‘What hap­pened to the North?’

North­ern shel­ters for vic­tims of vi­o­lence got small share of fed­eral fund­ing

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Canada’s Far North is get­ting the short end of the stick on a ma­jor fed­eral in­vest­ment aimed at re­duc­ing gen­der-based vi­o­lence, ad­vo­cates say, be­cause the money is be­ing meted out based on the size of a re­gion’s pop­u­la­tion, rather than need.

“When I go to meet­ings with shel­ters in south­ern Canada, I am hear­ing about all these shel­ters be­ing built (or re­paired) with the ren­o­va­tion money and I’m think­ing, ‘Holy cow! What hap­pened to the North?”’ said Lyda Fuller, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the YWCA Yel­lowknife.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted $89.9 mil­lion over two years in the 2016 bud­get for build­ing or ren­o­vat­ing shel­ters and tran­si­tion houses for peo­ple es­cap­ing fam­ily vi­o­lence. The in­vest­ment was also high­lighted in the re­cently launched fed­eral gen­der-based vi­o­lence strat­egy.

The Canada Mort­gage and Hous­ing Corp. (CMHC), through which the money flowed, split the money up among the prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries, which were not re­quired to match the funds in or­der to get things rolling.

But the money was divvied up ac­cord­ing to the usual per­capita fund­ing model, which means each share of the pie was de­ter­mined ac­cord­ing to the num­ber of peo­ple who live there.

On­tario — home to about 14 mil­lion peo­ple — got about $28 mil­lion over the two-year pe­riod.

Mean­while, each of the three ter­ri­to­ries, which have a to­tal pop­u­la­tion of about 120,000, re­ceived just un­der $500,000 over two years.

Lise Martin, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Women’s Shel­ters Canada, said the money was wel­come, but the rel­a­tively small sums pro­vided to the ter­ri­to­ries would make it dif­fi­cult to build any new shel­ters there, never mind come up with the ex­tra money to main­tain them.

“It’s more than needed, but it’s not go­ing to have a huge im­pact on ca­pac­ity in terms of cre­at­ing new spa­ces,” she said.

Martin has been among those call­ing for a na­tional ac­tion plan on gen­der-based vi­o­lence, which would go far­ther than the fed­eral strat­egy by en­sur­ing equal ac­cess to com­pa­ra­ble ser­vices, no mat­ter where some­one lives.

Mathieu Fil­ion, a spokesman for So­cial Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Jean-Yves Du­c­los, sug­gested these is­sues could be ad­dressed by the na­tional hous­ing strat­egy later this year.

“The na­tional hous­ing strat­egy will en­sure that more Cana­di­ans, in­clud­ing sur­vivors of fam­ily vi­o­lence, have ac­cess to hous­ing that meets their needs and that they can af­ford,” Fil­ion said in an email.

The north­ern ter­ri­to­ries have the high­est rates of fam­ily vi­o­lence in the coun­try.

Ac­cord­ing to Sta­tis­tics Canada, there was an av­er­age of 241 in­ci­dents of po­lice-re­ported fam­ily vi­o­lence in Canada per 100,000 peo­ple in 2015.

Nu­navut had the high­est rate, with 2,504 per 100,000 peo­ple, fol­lowed by the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries at 1,938 and

Yukon at 731.

On­tario, at 150, had the low­est rate that year.

Jonathan Ro­tondo, a spokesman for the CMHC, said that as of March 31, the $60 mil­lion set aside for the first year of the in­vest­ment had been used to cre­ate 325 new units or beds in shel­ters and tran­si­tion houses across the en­tire coun­try.

There were re­pairs or ren­o­va­tions im­pact­ing an­other 4,006 spa­ces.

The North­west Ter­ri­to­ries Hous­ing Corp. said its share of the money for fis­cal 2016-17 amounted to $315,789, which the ter­ri­to­rial gov­ern­ment used to make “ur­gent re­pairs and ren­o­va­tions” to four of the five shel­ters in the ter­ri­tory. An­other $157,368 has been com­mit­ted for this year.

That in­cluded ren­o­va­tions to re­con­fig­ure a sur­plus unit the ter­ri­to­rial hous­ing author­ity do­nated to one of the shel­ters af­ter it re­al­ized the ex­ist­ing build­ing was es­sen­tially be­yond re­pair and would not last much longer.

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