Evidence of meeting #122 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 data.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Eva Kratochvil  Survivor and Frontline Worker, Hiatus House, As an Individual
Anita Olsen Harper  Research Consultant, National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence, As an Individual
Dawn Clark  Acting Executive Director, Haven Society
Bob Bratina  Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Lib.
Yvan Clermont  Director, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada
Kathy AuCoin  Assistant Director, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada
Sonia Sidhu  Brampton South, Lib.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

If I understand correctly, then, you went to a shelter.

3:55 p.m.

Survivor and Frontline Worker, Hiatus House, As an Individual

Eva Kratochvil

I was not able to go to a shelter at the time that I was going through my situation, much like many women in this country. They don't have a shelter to turn to. Often, through the severe isolation and everything else that happens, they don't have friends or family to turn to. They're without anything. You're shoving them into the homelessness stream. I've already spoken to you about what happens there, when you shove them into the homelessness stream.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you very much.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you very much.

We're going to now move over to Mike Lake.

Mike, you have seven minutes.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, AB

Thank you.

I'm filling in on the committee today, so it's my first opportunity to sit on this particular committee. So many of the issues that you talk about are familiar to me because of other work that I do on mental health. I have a son with autism, and I've talked with many families who are living with autism who, at their most desperate point, have nowhere to turn either. They talk of almost the identical things you talk of.

Eva, you used the “nothing about us without us” line that is so prevalent in so many of the areas that we talk about.

I'm going to start with Anita, if I could.

Anita, on first nations, from my experience of visiting women's shelters, one of the things that is really important is the secret nature of the location. Oftentimes a woman will go to a shelter somewhere that is different from where she lives because of the nature of the violence. It seems to me, from hearing you speak, as though that would be a bit more of a challenge in some first nations communities where you might have a small community and someone might want to stay within the first nation community. How much of an issue would that be?

4 p.m.

Research Consultant, National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence, As an Individual

Dr. Anita Olsen Harper

That's a huge issue, and thank you for bringing that up. When you say that it's the secret nature of the location, everybody really does know. It's a small community. A lot of first nations have fewer than 1,000 in population, and it's isolated and way off somewhere. The issue of confidentiality is huge.

The idea of secrecy of location is really a myth. There are some things that can be done prior to a shelter being constructed. One would be to really carefully consider the location of the construction, such as maybe having it close by the RCMP detachment or the health department, because some security is provided just by proximity with the RCMP, for example. A lot of women and children who access shelters on reserve also need medical attention.

There are ways to limit that a little bit, such as having security cameras and so on for security, but it is a big issue.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, AB

I'm going to turn to Dawn. In my committee experience, often the person on the video screen is largely ignored in favour of the people at the table.

Dawn, as I think about an issue like the one we're talking about today.... When you talk to MPs from all parties, you would have tremendous sympathy and tremendous agreement about the importance of what we're talking about. We might have different ways of dealing with those things, but all of us, if we're in government, have restrictions on resources. We're always dealing with multiple priorities. Thinking about vulnerable populations in our world, we deal with everything from mental health to seniors' issues to our veterans to people with disabilities, as I mentioned, to name just a few.

What is being done to create less need for those resources? Are you seeing a difference in your experience, for example, in terms of the attitudes of society—men in particular—that is leading to, or will be leading to, a reduction in the need for shelters, hopefully, at some point, or is it the opposite? I don't have very much experience in this area. What does your experience or your expertise tell you?

4 p.m.

Acting Executive Director, Haven Society

Dawn Clark

Actually, we're seeing increased need, quite honestly.

I also want to say that there are a great many men who act as our allies and are in support of the work we're doing, but even with that in place—and we do—our numbers are increased. We're consistently full, at capacity, and we have longer stays. By “longer stays”, I mean that generally there is a 30-day stay for women coming into the shelter, but that's unrealistic because of the lack of safe and affordable housing. In our community in particular, the rents are off the chart. A lot of people don't want to rent to single moms on income assistance when they can rent to somebody who is able to afford more rent, is employed, isn't bringing kids along with them, and doesn't have a history that could impact the physicality and well-being of their investment, which is the rental.

Is that answering your question?

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, AB

Yes.

I have another question that is related to that. In the worlds I've worked in, one of the things that I've found makes an impact, whatever the given amount of resources is.... We could make the argument for more resources, but whatever that level of resources is, we've found that common ground in an environment where we're sharing the very best practices—it's been spoken about in this meeting—really makes a difference.

To what extent, within the community across the country, is there a network-building aspect, a sharing of resources, a desire to find common ground? In just about every area we deal with, I imagine there are different views on what works and doesn't work, but often the organizations, if brought to the table, can find some common ground and really move forward with significant success. Is there a realm in which that works on these issues?

4:05 p.m.

Acting Executive Director, Haven Society

Dawn Clark

I can speak for what's happening here in Nanaimo.

Our organization is working really hard on collaboration within the community. Our executive director has taken a lead role in inviting a variety of resources to the table so that we can work in concert. For example, we deliver a men's program called “Men Choose Respect”. That's a program for men who have identified themselves as having behaviours that may lead to violence and abuse and who would like to make a change before they get there.

We're also in partnership with a couple of other organizations that are working with men who have been mandated to attend counselling and groups. In partnership with these two other organizations, we've been able to create a continuum of services for men who are thinking that they'd like to make some changes in their behaviour, perhaps men who have gone before the court systems or are on probation, and their conditions may include involvement in a more intensive program.

We've been able to do that—

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Donna, I let you go a little bit over time there, but I do have to cut you off. I'm very sorry. We're now going to move to Sheila Malcolmson for her seven minutes.

You have the floor, Sheila.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you, Chair.

To Hiatus House, thank you. Your testimony is our final argument, basically. Everything you've said is extremely powerful, deeply articulate and terrible and true. Thank you for getting it on the record.

To the Haven Society, which is in Nanaimo and which I represent, I'm so proud of the work you do. Following on my colleague's question about collaboration, I've heard your executive director, Anne Taylor, say, “We collaborate.” The women's movement and particularly the shelter movement collaborate like crazy, yet when it comes to the point of submitting funding applications for particular programs, you have to prove and re-prove how collaborative you are. You have to invent new programs to show how collaborative you are and deliver a brand new service that has never been done. The way it's been described to me by a number of operators is that you are just going into pretzels to invent some new thing, when really what you need is to pay the workers well, keep the lights on, pay the rent and deliver the core service.

On Friday the NDP launched a new campaign in Nanaimo, and Lesley Clarke, from the Women's Resource Centre in Nanaimo, said most particularly that for women in her program and her organization she feels like she's building their safety system on a house of cards. The bottom layer of the house of cards is all these individual programs, but she has to pull out the bottom layer of the house of cards, because once you've done an innovative program, it's no longer innovative and the funding disappears.

That's what we're really trying to impress on this government: the need for the government to fund core operations so that across the country women have an equivalent access to safety and the shelter operators can just get on with their work of providing that safety net. Can you give us a picture of what that costs? What kinds of good practices has Haven had to abandon for the purpose of fitting into a new program funding operation instead of investing in that core operations funding?

4:10 p.m.

Acting Executive Director, Haven Society

Dawn Clark

I think Lesley hit the nail on the head when she said that in order to keep the doors open and the lights on, your core services may not exist, because you have to reinvent them when in fact you're actually doing the same thing.

I think about the transition house in particular. We have 17 beds, 10 for children and seven for women. In order to provide the kinds of services that we want to provide, we have to reinvent those services, i.e. groups. We have a variety of different groups. It could be 16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment, Weaving Our Voices or Process of Change, but at the end of the day, it's a support group that's peer-led by women.

In terms of providing services to kids, we have the PEACE Program. It used to be called the Children Who Witness Abuse program. I can't remember now what the acronym stands for, because I'm somewhat nervous right now, Sheila. We've named it something different, but at the end of the day we're providing services and supports to kids and families and their caregivers as a result of the abuse and violence that kids have witnessed.

In terms of housing, we've had to be very creative around our work with landlords and with other community partners, such as the Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society, in terms of moving women from shelters into safe and affordable housing that they can be in for the long term.

At the end of the day, you have to be extremely creative and you have to get the best bang for your buck. You have to be totally committed to being fully engaged in providing that service, because you don't know when that funding is no longer going to be available.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

I think we've heard from almost every witness that there's a cost to safety when the continuity of operations isn't there and women who are brave enough to ask for help are turned away.

4:10 p.m.

Acting Executive Director, Haven Society

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

No matter what, you're going to be collaborative and innovative. That's just the name of the game.

4:10 p.m.

Acting Executive Director, Haven Society

Dawn Clark

Exactly. The good news is that we have a wonderful association of transition and shelter services in B.C., and so we have this network of being able to phone other shelters. If we can't house somebody, or it's not safe for them to remain in the community, then we can support that woman and her children in getting elsewhere, but it's really hard to say no because you're full.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

It's life-threatening to say no.

4:10 p.m.

Acting Executive Director, Haven Society

November 19th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

I'm so short of time. I'm really sorry.

Anita Olsen Harper, I want to ask you more questions about your work, which is also going to be so helpful for this study. I'm sad that this is our final day of testimony.

You're the only person who has spoken directly to indigenous issues, and I know Women's Shelters Canada has been expressing concern about that. I'm hoping that you can maybe let us know who else we should call, who else would bring us testimony that you might recommend, and then I'm going to see if we can find a little bit of extra time on the panel to hear more voices.

4:10 p.m.

Research Consultant, National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence, As an Individual

Dr. Anita Olsen Harper

I could certainly do that, yes. You don't mean right now, do you?

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Maybe you could let us know whether you think it's helpful for us to hear more voices, and then maybe you could send some suggestions afterwards.

4:10 p.m.

Research Consultant, National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence, As an Individual

Dr. Anita Olsen Harper

Oh, definitely. It can be as many indigenous voices as you need for this issue. There are women who would love to talk about this. I'm not sure why I'm the only indigenous person to be speaking on this issue, because our rates of domestic violence are so exceedingly high compared to the average Canadian rate. In Nunavut and Northwest Territories, the rates are even higher. There's no shortage of women who would come up and talk.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you.

Chair, I would like to give notice of a motion:

That notwithstanding the motion adopted by the Committee on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, in relation to the study of the system of shelters and transition houses serving women and children affected by violence against women and intimate partner violence, the Committee extend the duration of its study to include Indigenous women’s organizations, shelters, transition houses and Indigenous women themselves due to the lack of Indigenous voices during the study.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you.