Hello, my name is Samantha Lacourse, and I am here as a representative of the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre in Whitehorse, Yukon.
At the VFWC, I am in charge of running the only low-barrier evening and weekend drop-in program for self-identified women in the entire territory.
The landscape of issues surrounding women affected by violence in the north is very different from that in the rest of Canada. For one, there are limited services available. Also, a number of barriers and gaps in services exist for women in a northern community, the most pervasive of which I will try to touch on now.
On low-barrier services, speaking specifically about Yukon, currently there are three shelters serving women and children affected by violence across the territory. One is in Whitehorse. A second one is in Dawson City, which is located seven hours north of Whitehorse, and a third is in Watson Lake, which is five hours south of Whitehorse. None of these three shelters and transition houses will accommodate women under the influence of a substance. There is no safe option for a woman who uses substances and is affected by violence. This is indicative of a major gap in low-barrier shelters for women across the Yukon.
Regarding long-term support, when the perception of violence is no longer immediately present, the effects of violence remain. We estimate that it can take as many as three to seven years from the definitive end of an abusive relationship for a woman to get back on her feet. Women in Yukon face a pronounced lack of long-term support from organizations narrowly mandated to serve only women facing current threats to safety.
The Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre does its best with limited capacity and funding. It is not a shelter. We provide vital support for women and non-binary people in terms of advocacy, housing, food, prenatal care programming, as well as basic services in our drop-in, such as access to showers, laundry, Internet, phones, fax, long-distance calling, and hygiene products, among many other things.
More needs to be available for women past the perceived end of a threat to safety. The lens of what long-term support looks like must expand beyond the counselling and trauma treatment programs to include programs that give space for women to support and be supported by peers—