Anyone living in the province can share their ideas and priorities for the next provincial budget in 2023. Every year, the provincial Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services holds a public consultation on the next provincial budget, and then reviews all input received and makes recommendations to the Legislative Assembly for the next provincial budget.
We invite you to fill out the survey and make your own submission through the BC government consultation portal. The deadline is Friday June 24, 2022 at 3 pm.
Budgets are moral documents, reflecting our social priorities and values. Make your voice heard! For far too long, anti violence services supporting survivors have been under-resourced, and survivors of gender-based violence who are Indigenous, Black, racialized, immigrant/refugee, disabled, trans and/or nonbinary, LGBTQI2S+, living in rural and remote areas, and poor/low-income face tremendous barriers to accessing safety and justice.
Below are BWSS’s top three priorities and recommendations for the provincial government. As a decolonial, anti-racist, and intersectional feminist organization, our recommendations to the provincial government support the wellbeing of survivors and their children to access meaningful safety and justice; the full funding and delivery of timely and reliable intersectional anti-violence services with full wrap-around supports; and the elimination of gender-based violence through robust preventive measures and funding for universal public services and community supports.
1. BWSS recommends that the provincial budget prioritize full, wrap-around, timely, reliable, and inclusive supports for survivors of gender-based violence, especially in the form of core funding for anti-violence services. Ideally, a universal, coordinated, and integrated system of support services must be adequately funded by the province.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified and become a shadow pandemic. Crisis lines, including BWSS’s crisis line, and violence against women shelters in B.C and Canada are reporting increases of 20 to 50 percent, while national rates of reported fatal femicide are also increasing. In particular, survivors of gender-based violence who are Indigenous, Black, racialized, immigrant/refugee, disabled, trans and/or nonbinary, LGBTQI2S+, living in rural and remote areas, and/or poor or low-income continue to face the highest rates of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, domestic violence, and femicide.
Yet, anti-violence services face growing wait lists, with survivors waiting months, if not years, to access essential services such as crisis support counseling and safety measures. Survivors of gender-based violence require urgent access to full, wrap-around, timely, reliable, and inclusive anti-violence support services that meet their needs based on their lived experiences. The province must drastically increase core (not solely program) funding for emergency shelters, crisis lines, second stage housing, and wrap-around services.
Survivors experiencing multiple forms of oppression require access to fully funded anti-violence services committed to intersectional service delivery that considers how violence is experienced differently by different survivors. For example, in order to end violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two spirit people, the provincial government must fund services and safety planning led by Indigenous women who are creating and implementing their own culturally-safe, decolonial solutions.
In addition to fully funding anti-violence services, B.C must fund evidence-based, upstream, preventive measures that eliminate conditions of vulnerability maintaining gender-based violence. This includes robust funding for universal & accessible healthcare, childcare, social assistance, income security, decent work, transportation, and housing.
2. BWSS recommends that province prioritize funding for and expanding programs for children and youth experiencing violence in B.C (children and youth that have been exposed to and/or witnessed domestic violence or abuse). Currently, the PEACE (Prevention, Education, Advocacy, Counselling and Empowerment) programs across B.C are grossly under-funded.
PEACE (Prevention, Education, Advocacy, Counselling and Empowerment) programs (formerly Children Who Witness Abuse programs) in B.C provide crucial group and individual counselling for children and youth aged 3 – 18 who have witnessed domestic abuse, threats, or violence in the home. Individual and group counselling and, where adequately funded, seasonal camps help children and youth recognize abusive behaviour, learn the tools to cope with their experiences and emotions, and consider alternatives to violence in their own behaviour. PEACE programs also offer support to the parents and caregivers of the children and youth.
This program is a vital resource and early intervention program to support children and youth who witness or experience violence in the home and helps stop the inter-generational cycle of gender-based violence and domestic abuse. However, PEACE programs across the province are hugely underfunded. In some cases, PEACE programs only involve one counsellor who is working part-time hours, and with no wrap around services able to be offered as part of the program. PEACE programs working with children and youth who face additional barriers in society based on racism, colonialism, gender, class, sexuality, ability, citizenship status etc., need to offer children and youth appropriate, comprehensive support, but often cannot offer these crucial supports and services because PEACE programs are under-resourced and unable to meet unique needs.
Therefore, we strongly recommend that the provincial government drastically increase funding for the existing 90+ PEACE programs across B.C to ensure these programs can fully and appropriately provide high-quality, long-term, accessible, timely, culturally-safe, intersectional services and wrap around supports for children and youth who have witnessed violence in the home. Further, we recommend that the provincial government immediately expand the PEACE program to meet the growing need for PEACE programs across communities in B.C.
3. BWSS recommends the province prioritize new, ongoing annual funding for legal aid services for family law & child protection matters. Fur survivors of gender-based violence, especially low-income racialized mothers, ongoing gaps in legal aid service delivery for family law & child protection matters creates serious barriers to accessing justice.
For survivors of gender-based violence, especially low-income racialized mothers, ongoing gaps in legal aid service delivery for family law & child protection matters creates serious barriers to accessing justice. While the province has increased legal aid funding over the past few years, it is still not enough and far too many are falling through the cracks of a broken system.
We strongly recommend the province urgently prioritize fully funding legal aid representative services for family law and child protection issues so that no survivor in B.C must sacrifice their safety, the best interests of their child(ren), or their financial security in order to flee and separate from an abusive partner. When fleeing domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and/or sexual abuse, the complexities and stresses of navigating a legal system without legal counsel is an intimidating and traumatic burden and becomes a significant barrier to both seeking safety and to accessing justice. Further, access to fully funded legal aid representation must be timely; the longer family law matters go on without resolution, the greater the risk of serious family violence.
Finally, the complex, overlapping legal needs of survivors dealing with family law and child protection matters who are Indigenous, Black, racialized, immigrant/refugee, disabled, trans and/or nonbinary, LGBTQI2S+, living in rural and remote areas, and poor must be considered. For example, a legal study in B.C has found that most child protection decisions to remove children permanently from their parents overwhelmingly involved Indigenous single mothers who experienced extreme domestic violence, mental health challenges, addictions, and poverty. Access to fully funded, timely, accessible, culturally-safe legal aid services would mitigate against the injustice of the colonial child welfare system, which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) explains “continues the assimilation that the residential school system started.”