Evidence of meeting #120 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was housing.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Cynthia Drebot  Executive Director, North End Women's Centre
Jennifer Gagnon  Executive Director, South Shore Transition House Association (Harbour House)
Donna Smith  Executive Director, Tearmann Society for Abused Women
Samantha Lacourse  Coordinator, A Safe Place, Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre
K. Kellie Leitch  Simcoe—Grey, CPC
Sonia Sidhu  Brampton South, Lib.
Terry Duguid  Winnipeg South, Lib.
Caithlin Scarpelli  Director, Communications and Fund Development, Atira Women's Resource Society
Geneviève Latour  Associate Director, Crossroads for Women inc.
Fiona Cunningham  Mental Health Counsellor, Iris Kirby House
Jean Fong  Transition House Worker, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter
Daisy Kler  Transition House Worker, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter
Bob Bratina  Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Lib.

5:20 p.m.

Mental Health Counsellor, Iris Kirby House

Fiona Cunningham

I don't know a lot of the financial background, and how they came about. Some of them have been around for 15 to 20 years. Where the original funding came from for some of the units, I'm not sure. I may not be helpful to answer that.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

How does it work when the women first come into the shelter, and then they transition into these second-stage housing units?

5:20 p.m.

Mental Health Counsellor, Iris Kirby House

Fiona Cunningham

They are all managed by our organization. They all fall under the umbrella of Iris Kirby House and O'Shaughnessy House. There's an assessment done on what we have available and which women would be the best fit, based on what individually is going on with them at the time and what's going to help them move forward.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

That's your time.

We will go to Ms. Malcolmson, for seven minutes.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to all four groups. There's so much we can harvest from this.

We've been hearing from a number of panels that the #MeToo movement, the lifting of the taboo against reporting and asking for help, has blown the lid off the sexual violence that is happening in the world. Thanks to all of you for doing the front-line work and saving lives.

Have you seen the federal funding match the increased amount you have? Talk to us a bit more about whether the need is being met by the funding that's available.

5:20 p.m.

Associate Director, Crossroads for Women inc.

Geneviève Latour

I can begin.

As I mentioned, in our case, we have not received any operating funds. So we have not seen any increases, since we went from zero dollars to zero dollars. However, we have received capital funding to increase our number of beds. In that area, we have the material resources to accommodate those women, and that funding has increased significantly in the wake of the movement.

However, the core funding has not increased since the beds were built and became available. So we have two and a half times more beds, but only 4% more funding, which we obtained through fundraising. To answer the question, our budget did indeed increase to help us acquire more beds, but we still have no operating budget. So we are still doing more with very little.

5:20 p.m.

Transition House Worker, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter

Daisy Kler

We don't get any federal money. I think that was the point of what I said in terms of the federal government downloading the responsibilities to the provinces over time, since the 1990s, without ensuring how provinces are spending that money. This means that most of us go without any federal funding. BC Housing funds our transition house for our 10 staff members. We receive no operational funding for the transition house in terms of federal money, and no operational funding for our rape crisis line. We fundraise in other ways. So, anything is better than what we have now.

Obviously, what we're saying, as women's groups, is that we're part of a bigger movement. The #MeToo movement is part of the women's movement, and part of what sustains us is seeing ourselves as part of a social change. I think that if we have a women's equality interest, then core funding—without very many strings and without too many reporting mechanisms—is the way that we're going to be able to sustain ourselves and be creative in this time of uprising. That's what we're all saying in a similar voice.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you. We'll just keep repeating it.

We've had some witnesses before you be quite critical of the new Status of Women funding. It looked like it might be supportive of organizations such as yours, but does anybody have success stories with that yet? Does anybody have any extra criticisms that they want to offer?

5:20 p.m.

Transition House Worker, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter

Daisy Kler

I'm sorry, which one? Is that the capacity-building one or the one before that?

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

We had some hope that the capacity-building one might help, or that it was initially about operational funding, but in fact we heard, for example, from the London Abused Women's Centre, which said that it doesn't fit what they need at all, and that it's still top-down and prescribing what the government thinks they need, as opposed to what they and the survivors know they need.

5:20 p.m.

Transition House Worker, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter

Daisy Kler

We applied, and we didn't receive funding. The capacity one is a little better, in that you're now allowing for advocacy, but we didn't receive any of that funding.

5:20 p.m.

Director, Communications and Fund Development, Atira Women's Resource Society

Caithlin Scarpelli

Part of the issue that I find with grant funding and things like that is that when we do get operational funding, most of the funding goes into that programming but we struggle to pay the accountants, the woman who answers the phone and the door, and all of those essential services in administering our programs.

Part of what I'd love to see is a built-in structure where we're able to hire staff who are capable and who have the skills and experience. What that means is having enough money to pay people an appropriate wage to carry out those services. Somebody has to write the grant. Somebody has to write the report. Somebody has to account for the money. It's those types of services as well.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

This question is for any of the groups. Can you tell us a bit more about what it mean at a personal safety level for the women who are fleeing violence, but also for those of you on the front line, when you have to turn women away, when women have the bravery to come and ask you for help but you just don't have any room to help them?

5:25 p.m.

Transition House Worker, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter

Jean Fong

I can speak to what we do. When we have to turn women away, we try to find whatever available resources we can. Sometimes we get creative, and sometimes we work with other organizations to find where we can place women and what we can get them.

Going back to Mr. Bratina's question about burnout, that's really the point. As a transition house worker, as a crisis worker and as a collective member, I've been doing this work for 15 years. The burnout isn't from hearing the stories, because those are the stories that I hear from my friends and family members. The burnout is from hitting the wall in trying to find services that will help women with mental illnesses and addictions, and that will house women when there is no housing, especially for women who are escaping immediate male violence. Those are the things that are the most frustrating.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Chair, can you please ask the members not to talk while the witness is speaking?

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

Sure. If you could let the witnesses speak, that would be appreciated.

Thank you.

5:25 p.m.

Transition House Worker, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter

Daisy Kler

One of the things we used to have that got cut was that, after hours, the provincial ministry would pay for a hotel if there was absolutely nothing else available, if all the shelters were full. Now they barely take our calls after five o'clock.

I think each of us has probably worked out little deals like the one we have with the local YWCA hotel, which will put up a woman for us if we can't find anything else for her. Sometimes it's a mat program, and you hate to send her there because it's not that safe and it's pretty scary. If she has children, she's worried about them getting apprehended, so she might not even say that she's homeless because some places would think that she was not able to provide for her children, which often entails Car 86, as we call it in B.C., the police car with the ministry social worker.

There is a relationship with how they view the police as being unhelpful or sometimes even more than unhelpful, destructive.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

I'm going to have to end it there. Thank you very much.

Eva, you'll have about three minutes.

Thank you.

November 5th, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I thank our witnesses.

My question is for you, Ms. Latour. You said that you deal with a lot of immigrants, but you did not specify what percentage they account for. Since those women are facing a number of obstacles, including linguistic ones, how do they manage to express themselves? Do they come to see you immediately? Even if they are being abused, do they periodically go back to their husband because they are dependent on him owing to their poverty and because they may fear losing their children? Tell us a bit about those women of various ethnicities who turn to you.

5:25 p.m.

Associate Director, Crossroads for Women inc.

Geneviève Latour

We use various tactics. For example, we participate in prevention workshops in schools, where we explain to children what healthy relationships are and tell them about the available resources. A number of mothers have told us that it was their son, coming back from school, who told them that they did not have to suffer all that violence and that shelters existed. So those workshops are a winning strategy.

It is also important to establish relationships with immigrant reception centres and get involved with cultural events in the region. It is a matter of making our organization known and helping people recognize symptoms of family or sexual violence.

So there is more than one way to proceed. That said, I am sure that we are not reaching many women because they speak neither of the two official languages, because their children don't go to school or because they do not participate in those cultural events. We are currently working on that. We have a committee that is looking into this issue and it is making a lot of presentations to various groups.

Moreover, any woman may decide to return to her husband, even if he is violent, but she can also come back to see us. When I started out, I saw that return to her husband as a failure, but my perception has since changed. Now, when that woman returns to us and sees that I am still there and am not judging her, I consider that to be a success. We represent a safe environment where the woman is not judged and where she feels comfortable to return as needed. I think that's amazing.

Of course, we are not really happy to see that woman return to her husband, but it is important to remember that it is her decision and that we have to respect it. I think that respect is why they come back to us when they feel the need to or they call us to say that things are going better or that they have not felt the need to come back, that they separated from their husband and are now living on their own. Creating that relationship is extremely important.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

That's the time.

Thank you very much to all of our witnesses for being here today.

Before the committee members leave, and because the chair isn't here today, I'll note that when we passed our motion on this study, it was for eight meetings. There is the possibility that the chair will need to add a ninth meeting, because there is a statement in the House on Wednesday. In order to give her that flexibility, could one of the committee members give us a motion that would add a ninth meeting, which would be called at the discretion of the chair?

Would someone like to give me that motion?

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

I am happy to move what you said.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

I will ask you to read the motion, then.

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you. Things happen magically here.

I move:

That, notwithstanding the motion adopted by the Committee on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, in relation to the study of the network of shelters and transition houses serving women and children affected by violence against women and intimate partner violence, the Committee add a 9th meeting to be called at the discretion of the Chair.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Pam Damoff

That's well written.