Thank you. I'll slow down.
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, as well as space to build community as a remedy for isolation. Long-term support includes help with finding housing, tax clinics, employment support, and opportunities for new training and greater education. By broadening the mandate of support to women affected by violence, we can address these gaps and the needs of women past the perceived end of the abusive relationship, because the effects of trauma do not end with the violence.
In terms of capacity for supporting women living with mental health challenges, in Yukon, when an individual accesses a shelter or service due to the presence of violence in their lives and is assessed as having a mental health need, the capacity for those organizations to support them decreases. The more complex the individual's mental health situation is, the more ill-equipped staff are to support them as a victim of violence. Both needs are treated as independent from each other, rather than acknowledging their close intersectionality. This needs to change, and the only way to do so is to build the capacity of the organizations supporting victims of violence, and the people within them.
In terms of confidentiality, compounding the limited services is the social reality of northern communities. Communities in Yukon are small, and therefore an individual's social networks are well connected with others. Confidentiality is a challenge across the board, and conflicts of interest are not always evident, nor do they give favour to the more vulnerable. With only one shelter in Whitehorse, there is no other option if that shelter does not feel safe or if a person is not accepted there.
My recommendations to the committee are the following.
One, increase funding for transportation services in the north, providing lifelines for women in remote communities to get out in times of need.
Two, push for amendments within CRA policy to take into account violence against women. Currently, there is a 90-day waiting period for a person to change their status to single. This 90-day waiting period is a barrier for women to leave an abusive relationship, because many are unable to access social assistance while tied to their partner. Within the Yukon government, a smaller entity, we have advocated for and seen change in their management of applications for social assistance when violence in a relationship is declared. Still, we support many women who are faced with heavier barriers within Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Should both partners in the relationship be accessing social assistance through INAC, a written notice for both parties must currently be provided to change their status to single. This is a problem.
Three, push for low-barrier shelters and create incentive for existing shelters to adopt more harm reduction practices. Again, there is no low-barrier shelter for women affected by violence in Yukon, leaving women who use substances with no safe option.
Four, increase funding for long-term support for women affected by violence. The mandate for violence against women is narrow. Immediate support exists for an individual, yet there is little for women in the years to come.
Five, this issue deserves a more appropriate voice than mine, and frankly more time than I am able to give in this presentation. We cannot talk about improving services affecting indigenous women without acknowledging the colonial mentality that informs these services. More space must be given to traditional ways of living when it is culturally appropriate.