Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef arrives on Parliament Hill during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef arrives on Parliament Hill during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Feds double COVID-19 fund for abused women to $100 million

Data shows that one in 10 women is very or extremely concerned about possibility of violence during pandemic

People are told to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic to stay safe, but homes are not safe places for abused women, says Silvia Samsa, the executive director of Women’s Habitat.

Samsa’s organization provides a shelter for women and children fleeing violence in the Etobicoke area in Toronto. It also runs a crisis line.

“We’ve had a woman who called us from the washroom of a local grocery store,” she said in an interview. “It’s becoming more and more difficult for women to do that safety planning to figure out how to leave in a way that’s going to be safe.”

Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the conditions that make women, children and gender-diverse people vulnerable to violence.

She said that’s why the government is doubling the emergency funding it’s promised to agencies and organizations that help victims of gender-based violence. The new funding adds to another $50-million program announced in March.

“Our government, since the very beginning back in March, saw it as a risk,” Monsef said.

Samsa said her organization is getting crisis calls from women, not only seeking physical safety but also emotional support.

Her organization received about $64,000 from the federal government near the beginning of the pandemic.

“We (ordinarily) do a lot of fundraising, a lot of third-party events. We have our own large gala that we can’t we weren’t able to do,” she said. “That type of money from the federal government has really helped.”

Monsef said the government partnered up with about 1,500 organizations working with women and children across the country.

“(The organizations) were able to keep their doors open, keep their staff safe and their clients safe,” she said. “There is help for you; talk to someone you trust and seek the support.”

Leah Morgan, the executive director of Alternatives for Women in Prince Edward County, Ont., said her organization received $32,000 from the federal government.

She said she’s seeing a decline in calls on Alternatives for Women’s crisis line, but she’s sure that domestic violence has increased, based on statistics released from the local police department.

Many women have been isolated at home with their abusers and their children, so they have very limited opportunity to reach out for support, Morgan said.

Statistics Canada data show that one in 10 women is very or extremely concerned about the possibility of violence in the home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Morgan said workers used to schedule time to connect with abused women when their partners are away, but the pandemic has meant fewer chances to do that.

Many women who have left their partners and have children are unable to make in-person appointments or even find the time for counselling over the phone because they are busy caring for children who haven’t been in school or daycare, she said.

“Women are unable to reach out,” Morgan said. “It’s the most concerning challenge for women living in violent homes right now.”

READ MORE: NDP wants to criminalize domestic emotional abuse with new law

Alternatives for Women was providing counselling services remotely from March until the end of July.

The organization was able to create an outdoor counselling space with a privacy fence and a gazebo to establish a comfortable and secure place, Morgan said.

The organization also has a transitional shelter with 11 apartments where women reside with their children.

She said the operation is run solely by women who have other obligations such as parenting their children, and that was a challenge when their children were home.

The organization has faced understaffing because of COVID-19.

“If they show any symptoms, like even a runny nose, they have to self-isolate for 14 days or until their test results come in,” Morgan said.

The fact that people are having a conversation about gender-based violence is one of the few good things that happened during the pandemic, Monsef said. “I suppose that’s among the few silver linings that have come because of this awful cruel virus.”

She said there’s a need for a longer-term plan to deal with the problem.

“The issue of gender-based violence is not a women’s issue, per se. It is an issue of public health, of public safety.”

The Canadian Women’s Foundation has created a signal that women can use on video call without having to say out loud that they need help, Monsef said.

“You can open your hand, (curl) your thumb in, close the hand, form a fist,” she said.

Monsef urged anyone who sees this sign to reach out to the woman and ask whether she needs help.

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusdomestic violence

Just Posted

Kitimat’s Water Quality Advisory, which has been in place for just over a week, has been lifted. (Black Press file photo)
Water Quality Advisory in Kitimat lifted

The district has been under a Water Quality Advisory since June 2

On June 16 at 6 p.m., the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a public presentation and discussion with Happipad, a social enterprise, to talk about solutions for affordable housing Kitimat. (Happipad photo)
Affordable housing to be focus of Kitimat Chamber of Commerce meeting

Figures indicate the average Kitimat household needs to make more than $92,000 a year

(District of Kitimat logo)
Hirsch Creek Bridge restricted to single lane traffic

The district is restricting the bridge traffic to legal highway loads only

Artist’s illustration of the proposed Kitimat LNG facility at Bish Cove near Kitimat. (Kitimat LNG illustration)
Haisla Nation surprised by Woodside pull out from Kitimat LNG project

Haisla Nation council states its main focus is now on developing the Haisla-led Cedar LNG project

(Northern Health logo)
Pop-up vaccine clinic tomorrow at the Save-on-Foods parking lot in Kitimat

The clinic will be this Friday, June 11 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read