Women are not acceptable casualties in the response to housing crisis

the atira, BWSS, DEWC, and WISH logos

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 16, 2022

Women are not acceptable casualties in the response to housing crisis

 

xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh) territory / Vancouver, B.C. –  Last week, a police operation violently dismantled the encampment along East Hastings in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. We firmly condemn those acts of violence, as well as the continued lack of strategy to address the homelessness crisis.

 

We also condemn the absence of any consideration for women’s safety despite our organizations’ perpetual warnings about the escalation of gender-based violence in “tent cities.” We are calling for a concerted, nuanced action that prioritizes women’s safety.

 

Tent cities occur because of multiple, overlapping crises: the housing crisis, opioid crisis and deadly drug supply, lack of appropriate mental health care, and deteriorating access to general health services. For many women, especially Indigenous women and women who are racialized, these hardships intersect with centuries of sexist and racist colonial policies. And like everywhere, gender-based violence goes often unchallenged, unreported and unnoticed.

 

With every tent city, we see a dramatic increase in gender-based violence. Women are threatened, harassed, beaten, and raped. Their access to our sites is made difficult if not impossible. Our officials need to do more than a mere acknowledgement of the situation

– Alice Kendall, Executive Director of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

 

We have watched thirty years of planning and policy decisions encompassing addiction, law enforcement, mental health, business improvement, real estate development and housing grind down to the present day. While at the same time, no sustained effort has been made to address the systemic, institutional conditions that give rise to the extreme levels of intimate partner, domestic, and sexualized violence experienced by women in the community. Considering all this violence the last thing we need now is the Vancouver Police Department coming to the neighbourhood to bust heads of impoverished and unhoused people.”

– Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of Battered Women’s Support Services.

 

We cannot settle for tent cities that re-emerge and grow each year, instead of immediate and concrete action to house people. Women are among those at greatest risk in encampments. The existence and realities of women in this community continue to be ignored. Consistent failure to meaningfully acknowledge and address the violence women face continues to risk their lives and safety. Given the fact that women make up over 40% of the DTES population, the solutions, priorities, and commitment must at least reflect these proportions. Women’s safety cannot wait. Women deserve to be and feel safe in their communities and in public spaces, and women deserve to be safely and appropriately housed.

– Mebrat Beyene, Executive Director of WISH Drop-In Centre Society.

 

“Women must have appropriate, safe, independent and where requested, supportive housing. They must have access to homes where they can see their children, friends and families, and that create opportunities for them to keep themselves and the people they care about safe. Encampments only ensure that we will still be struggling, in another generation, with the same challenges we are struggling with today. We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different outcomes; and we must not sacrifice women’s health, wellness and safety now, to make this point.”

-Janice Abbott, CEO, Atira Women’s Resources Society

 

Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to these acts of violence and while we keep seeing new cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Youth, the VPD and RCMP’s response to this reality remains inappropriate, or non-existent.

 

Women-serving organizations are, yet again, calling for a structured, concerted, anti-sexist, trauma-informed response that draws on the many existing recommendations such as those contained in the Calls for Justice and Red Women Rising. We cannot accept the violence perpetrated against women being minimized or overlooked.

 

In numbers:

  • 2,095 residents identified as homeless in 2020 in Metro Vancouver;
  • Women represent over 40% of the Downtown Eastside population;
  • Indigenous people are overrepresented in the people experiencing homelessness: they make up to 34% of the general homeless population and 45% of the women homeless population;
  • In the last month alone, DEWC has responded to 40 women who access the drop-in who had experience sexual assault;
  • Over 22,000 homes are empty in Vancouver.

 

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
Elody Croullebois, Fundraising and Communications Coordinator
778-686-5608
elody.croullebois@dewc.ca

Battered Women’s Support Services
Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director
604-808-0507

WISH Drop-In Centre Society
Estefania Duran, Director of Communications
Communications@wishdropincentre.org
604-669-9474 (Ext. 124)

Atira Women’s Resource Society
Janice Abbott, CEO
604-813-0851

 

A PDF of this press release is available for download here.

Media Advisory The Road To Safety Press Conference

July 13, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New Report Highlights Increased Violence Against Indigenous Women and Indigenous Gender Diverse People During COVID-19 Pandemic

WHO: Indigenous leadership and anti-violence organizations across B.C.:

BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres

Battered Women’s Support Services

Prince George Sexual Assault Centre

Union of BC Indian Chiefs

WHAT: Launch of research report “The Road to Safety: Indigenous Survivors in BC Speak Out against Intimate Partner Violence during the COVID-19 Pandemic” by BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and Battered Women’s Support Services

WHEN: Wednesday July 13, 2022, at 8:30 am PST

WHERE: In person at 312 Main Street, Vancouver, B.C. Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh), or remote log-in info below.

The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and Battered Women’s Support Services, joined by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the Prince George Sexual Assault Centre, are releasing “The Road to Safety: Indigenous Survivors in BC Speak Out against Intimate Partner Violence during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” In partnership with the University of Victoria, these leading Indigenous and anti-violence organizations undertook a year-long research project involving surveys and first-hand interviews with Indigenous women and gender diverse survivors across the province to understand their experiences of intimate partner violence during the pandemic.

Some of the key findings of “The Road to Safety” include:

Pressures placed by the pandemic increased the frequency and severity of intimate partner violence experienced by Indigenous women and gender diverse people. 85% of survey respondents reported an onset of intimate partner violence during the pandemic, and 77% of survey respondents reported that they experienced an increase in intimate partner violence during the pandemic.

67% of survey respondents faced challenges in accessing services during the pandemic, with 30% indicating that essential support services shut down. Growing waitlists to access services, inadequate access to transport and childcare, quarantine and isolation, racism and discrimination, and the involvement of MCFD and/or law enforcement agencies also prevented many Indigenous survivors from accessing anti-violence support services and safety.

47% of survey respondents did not have access to an Indigenous-run transition home or safe house with culturally safe and relevant supports and services.

According to Leslie Varley, Executive Director of BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, “Overall, our findings indicate systemic challenges of access to justice and safety for Indigenous women and gender diverse people. Indigenous women reported widespread racism; fear of child apprehension and police when reporting violence; lack of safe housing when fleeing violence; and inadequate anti-violence services. Most government funding to address violence against Indigenous women is not in the hands of Indigenous organizations. Indigenous communities must receive funding to establish and operate programs ourselves, such as Indigenous-run 24/7 crisis support for Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse people across B.C.”

States Summer Rain, BWSS’s Manager of Direct Services & Indigenous Women’s Program: “In 2022 alone, Tatyanna Harrison, Alysia Strongarm, Noelle ‘Elli’ O’Soup, Keara Joe, Carmelita Abraham, and Chelsea Poorman have all gone missing or died under suspicious circumstances in B.C. Indigenous women and girls are being hunted down like prey because perpetrators know they can get away with sexist, colonial violence against us. Police and child services agencies perpetuate the violence, white Canadian men rip down posters of MMIWG, and there is glacial inaction by all levels of government to the Calls for Justice by the National MMIWG2S Inquiry. This is an urgent state of crisis, and we will continue to take action until the violence ends.”

Media Contacts:

Leslie Varley, BCAAFC Executive Director: 250-893-0494

Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS Executive Director: 604-808-0507

Media Login details:

Topic: The Road to Safety: Indigenous Survivors in BC Speak Out against Intimate Partner Violence during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Time: Jul 13, 2022, 08:30 AM Vancouver Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83100222486?pwd=dmZLY1MzcHBRb2YyR3RQcFN6Vit2Zz09

Meeting ID: 831 0022 2486

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News Release 2021 Federal and Provincial Budgets Revealed Amid the Third Wave of COVID-19

Gender Equity Learning and Knowledge Exchange

2021 Federal and Provincial Budgets Revealed Amid the Third Wave of COVID-19

For immediate release: April 20, 2021

Vancouver, BC –The budget takes important steps towards addressing gender based violence. The pandemic has exposed and amplified long-standing inequities, disproportionately impacting women and people of marginalized genders. We are hopeful that the 2021 federal budget will help those most vulnerable in our communities, as BWSS continues to work on the frontline to end gender-based violence.

“We recognize that economic recovery requires addressing systemic inequities and gender-based violence from a feminist, intersectional perspective”, said Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at BWSS, “And we have called for action to support Black, racialized and Indigenous women and people marginalized by their gender who face oppression in different forms”.

$600 million anti-violence initiatives through the National Action Plan -$400 million earmarked for gender-based violence organizations, which BWSS called for through our work with Women’s Shelters Canada.

This includes:

  • $55 million for anti-violence programs for Indigenous people and LGBTQ2S
  • $30 million for crisis lines
  • $2 million for anti-violence programs for immigrant and refugee women
  • $85 million for legal advice and representation for victims of sexual assault
  • $11 million for better disaggregated data for research projects
  • $14 million for a National Action Plan Secretariat

Budget 2021 proposes to invest an additional $2.2 billion over five years to address the ongoing crisis of Missing and Murder of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. With the release of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls almost two year ago in June 2019, Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people continue to go missing and/or be murdered. Immediate action and implementation of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls needs to be made.

The 2021 budget also pledges $30 billion over 5 years for affordable child care. Locally, the BC Child Coalition has been hard at work, advocating for affordable child care. It’s encouraging to see their success on this front, with the goal of $10 a day child care becoming a reality by 2026. For women who access BWSS services and programs, lack of access to affordable child care is one of the main factors that traps women in abusive relationships.

$250 million to create 560 spaces in shelters and transitional houses -up to 43 new spaces in each province and territory. This investment is so important for women and their children’s safety when feeling violence.

$45 million to fund community-based organizations that help make sexual and reproductive health care information and services more accessible for vulnerable populations; dedicated funding to support better data collection on sexual and reproductive health.

Announced today, BC 2021 budget leaves much to be desired when it comes to gender based violence and gender equity for the province. This budget being released in the third wave of the pandemic is a reminder of how important it was to see the current government’s commitment to gender equity and ending gender based violence.

“BWSS has seen a drastic spike in requests for services during the pandemic”, says Rosa Elena Arteaga, Director of Direct Services and Clinical Practice at BWSS. “We know that this pandemic has further isolated and put women in danger through stay at home orders and other measures to reduce the spread of COVID 19. It was our hope that this years’ BC budget would address these issues that impede women’s safety and equity in BC”.

We applaud the attention the government has finally paid to address women and people of marginalized safety in rural regions with the commitment of $4.5 million to improve cellular service on Highway 16 from Prince Rupert to Prince George. “This will help make the highway safer for many Indigenous women, girls and Two Spirit people”, says Summer-Rain, Manager of the Indigenous Women’s Program at BWSS, “However, it is disappointing that there is not a stronger focus in the budget supporting Indigenous women and human rights”

There has also been a pledge to support women, single parents, refugees, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2S and people with low incomes with access to legal systems by committing $132 million for equitable access to justice. However, we note that it is unclear how the investment will particularly support women who are self-representing in family law situations.

Unlike the strong commitment towards affordable childcare in the Federal budget, the province has allocated $233 million over three years towards childcare, less than the $250 million they committed to at election time.

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Media contact:

Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director, BWSS – 604-808-0507

About Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS)

Established in 1979, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) is on the front-line in the effort to end gender violence, including domestic and sexual violence. Every day, the BWSS team takes action through the delivery of direct services, training, legal, institutional and systemic advocacy and social enterprise responding to over 18,000 requests for service annually – with COVID-19 requests have increased to over 30,000. Forty-one years later and BWSS continues as a committed member of the decolonizing and anti-oppression feminist movement emphasizing the necessity of community-based approaches and interventions into what are some of the most pressing social problems of our time. For more information: www.bwss.org

Download the news release here. 

Online Resource Goes Live to Help End Gender Based Violence

Gender Equity Learning and Knowledge Exchange

First of Its Kind in B.C., Online Resource Goes Live to Help End Gender Based Violence

Press release

For immediate release: April 14, 2021

Vancouver, BC – For Prevention of Violence against Women week, April 11 to 17, 2021, a gender-equity provincial advisory group launches, the Learning and Knowledge Exchange online resource platform. Inspired by a similar Ontario-based resource, virtual hub mobilizes community-based experiences and evidence-informed resources to advance gender equity by ending gender-based violence. The website will feature webinars, curricula, research and resources to promote British Columbia-based networks directly supporting programs, operations and systemic advocacy of the ending gender-based violence sector and its allies.

“The BC Society of Transition Houses and its membership is honoured to be part of the BWSS Gender Equity Learning & Knowledge Exchange to support the growth of this dynamic inter-disciplinary intersectional resource for BC to prevent and end gender based violence for all.” Said Amy S. FitzGerald, Executive Director, BC Society of Transition Houses.

“The Gender Equity Learning and Knowledge Exchange will connect practitioners, in any field or discipline, with each other to discuss their work, learn from one another.” said Angela Marie MacDougall executive director Battered Women’s Support Services. “The key ingredient in this innovation is experiential knowledge by centring the voices of Black, Indigenous and people of colour who affected by gender inequity and gender-based violence.”

“As a lifelong social justice advocate for Indigenous people, I believe we need strengthen our supports, knowledge, and action by and for Indigenous women and girls” Said Leslie Varley, Executive Director, BC Association Aboriginal Friendship Centres “I’m looking forward to joining this amazing group of people to share, learn, collaborate and grow together.”

The provincial advisory committee will provide expertise on research, curriculum development, practice, and prevention and help convene knowledge keepers and assist in disseminating knowledge derived. Hosted by Battered Women’s Support Services, the provincial advisory group includes representatives from BC Society of Transition Houses; BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres; West Coast LEAF; Rise Women’s Legal Centre; Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour; BC Refugee Hub and Newcomer Info; Qmunity; and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

“This project is important to me because, as a Two-Spirited & queer person, I am excited to see more grounded representation and understanding of two-spirited identities.” Said Songbird, Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. “I am proud to play a role in helping the community understand the cultural importance and roles of our two-spirited peoples.”

“Gender equity is a collective responsibility and requires commitment from everyone to make impactful change” Said Bahar Taheri, Project Consultant, BC Refugee Hub.

“I raise my hands to BWSS for stewarding the Gender Equity Learning and Knowledge Exchange. This initiative will ensure community members have open access to information that is relevant and useful to them!” said Nancy Laliberte, PhD

“I am so excited to been able to access specialized information and knowledge through the BWSS Gender Equity Learning & Knowledge Exchange.” Said Rosa Elena Arteaga, Director Clinical Practice at BWSS. “This is a one of a kind resource for the anti-violence community, academics, researchers, and everyone who wants to learn more about gender equity ”

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Media contact:

Angela Marie MacDougall
Executive Director, BWSS
604-808-0507

 

About Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS)

Established in 1979, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) is on the front-line in the effort to end gender violence, including domestic and sexual violence. Every day, the BWSS team takes action through the delivery of direct services, training, legal, institutional and systemic advocacy and social enterprise responding to over 18,000 requests for service annually – with COVID-19 requests have increased to over 30,000. Forty-one years later and BWSS continues as a committed member of the decolonizing and anti-oppression feminist movement emphasizing the necessity of community-based approaches and interventions into what are some of the most pressing social problems of our time. For more information: www.bwss.org

More Information:
The Gender Equity Learning and Knowledge Exchange https://genderequitylke.org/
The Learning and Knowledge Exchanges https://genderequitylke.org/learning-knowledge-exchanges/
Projects Underway https://genderequitylke.org/our-work-end-violence/#projects

The Gender Equity Learning and Knowledge Exchange is possible because of the financial support from the Vancouver Foundation and My Sister’s Closet – social enterprise of Battered Women’s Support Services.

Gender Equity Learning and Knowledge Exchange

Step into the shoes of a woman experiencing violence via BWSS’s TSA

***MEDIA ADVISORY***

Battered Women’s Support Services creates interactive TSA to simulate the experience of being trapped in an abusive relationship.

WHAT:  Battered Women’s Support Services has built an interactive Transit Shelter Advertisement that allows the public to step into the shoes of a woman experiencing violence by their intimate partner. What appears at first glance to be a nondescript apartment door is actually a digital peephole into the frightening world of domestic abuse.

The public one-day stunt is part of their 2018 campaign launching for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. The campaign hopes to raise awareness of BWSS services that support women experiencing violence and encourage the public to donate and take action to end violence against women and girls.

Every year more than 30,000 women and children are affected by intimate partner violence in British Columbia, with one woman killed every week in Canada.

WHEN: November 2, 2018. Availability to film the event and interviews from 12-1pm.

WHERE: Transit shelter at Lonsdale Avenue and 27th Street East, North Vancouver V7N 3J1

WHO: Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director, Battered Women’s Support Services

DETAIL:  Media are invited to experience the interactive TSA. Interviews with Angela Marie MacDougall will follow.

ABOUT:  Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) is a Canadian not-for-profit located in Vancouver that    provides education, advocacy and support services to assist all women in its aim to work towards the elimination of violence.

Please confirm your attendance by contacting
Rona Amiri, Violence Prevention Coordinator
communityengaement@bwss.org, 778-558-7179

 

BWSS Crisis & Intake Line at 604-687-1867 or toll free at 1-855-687-1868 

woman experiencing violence