BWSS Priorities for BC’s Poverty Reduction Strategy
The BC government is in the process of updating the Provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy. As part of this update, the provincial government is seeking public input from individuals and organizations on taking action to end poverty. We encourage you to take a quick survey, participate in a town hall, or do your own written submission by April 30: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/povertyreduction
BWSS has provided a written submission to the provincial government with our three priorities for ending the feminization of poverty. You can read our submission here.
We use the term “feminization of poverty” to highlight the unique, specific, and disproportionate ways in which poverty is gendered.
Every day on the frontlines of anti-violence work, we see the detrimental impact of the feminization of poverty on survivors of gender-based violence: financial dependence on abusers, lack of affordable and safe housing, inadequate universal public services, threat of child apprehension, precarious work, the gender pay gap, and more.
We know that poverty is not an individual failure; it is a policy choice that is manufactured and maintained in our current capitalist, settler colonial, patriarchal, and oppressive system. Cycles of systemic poverty are magnified for Indigenous women, Black women, racialized women, newcomer immigrant/refugee women, women with disabilities, single mothers, youth, and trans and two spirit people. Especially for Indigenous mothers and families, gendered colonialism and poverty has resulted in the ongoing overrepresentation of Indigenous children in BC’s child welfare systems and intergenerational forced family separation.
As a decolonial, anti-racist, and intersectional feminist organization with a vision of gender equity, BWSS’s submission to the province identifies three priorities to eliminate poverty and to prioritize the safety of all survivors in B.C.
1) B.C. must fund upstream measures that eliminate poverty as a key condition of vulnerability for gender-based violence.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recognizes that, “Poverty and violence play a kind of toxic dance in women’s lives. Poverty marginalizes women, increasing their risk of victimization, while violence also isolates women, as the mental and physical effects grind away at women’s sense of well-being, limiting what is possible. The combined effects of poverty and violence create a formidable barrier to women’s equality, well-being and full participation in society. Both reflect unequal relationships of power which result in the systemic discrimination of women.”
Survivors deserve access to free, universal, accessible, and culturally safe housing, childcare, transportation, jobs, economic resources, and anti-violence supports for themselves and their families.
- B.C. must implement all the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Call to Action, and all the Calls for Justice in Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
- A provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy must include all relevant elements of the Roadmap for the National Action Plan for Violence Against Women and Gender-Based Violence. It must prioritize full, wrap-around, timely, reliable, and inclusive supports for survivors of gender-based violence in the form of full core funding (not simply program funding) for anti-violence services. Survivors experiencing multiple forms of oppression require access to fully funded anti-violence services committed to intersectional service delivery.
- B.C. must ensure livable social assistance, disability, pension, Extended Family Program, Child in the Home of a Relative Program, and crisis grant rates that adjust for inflation for all survivors, especially for seniors, those with disabilities, and Indigenous families. We support the Raise the Rates campaign, calling attention to how assistance rates in BC remain below the poverty line.
- B.C. must guarantee that subsidized, quality, family housing is made available immediately throughout the province, including on-reserve, and upon need in survivors’ communities of choice, near their support networks. We need a massive provincial funding investment into a provincial housing plan to reverse the current housing crisis. This includes permanent housing, as well as transition homes and second-stage housing.
“It’s been horrible. The ways it’s been horrible is financially, the rent increase, the lack of safe houses, the fact that my kids have disabilities has also been a setback. Moving into the place I lived in before was super small and crowded. Now the place we live in is big but overpriced. There’s no way of being able to do any of it. It was already short before, I tried to flee the relationship more than once in many years and before COVID it was almost easier.
– Indigenous survivor of intimate partner violence statement in our Road to Safety report, 2022”
- B.C. must fund free public transit in all regions, as well as free, on-demand emergency transportation for women, 2SLGBTQIA+, and non-binary survivors fleeing intimate partner, domestic, sexualized, or gender-based violence. This transportation system needs to be fully funded across the province and available 24/7 upon immediate request and provided for short and long distances.
- Publicly funded, publicly provided universal basic services that are trauma-informed and anti-oppressive in their delivery models. This includes free and universal services such as childcare, healthcare, dental care, mental health supports, internet access, public transit, healthy school food program in the K-12 school system, employment programs.
2) B.C. must prioritize ongoing, annual funding for legal aid services for family law and child protection matters.
BWSS was shocked and disappointed that the BC Budget 2023 made no commitments to vital, life-saving services such as legal aid or family law access. Currently, three out of every five applications for family law legal aid representation are denied. For survivors of gender-based violence, especially low-income racialized mothers, these ongoing gaps in legal aid service delivery for family law and child protection matters create serious barriers to accessing justice, while forcing them further into a cycle of poverty.
No survivor in B.C should sacrifice their safety, the best interests of their children, or their financial security to flee and separate from an abusive partner. It is for this reason that BWSS strongly recommends that an updated Provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy urgently prioritize fully funding legal aid representative services for family law and child protection issues.
We emphasize that funding of non-profit legal services does not replace the need for full, individualized, and direct legal aid representation for family law matters. Specifically, an updated Provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy should increase funding for family law legal aid, raise the financial eligibility cut-off for legal aid, and increase the number of legal aid hours that are available.
3) B.C. needs intersectional pay equity legislation
Women, trans, and two spirit people are systematically underpaid for work of equal value, compared to the wages their male counterparts earn. Indigenous women, Black women, racialized women, newcomer immigrant/refugee women, women with disabilities, and trans and two spirit people face compounding discrimination in employment, and the greatest barriers to pay equity. For example, racialized women make approximately 59.3 percent of what white men make in the workforce.
BC remains as one of four provinces that does not have pay transparency or pay equity laws. Last year, the BC government began the process of developing pay transparency legislation. However, pay transparency legislation is distinct from pay equity legislation. This is why we reiterate our call, along with 100 other organizations and individuals, that BC must enact intersectional pay equity legislation that enshrines in law the responsibility of all employers to identify and close gaps in pay for work of equal value.
The province also needs a whole-of-government approach to end the feminization poverty in the labour market. This includes government interventions to end systemic racial and gendered labour market discrimination – such as employer harassment, wage theft, deskilling, and contract flipping – especially for Indigenous, Black, and newcomer immigrant/refugee women in the workforce. It also includes reversing a long trend of economic restructuring towards austerity that continues to disproportionately impact racialized and/or disabled women and single mothers, forcing them into precarious, underpaid, and/or part-time work.
BC has committed to “develop an action plan to help prevent, address and respond to gender-based violence.” In our work on the frontlines of supporting survivors, we know that safety changes everything. This is why, in our submission, we urge the province to adopt a provincial poverty reduction strategy that incorporates an intersectional GBA+ analysis, and, further, to adopt a provincial GBV plan that incorporates upstream, anti-poverty solutions to prioritize the safety, wellbeing, and economic security of survivors.