also prevent women from entering into abusive relationships out of economic necessity.
Third, on transportation, British Columbia is home to the infamous Highway of Tears, where many indigenous women have gone missing and been murdered. We have lost our Greyhound bus services. Infrastructure such as highways and transportation is both a federal and a provincial responsibility. We want affordable, frequent and accessible public transportation. Battered women in rural areas cannot even get to transition houses and have to resort to unsafe travelling methods that increase their vulnerability to men's violence.
Fourth, with regard to indigenous women on reserves, shelters funded by INAC, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, receive far below the amounts received by provincially funded shelters. INAC must fund on-reserve shelters at the same level as off-reserve shelters. Also, since no community operates without a sexist bias toward women, funding should not be vulnerable to the whims of changing band councils that may not prioritize fighting violence against women. INAC-funded shelters must be independent from band councils and be in the control of indigenous women from that community.
Fifth, on policing, when women experience male violence, the first point of contact is the police. When the police fail, it undermines women's access to protection through the criminal justice system. The RCMP is in disrepute because of their sexist violence against their own female officers, and because women have no faith in police protecting them from violent men. Abusive men are rarely arrested. Often, police do not prioritize domestic violence calls, and few arrests result in convictions. The federal government has to take a leadership role and direct police across Canada to take violence against women seriously, prioritize crimes against women and force change in the attitudes and actions of the police across the country.