‘Break the cy­cle of vi­o­lence’

Ot­tawa an­nounces $50M to sup­port sur­vivors of gen­der-based vi­o­lence

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - NATIONAL NEWS - BRETT BUNDALE

HAL­I­FAX — Forty days ago, a woman re­turned to her home on Nova Sco­tia’s We’ko­qma’q First Na­tion to find her 22-year-old daugh­ter, Cas­sidy Bernard — a new mother of in­fant twins — dead.

“Her daugh­ter was mur­dered,” said Paula Mar­shall, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mi’kmaq Le­gal Sup­port Net­work.

“Her five-and-a-half month old iden­ti­cal twin girls lay de­hy­drated in a crib be­side her, very se­ri­ously ill.”

Mar­shall de­scribed the hor­rific scene at a fund­ing an­nounce­ment in Hal­i­fax Mon­day, where fed­eral Sta­tus of Women Min­is­ter Maryam Mon­sef an­nounced $50 mil­lion for pro­grams aimed at gen­der-based vi­o­lence.

In the wake of a global reck­on­ing on the widespread na­ture of sex­ism, misog­yny and gen­der-based vi­o­lence, she said more sur­vivors than ever are com­ing for­ward to seek sup­port and tell their sto­ries.

Mon­sef said 60 projects across the coun­try will re­ceive up to $1 mil­lion each over five years to ad­dress gaps in sup­port for un­der­served groups, in­clud­ing In­dige­nous women, LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ties, gen­der non-bi­nary peo­ple and women in ru­ral and re­mote ar­eas.

“We know that gen­der­based vi­o­lence leaves scars — phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional scars — and the im­pact is felt by in­di­vid­u­als, their fam­i­lies as well as their com­mu­ni­ties,” she said.

“The more we un­der­stand about the enor­mous cost of gen­der-based vi­o­lence, the greater we are pre­pared to con­tinue ef­forts to pre­vent it and when it does oc­cur, to sup­port sur­vivors, to hold per­pe­tra­tors ac­count­able and to take mea­sures to break the cy­cle of vi­o­lence.”

Mar­shall pointed out that In­dige­nous women and girls are three times more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence vi­o­lence, a statis­tic il­lus­trated by Bernard’s death.

She said African-Nova Sco­tian women share many of the same strug­gles, and are over-rep­re­sented in the coun­try’s jails.

“Many of the women that are vic­tim­ized are those women that are marginal­ized, women that are strug­gling, maybe liv­ing a high-risk life­style, but that doesn’t mean they don’t de­serve sup­port and hope,” Mar­shall said.

She added that she’s hope­ful the new fund­ing will help or­ga­ni­za­tions that work with In­dige­nous and African-Nova Sco­tian com­mu­ni­ties pro­vide more sup­port and ser­vices in a holis­tic, mean­ing­ful and cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pri­ate way.

In Nova Sco­tia, three or­ga­ni­za­tions are set to re­ceive fund­ing: The Avalon Sex­ual As­sault Cen­tre in Hal­i­fax, the Antigo­nish Women’s Re­source Cen­tre and Sex­ual As­sault Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion and the Nova Sco­tia Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil on the Sta­tus of Women.

The coun­cil is also set to re­ceive match­ing funds of up to $1 mil­lion from the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment.

Kelly Re­gan, the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for Nova Sco­tia Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil on the Sta­tus of Women, said the prov­ince is also work­ing di­rectly with Mi’kmaw and African-Nova Sco­tian or­ga­ni­za­tions to bet­ter sup­port vic­tims and re­duce the im­pact of vi­o­lence.

She said the prov­ince hopes to bet­ter sup­port these com­mu­ni­ties in cul­tur­ally grounded ways, which she said wel­comes women “who typ­i­cally don’t feel con­nected to more tra­di­tional main­stream ways of of­fer­ing sup­ports” and leads to bet­ter out­comes.

Mean­while, Lu­cille Harper, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Antigo­nish cen­tre, said one of the big­gest chal­lenges ru­ral women face is the cost of trans­porta­tion to ac­cess ser­vices.

An­other chal­lenge in small com­mu­ni­ties — where ev­ery­body knows ev­ery­body — is the lack of anonymity, she said.

Pam Ru­bin, a fem­i­nist ther­a­pist with the cen­tre, said the new fund­ing will al­low them to ad­dress these bar­ri­ers. She said they will start by con­sult­ing peo­ple in ru­ral ar­eas to de­velop a com­mu­nity-led ap­proach to ad­dress­ing gen­der-based vi­o­lence.

“We are not top-down,” she said. “The com­mu­nity knows what will work in their unique cir­cum­stances.”

Jackie Stevens, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Avalon, said the cen­tre has been peren­ni­ally un­der-re­sourced to ad­dress de­mand in the Hal­i­fax re­gion — de­mand that has grown af­ter high-pro­file cases like the Nova Sco­tia Home for Col­ored Chil­dren, the sui­cide of Re­htaeh Par­sons and mul­ti­ple tri­als.

“Last year we saw the high­est num­ber of peo­ple ac­cess­ing ser­vices af­ter a sex­ual as­sault that oc­curred up to five days ago,” Stevens said, adding that it’s un­clear whether that re­flects an in­crease in cases or more sur­vivors seek­ing help.

The cen­tre of­fers ther­a­peu­tic coun­selling ser­vices for vic­tims of sex­u­al­ized vi­o­lence, which she said now has a wait list of up to 18 months for peo­ple with reports of his­tor­i­cal or child­hood abuse.

Stevens said the fund­ing will en­able Avalon to con­tinue ad­dress­ing vi­o­lence against women and other forms of gen­der-based vi­o­lence, and “push for­ward so­ci­etal and sys­temic change.”

Mean­while, the RCMP is con­tin­u­ing to in­ves­ti­gate Bernard’s death, which they call “sus­pi­cious.”

The We’ko­qma’q band coun­cil is of­fer­ing a $100,000 re­ward for in­for­ma­tion that leads to an ar­rest and con­vic­tion.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Sta­tus of Women Min­is­ter Maryam Mon­sef has an­nounced $50 mil­lion for pro­grams across Canada that sup­port sur­vivors of gen­der-based vi­o­lence, say­ing more peo­ple than ever are com­ing for­ward to seek sup­port.

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