National Coalition of Gender Justice and Women Serving Organizations Statement in Solidarity

National Coalition of Gender Justice and Women Serving Organizations Statement in Solidarity with the Families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Joint Statement in solidarity with Indigenous families mourning the murder of four Indigenous women

December 6, 2022 – As we observe the 16 Days of Activism on Gender-Based Violence and the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, the announcement of charges in the murder of four Indigenous women at the hands of an alleged serial killer linked to white supremacist ideology is a tragic indication that the urgent action long called for by Indigenous women, families, and communities to address the ongoing genocide of Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirt, and gender-diverse people has not been taken.

As organizations and advocates working to end violence against women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse people, we stand in solidarity with the families, friends, and loved ones of Marcedes Myran and Morgan Harris, both of Long Plain First Nation, of Rebecca Contois of Crane River First Nation, and of Buffalo Woman, and we extend our condolences to all those mourning their loss in Winnipeg, Treaty No. 1 Territory, the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Ininew (Cree), Oji-Cree, Dene, and Dakota, and Homeland of the Métis Nation.

We echo the calls of Indigenous advocates and organizations for immediate and concrete action to better implement the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+’s 231 Calls for Justice and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. We commit to reflecting this urgent need for action that centres the lives of Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people in our own work.

Indications that the alleged killer held white supremacist, misogynistic, and antisemitic beliefs are reminders that the pressing and very real violence with which Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people have contended continues. We join with others in pressing for a full investigation of racism and hate as motivations for these murders. To do so would be to honour and respect the truths many families shared during the National Inquiry about the ongoing and increasingly hostile and extreme forms of intersecting gender and race-based hate and violence they are regularly subjected to, and in keeping with the Calls for Justice.

As the Final Report of the National Inquiry makes clear all levels of government, as well as all sectors, institutions, organizations, and the general public, particularly those operating from a colonial framework who deliver services to Indigenous women and gender-diverse people, must be actively involved in the implementation of the Calls for Justice. In particular, we want to highlight the clear directions put forward in the Calls for Justice that action and funding must prioritize access to the basic necessities for safety (Calls for Justice, 4.1, 4.2), including affordable food, housing (4.6), and transportation (4.8), shelters (4.7), and transfer of control and resources for the delivery of Indigenous-led services (e.g. 2.5, 3.2). The continued and active exclusion of Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people from such basic human rights and services that many Canadians take for granted enables both individual and systemic violence against them.

The National Inquiry’s Calls for Justice, along with countless other reports and recommendations put forward over many years, clearly outline the steps that need to be taken to not only commit in principle but to take action and dedicate resources necessary to dismantling colonial systems, policies, practices, and relationships that continue to devalue the lives of Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people. As the families of the four women have expressed over the past months, with their loss also comes the loss of the possibilities the women’s lives held and the contributions they would bring to their families and communities. We grieve these losses, and we commit to doing the difficult and pressing work required to build relationships that prevent violence from continuing to diminish and rob Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people of realizing these possibilities.

Signed,

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes
Amnesty International Canadian Section (English Speaking)
Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
Battered Women’s Support Services
Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty
Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness
Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Canadian Labour Congress
Canadian Women’s Foundation
Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice
Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Child Care Now | Un enfant Une place
Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW)
DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada
Ending Violence Association of Canada
Feminist Alliance for International Action
Girls Action Foundation
Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society (IRIS)
Keepers of the Circle
Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak / Women of the Métis Nation
Luke’s Place Support and Resource Centre
Montreal Council of Women
National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL)
National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC)
National Right to Housing Network
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
Oxfam Canada
PREVNet (Promoting Relationships & Eliminating Violence Network)
Prince Albert Council of Women
Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS) Provincial Council of Women of Ontario
Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba
Provincial Council of Women Saskatchewan
Québec contre les violences sexuelles
Rise Women’s Legal Centre
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO) Survivor’s Hope Crisis Centre
Unifor
West Coast LEAF
Wisdom2Action
WomenatthecentrE
Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) Women’s National Housing & Homelessness Network Women’s Shelters Canada
Yukon Status of Women Council
YWCA Canada
YWCA Metro Vancouver

Girl Gang Professional Development Society Statement in Solidarity

Girl Gang Professional Development Society

Girl Gang Professional Development Society Statement in Solidarity with the Families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

 

VANCOUVER, BC, UNCEDED COAST SALISH TERRITORY – On this day, December 6 is National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, Girl Gang Professional Development Society (GG) and its members call on federal and provincial leaders to take urgent and meaningful action on the calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The consistent and prolonged lack of attention by governments to the ongoing violence against Indigenous Women and Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, as well as the rise of far-right targeting of marginalized communities, has resulted in horrifying consequences.

According to the The Final Report of the National Inquiry into MMIWG (pg 13), Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than any other women in Canada. The report states (pg 85), “we are not investigating a past wrong, but one that is still ongoing and that is getting worse. Acts of violence stemming from the structures of colonization and coupled with racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are not few and far between, but pervasive, immediate, and urgent. However, this violence is also preventable—if Canadians are willing to change.”

Yet, as was recently announced, families are in mourning for four women murdered on these lands we call Canada, in Winnipeg, Treaty No. 1 Territory, the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Ininew (Cree), Oji-Cree, Dene, and Dakota, and Homeland of the Métis Nation. The lives of Rebecca Contois, Morgan Beatrice Harris, Marcedes Myran, and an unidentified woman being referred to as Buffalo Woman (by the request of elders) were allegedly taken by Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, a known member of the extremist far-right. A review of alleged murderer Skibicki’s social media presence indicates that he held violent, antisemitic, misogynistic and white supremacist beliefs.

Skibicki was charged with these murders in the middle of the United Nation’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an annual international campaign that kicked off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day.

We stand firmly with the families, friends and communities who are mourning these women and all other families, advocates and communities of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People.

The continued and active exclusion of Indigenous women and girls from many of the basic human rights and services that many Canadians take for granted enables both individual and systemic violence against them. With the launch and implementation of the federal government’s National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence – which identifies gender-based violence as “one of the most pervasive, deadly, and deeply rooted human rights violations of our time” – it is imperative that the goals identified in the area of implementing Indigenous-led approaches are prioritized and realized.

With a mandate to support career advancement of women-identifying and non-binary professionals in media, communications, technology and other creative fields, GG is a feminist space working to support, celebrate and embrace intersectionality and accountability for our members, especially Indigenous, Black, immigrant/refugee and 2SLGBTQQIA people. The work of GG’s Non-Profit Society is focused around building a culture and infrastructure for our members that is equity centered, trauma informed and accountable to our community agreements.

We are using our community platform to advocate for meaningful action to end the violence against Indigenous women and girls across Turtle Island, in loving memory of these women, their families, and their communities. Please join us.

For any women and gender diverse people experiencing gender-based violence, intimate partner, domestic or sexualized violence located in Metro Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish territory, we invite you to explore the support available from Battered Women Support Services (BWSS) by calling the 24/7 crisis line: 604-687-1867, or 1-855-687-1868 (toll-free).

In solidarity,
Girl Gang Professional Development Society
Hilary Henegar
Lilian Sue
Jaclyn Hayward
Pirabalini Balasingham
Media Contact:
Angela Marie MacDougall
GG member & moderator
director@bwss.org
604-808-0507

BC Women’s Executive Director Network Statement in Solidarity

BC Women’s Executive Director Network Statement in Solidarity with the Families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

“One of the things that makes this National Inquiry unique is that we are not investigating a past wrong, but one that is still ongoing and that is getting worse. Acts of violence stemming from the structures of colonization and coupled with racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are not few and far between, but pervasive, immediate, and urgent. However, this violence is also preventable – if Canadians are willing to change.”

– Page 85 of Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

We, the BC Women’s Executive Director Network, stand in solidarity and sorrow with the women, families, community members, Nations and advocates in Manitoba who have been irrevocably harmed by the racism and unfettered violence that has led to the loss of Rebecca Contois, Morgan Beatrice Harris, Marcedes Myran, and the yet to be named fourth victim.

We have no doubt these women were targeted and brutalized because of their gender and Indigenous identities.

Indigenous women, girls, and two spirit people have the right to live a life free from violence on their own lands. Our country continues to violate this right through inadequate protection of Indigenous women and girls.

The reality is that in Canada thousands of Indigenous women, girls and two spirit people have been murdered or have gone missing throughout this colonial country’s past and present. Another undeniable reality is that this violence consistently fails to garner adequate or sustained attention from governments and citizens.

This lack of attention continues to have consequences. Inaction and indifference to the loss of Indigenous lives, particularly women, girls, and two spirit people, has created a world where Indigenous women are 4 times more likely to be murdered than all other women in Canada. This is simply unacceptable.

The recent events in Manitoba demonstrate that the government’s lack of action regarding the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 2016 has enabled an environment where irreversible harms continue to be perpetrated against Indigenous peoples across the country.

We call upon senior levels of government in Canada to take urgent and meaningful action on the calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. If not now, when?

Signatories:

365 Give
AIDS Vancouver
Alex House
Ann Davis Transition Society
Battered Women Support Services
BC Victims of Homicide, a program of the BC Bereavement Helpline
BC Civil Liberties Association
BCEdAccess
BC Non-Profit Housing Association
BC Poverty Reduction Coalition
BC Society of Transition Houses
Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland
Bloom Group
Cameray Child & Family Services
CityHive
Collingwood Neighbourhood House
Community Arts Council of Vancouver
CMHA North West Vancouver
CMHA Vernon
Community Action Initiative
Community Connections Revelstoke Society
Dixon Transition Society
Dogwood
DreamRider Productions Society
Eastside Arts Society
Elizabeth Bagshaw Clinic
Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society
FarmFolk CityFolk Society
Fernie Citizens Housing Society
First United Church Community Ministry Society
Food Stash Foundation
Fresh Roots
Georgia Strait Alliance
Girls Action Foundation
Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness
Greater Victoria Housing Society
Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society
HUB Cycling
Intrepid Theatre
Kettle Friendship Society
Living in Community
Looking Glass Foundation for Eating Disorders
M.O.S.A.I.C.
ONE TO ONE Literacy
Options for Sexual Health
Pacific Centre Family Services Association
Pacific Immigrant Resources Society
Pathways Serious Mental Illness Society
Paws for Hope Animal Foundation
Red Fox Healthy Living Society
Renfrew Collingwood Seniors Society
Richmond Food Bank Society
Richmond Poverty Reduction Coalition
SHARE Family and Community Services
Sharing Farm Society
SOAR (Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury through Research)
Squamish Climate Action Network
Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary
The Network of Inner-City Community Services Society
Third Space Charity Society
Tuf Lov
Vancouver Women’s Health Collective
Vancouver Writers Fest
Vantage Point
Victoria Women’s Transition House
Watari Counselling and Support Services
WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre
WISH Drop-In Centre Society
Wilderness Committee
Women Transforming Cities
Zero Ceiling Society of Canada

Media Contact:

Angela Marie MacDougall
Executive Director
Battered Women’s Support Services
Phone: (604) 808-0507

Statement in Solidarity with the Families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Statement in Solidarity with the Families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

December 2, 2022

The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) and Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) stand in deep and full solidarity with the families of Rebecca Contois, Morgan Beatrice Harris, Marcedes Myran, and Buffalo Woman*. We also stand firmly with Crane River First Nation, where Rebecca was a member, and Long Plain First Nation, where Morgan and Marcedes were members, who are grieving.

We extend our sincere condolences to the women’s families, and all of the families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, as well as the advocates and communities mourning in Winnipeg, Treaty No. 1 Territory, the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Ininew (Cree), Oji-Cree, Dene, and Dakota, and Homeland of the Métis Nation.

Their lives were allegedly taken by Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, a resident of Winnipeg, MB and known member of the extremist far-right. A review of alleged murderer Skibicki’s social media presence indicates that he held violent, antisemitic, misogynistic, and white supremacist beliefs.  The consistent and prolonged lack of attention by the federal and provincial governments to the ongoing violence against Indigenous Women and Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, as well as the rise of the far-right targeting marginalized communities, has resulted in horrifying consequences.

The announcement of these charges comes in the middle of the 16 Days of Activism on Gender-Based Violence and as we approach December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

We call on federal and provincial leaders to take urgent and meaningful action on the calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls which, on page 85, states, “one of the things that makes this National Inquiry unique is that we are not investigating a past wrong, but one that is still ongoing and that is getting worse. Acts of violence stemming from the structures of colonization and coupled with racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are not few and far between, but pervasive, immediate, and urgent. However, this violence is also preventable—if Canadians are willing to change.”

The BCAAFC and BWSS have long advocated for culturally safe and inclusive anti-violence services for Indigenous women, Black women, immigrant/refugee women, women of colour, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. Federal and provincial funding in these areas continues to inadequately address the disproportionate violence against Indigenous women, Black women, immigrant/refugee women, women of colour and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.

We continue our work to end gender-based violence, in loving memory of these women, their families, and their communities, please join us.

Resources:

Women and gender diverse people experiencing gender-based violence, intimate partner, domestic or sexualized violence can receive support from BWSS by calling the 24/7 crisis line at: 604-687-1867, or toll free: 1-855-687-1868.

In solidarity,

Leslie Varley, Executive Director

BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres

Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director

Battered Women’s Support Services

 

* The previous version indicated “a fourth victim who has not yet been identified“. At the request of elders we will now refer to the unidentified Indigenous woman murdered by the serial killer in Winnipeg as ‘Buffalo Woman’ instead of unidentified woman. Until her name is found, we honour her.

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Community Gathering  on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women Launching “Colour of Violence: Race, Gender & Anti-Violence Services”

It has been over 30 years since the horrific murder of 14 young women at Polytechnique Montréal (December 6, 1989).

On The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, we remember and reaffirm our commitment fight gender-based violence that still exists today.

On December 6, we are hosting an in-person event “Colour of Violence: Race, Gender & Anti-Violence Services,” motivated by the urgency of our moment and the many overlapping crises for all racialized survivors oppressed by gender and race. On December 6, we launch our report in community and share the voices of over 100 racialized survivors.

Tuesday December 6, 2022

(National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women)

An in-person community gathering from 6 – 8 pm PST at 312 Main Street, Vancouver.

ASL interpretation.

Food and refreshments including 300 of the best samosas in town!

We urge attendees to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

Hosted by Melody Wise (she/they): co-author of BWSS’s “Colour of Violence: Race, Gender & Anti-Violence Services” report

& Featuring a LINE UP YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS: Deanna George │ Cecilia Point │ Deborah Baker │ Rosa Elena Arteaga (she/her) │ Wildflower Women of Turtle Island Drum Group │ Jillian Christmas │ Butterflies in Spirit with JB the First Lady │ Rabbit Richards │ Zephyr Walters (they/she/he) │ Mercedes Eng (she/her)

More about Colour of Violence: Race, Gender & Anti-Violence Services

Our Colour of Violence: Race, Gender & Anti-Violence Services report places racialized survivors at the center of anti-violence work.

 

“Understand that racism exists, and survivors experience it.”

– Colour of Violence survey respondent

 

Our report explores the extent to which gender and race influence system-based responses to gender-based violence.

Racialized survivors are not only subject to higher probabilities of gender-based violence, but also face structural barriers in accessing safety and support from violence. We conducted surveys with over 100 survivors, hosted focus groups with anti-violence workers of colour, and organized a series of public events. Through an anti-racist, decolonial, and intersectional feminist lens, we analyze the structural relationship of multiple forms of inequality constituted through and reinforcing one another.

We found that Indigenous, Black, newcomer immigrant/refugee, and racialized survivors in B.C face numerous barriers to accessing safety and support when they experience gender-based violence, such as lack of access to culturally safe services; mistrust of the legal system and other state systems; and being minimized or disbelieved.

 

“I felt unwelcome, unheard, and unable to connect. I felt like the totality of my experiences were too complex to pull apart and deal with.”

– Colour of Violence survey respondent

 

Indigenous, Black, and newcomer immigrant/refugee survivors face particularly heightened barriers to justice, including often being criminalized for reporting violence, having their children apprehended, or facing deportation.

Our report identifies key barriers in accessing anti-violence services, and it also offers concrete best practices for service providers developing anti-violence interventions.

The report and our accompanying toolkit are intended to be used as catalysts for positive change to increase access, safety, and justice for Indigenous, Black, newcomer immigrant/refugee, and racialized survivors in this province.

This work is motivated by the urgency of our moment and the many overlapping crises for racialized survivors. We are deeply grateful to all the participants who brilliantly and courageously shared their time and insights with us. We hope you join us in honouring their strength and in amplifying their truth-telling toward action.

You can learn more about our research project and key findings here, and we look forward to seeing you December 6!

Power and Control Wheel: Economic or Financial Abuse

BWSS Briefing Note: Economic Abuse Awareness Day

The Province of British Columbia has proclaimed Saturday, November 26th, 2022, as Domestic Economic Abuse Awareness Day.

BWSS is pleased to hear that the BC government is observing Domestic Economic Abuse Awareness Day and we are hopeful that this announcement will bring more attention and visibility to the issue of economic and financial abuse against survivors of intimate partner violence.

We see BC’s adoption of November 26th as Domestic Economic Abuse Awareness Day as an opportunity to educate the public about the realities and dangers of economic abuse and intimate partner violence more broadly, to encourage policy change in favour of survivors of economic abuse, and to improve service delivery for survivors of economic and other forms of abuse.

BC’s decision to dedicate November 26th as Domestic Economic Abuse Awareness Day follows the lead of the Canadian Centre for Women’s Empowerment, a national organization dedicated to “addressing Economic Abuse and injustice through advocacy, education, research, economic empowerment and policy change”, which observes November 26th as a day to educate about and prevent economic and financial abuse as part of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. The Province of BC also follows the lead of 27 Canadian cities who have formally recognized November 26th as Economic Abuse Awareness Day, including the BC communities of Comox, Courtenay, Cumberland, Squamish, Surrey, Vancouver, and Victoria.

 

What is Economic Abuse?

Economic abuse is a form of coercive control that abusers often use in intimate relationships to prevent their partner from developing and maintaining financial independence.

Economic abuse involves efforts to sabotage women’s livelihoods in an attempt to deny them their agency and autonomy, and especially to deny them of their ability to flee violent and abusive relationships.

Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of BWSS writes that “Economic abuse is defined as controlling a woman’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain economic resources. Economic abuse is as common in abusive relationships as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse”.

Economic abuse is often reinforced by the threat and use of physical and sexual violence.

Economic abuse takes many different forms and is carried out with a variety of different strategies.

Power and Control Wheel: Economic or Financial Abuse

Image credit: Canadian Centre for Women’s Empowerment.  Adapted from Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP), the Duluth Model, Duluth, Minnesota.

The Western Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children identifies three distinct forms of economic abuse and associated tactics used to intimidate and ultimately control women: economic control, economic exploitation and economic sabotage, and associated tactics used to intimidate and ultimately control women: economic control, economic exploitation and economic sabotage.

Economic control, they state, “restricts access to or decision-making over resources”, while economic exploitation “involves destroying the individual’s financial resources or credit”. Economic sabotage “inhibits the individual’s ability to gain or maintain work”.

Ultimately, economic or financial abuse is used to secure total financial control over women as a means of preventing them from fleeing to safety.

Abusers may prevent their partner from earning their own income through employment or may take their partner’s earnings from them in order to have control over their finances. An abusive partner might discourage and interfere with women’s attempts to pursue educational opportunities, making it difficult to pursue their employment and career goals over time. Abusers may destroy a woman’s home, vehicle, or possessions, forcing her to constantly pay costs for renovations and repairs, as well as replacing important items like cell phones and laptops. Abusers may take control of family finances, steal money from their partners, and withhold vital necessities in the hopes that women are left dependent and disempowered.

After a woman leaves a violent relationship, survivors may be subject to post-separation abuse that can include economic and financial abuse. Abusers may withhold child support payments to “punish” women for leaving and moving on with their lives. They may use the court systems to continue to exploit and harass women by involving them in lengthy, emotionally, and financially draining court battles.

 

Prevalence of Economic Abuse

As an anti-violence organization with decades of experience providing support to survivors of intimate partner violence, BWSS knows that economic and financial abuse is a widespread tactic that abusers use in an attempt to exercise control over their partner.

The vast majority of women who experience intimate partner violence experience economic or financial abuse as well. According to data from the Canadian Centre for Women’s Empowerment, economic abuse is “experienced by more than 95% of domestic violence victims” and “is experienced by women from all backgrounds, regions, and income levels. Women from marginalized groups, including Black, racialized, and Indigenous women (BIPOC), are at a higher risk of Economic Abuse”.

While we can attest to the prevalence of economic abuse on survivors, we recognize that it can be difficult to identify and even more difficult to address. In a discussion with BeCause Radio, Meseret Haileyesus, Founder and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Women’s Empowerment, stated that economic abuse is an “underreported, poorly recognized, and seldomly discussed form of abuse”. Economic abuse is often overlooked by service providers, whose lack of knowledge and awareness of economic and financial abuse poses a significant barrier for survivors.

A new report, Understanding the Nature of Economic Abuse: A National Study on Service Provider Insights in Canada, commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Women’s Empowerment and funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada, notes that “systemic barriers exist in the Canadian legal, financial and social services system[s]” that “compound the impact of Financial Abuse”. The report highlights how financial institutions, and a variety of social services such as legal, criminal justice and mental health services, are undertrained and lack the resources to identify and properly respond to financial abuse. Financial institutions, for example, “do not have policies for financial abuse in the IPV context” and were rated by survivors of economic abuse as “least helpful amongst a number of other service providers such as shelters and hospitals”.

BWSS supports calls for the delivery of intensive training for professionals working within fields where economic and financial abuse may take place, including financial institutions, and social services such as legal, criminal justice and mental health services, to become better able to recognize and act upon signs of economic and financial abuse.

In our resource titled “What is Economic Abuse”, BWSS notes that in addition to the normalization of a power hierarchy and male domination, women’s economic dependence is normalized, internalized, and reinforced by society. Women have reported that their economic dependency is also reinforced by societal and systemic gender discrimination that limits or denies women the opportunities to access and participate in the labour market and earn equal wages as male counterparts.

The gender wage gap is well documented in Canada; Statistics Canada reported in 2019 that women earn 76.8 cents for every dollar earned by men nationwide. Women who experience economic or financial abuse face not only precarious employment and education as a result, but also the barriers posed by society more broadly.

 

Economic Abuse and the Housing Crisis

At BWSS, we know that access to safe, affordable housing is one of the most important factors for women and gender-diverse people who are escaping intimate partner violence.

Economic and financial abuse, a woman’s ability to flee a violent relationship, and the ongoing housing crisis both in BC and nationwide are all interrelated and overlapping. Economic abuse often affects a woman’s income and level of debt, which together impact her ability to find housing when she is fleeing violence.

With many landlords now checking the credit scores of potential tenants, women with poor credit scores as a result of economic or financial abuse may not find themselves in a competitive position during their search for housing. For women who struggled to pay rent on time during the abusive relationships they experienced, securing references from former landlords may further complicate their search for stable and secure housing.

BWSS sees the development and prioritization of affordable housing, the normalization of a living wage, and the establishment of universal basic income, as crucial solutions to the impact of economic and financial abuse on the lives of women and gender-diverse people fleeing intimate partner violence. In particular, we know that solutions that make it possible for women to secure safe and sustainable housing will address many of the implications of economic and financial abuse that a woman may face.

 

How BWSS is taking action to combat economic abuse

Throughout 40 years of our work at Battered Women’s Support Services, we have learned that women with economic skills and supports are more likely to leave abusive relationships and sustain themselves and their families into the future.

BWSS helps women to work towards restoring their economic and financial independence through its Advancing Women’s Awareness Regarding Employment (AWARE) program.

AWARE seeks to provide employment and economic development for women and femme survivors of violence and abuse. This program recognizes and addresses the unique barriers that survivors face and supports them to move towards economic independence and self-reliance.

Through the AWARE Program, BWSS serves and supports an average of 180 to 200 women per year to achieve their training, career, and employment goals. The AWARE program empowers survivors to be financially or economically independent by providing weekly and monthly workshops and ongoing support with one-on-one appointments. 

BWSS AWARE program team members Claudia Maldonado and Jennifer Ramirez

We know that women require specific resources that can provide them with the knowledge and skills they need for economic empowerment.

BWSS AWARE program team members Claudia Maldonado and Jennifer Ramirez work with survivors to address barriers to economic independence, including career assessment and exploration, assistance with researching and applying for educational opportunities, childcare, providing and connecting women with emotional supports, preparing women to enter the workforce, and ensuring women feel supported in their work environment.

By working with survivors where they’re at, AWARE program team members walk alongside survivors, supporting them with what they need to become financially and economically independent.

 

AWARE Participant Feedback

Below are testimonials from former AWARE program participants.

“The program has been so hopeful, I feel motivated to keep going in my search for a better job.”

“When I started my journey with the AWARE Program I was completely broken. My previous counsellor found here told me just try as I was so scared to try new places. This program really helped me to build up my self-confidence, self-awareness, learn a lot about Canada’s workplace, about my rights, how to set boundaries (although still struggling). In general I learn A LOT. Without your encouragement and peace I never could find my job. THANK YOU SO MUCH.”

“What AWARE means to me. A safe place to come and have ladies run different groups for us. Unemployment, trauma groups or 16 Steps, Counselling and a place to meet others that are in the same situation as us. I want to thank all of them, they do so much and very appreciated. Thank you.”