BC Budget 2018

BC Budget – a step in the right direction, though leaves important questions unanswered

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
February 20, 2018

 
Vancouver, B.C. –On Tuesday, February 20, 2018 the British Columbia provincial government announced the 2018 BC Budget. Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) has paid close attention to this budget because of the decline in public spending on women’s equity relative to the BC economy combined with the endemic levels of violence against women in the province of BC.

Over the past several decades, BC has experienced deep funding cuts to public services, funding cuts that had a direct impact on women’s equity efforts. Funding cuts made in the name of reducing budget deficits at the time but never fully reversed even after years of massive fiscal surpluses.

BWSS responds to 11,000 requests for services annually, and some of the biggest challenges for women to leave abusive relationships include access to safe and affordable housing, access to child care and legal aid, income assistance and employment services. It was our hope that the BC budget would address these attitudinal, systemic and institutional factors impeding women’s equity in BC.

The budget announcement featured investing $1 billion over the next three years that will make child care more affordable, dedicating $18 million to services that provide outreach and counselling support for women, a comprehensive housing plan including affordable housing, and improving access to justice through increased funding for legal aid and family law services.

BWSS applauds the attention the BC government has paid to addressing women’s equity in these ways. However, we noted the budget lacked necessary detail on how the provincial government intends to increase women’s access to justice through increased funding for legal aid and family law services.

It was unclear what investment would be made toward increasing legal aid particularly for women self-representing in family law situations.

It would be our concern that the provincial government intends to pursue alternative dispute resolution models in family law instances without adequate violence against women assessments and without sufficient recognition of the patterns of power and control present when women enter the family law arena with their abusive partners. Legal aid and alternative dispute resolution have been central to our system advocacy work including addressing these problems at a recent meeting with Attorney General David Eby.

Many women who access BWSS rely on income assistance and employment services in their pursuit of violence free lives, the budget appeared to be silent on income assistance and employment services. Silent, even though the BC government has indicated they’ve embarked on a poverty reduction strategy.

In related news, late last week, Premier John Horgan announced the newly created position of Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity and appointed MLA Mitzi Dean to the position.

In 1991, Canada’s first and only free-standing ministry dedicated to women’s equity was created in BC. The Ministry of Women’s Equality (MWE), did research, advocated on equity for women, particularly in matters related to economic equity, ending violence against women, women’s health and social justice all from a gender lens. Stopping the Violence counselling for women who experience violence was created through MWE, and counselling for women survivors of violence has the ability to provide an opportunity for healing. In 2002 the ministry was eradicated and some of its responsibilities were moved into different ministries like the Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services which became the Ministry of Community Services in 2005. Late last week, February 15 2018, Premier John Horgan announced the newly created position of Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity and appointed MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin, Mitzi Dean, to the position.

BWSS considers the creation of this position is a step in the right direction. However, it wasn’t clear through the budget announcement how she would achieve her mandate. Further, it wasn’t clear what the BC government intends to do with the Provincial Office of Domestic Violence (PODV) which was initiated in 2014. The PODV had a mandate to make sure the provincial government policies, programs and services related to domestic violence are effective and delivered in a comprehensive and unified way across government. There is no evidence that the PODV three year provincial plan was effective. Given these two mandates are almost identical, BWSS would be concerned that we may be starting over again. Both the announcement of the Parliamentary Secretary and the BC Budget 2018 are silent on this. BWSS needs to be certain that effective steps are taken in effort to end violence against women in BC.

For almost 40 years, Battered Women’s Support Services has worked towards women’s liberation through education, advocacy, support services, and systemic change to assist all women in its aim to work towards the elimination of violence. BWSS is hopeful with these recent announcements and seeks to work closely with the provincial government to further women’s equity in BC.

Media inquiries:

Angela Marie MacDougall
Executive Director
Cell: 604-808-0507
Email: [email protected]

Justice4Tears, Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
September 22, 2017

Justice4Tears, Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls

(L-R) Janice Brown, Mable Todd, Vicky Hill

 

Terrace, British Columbia – Our ongoing challenge is to demonstrate the extent of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada. The 724 km length of the Yellowhead Highway 16, between Prince Rupert and Prince George, is known across Canada as the Highway of Tears. The name references the number of mostly Indigenous women and girls who have been missing or found murdered along this stretch of highway.

There is much speculation on the exact number of women and girls who have disappeared on the Highway of Tears over the last 50 years, many people say that the number of missing women combined with the number of murdered women exceeds 50.

Tamara’s walk or Justice4Tears walk is organized by Gladys Radek whose niece Tamara Lynn Chipman went missing on the highway 12 years ago.  A community feast at the Nisga’a Hall to honor the Tears4Justice walkers on their journey was held on September 20, 2017 in the presence of hereditary and elected Indigenous governance, family and local community members, a delegation from the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre from Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories, BC and a support team from Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS).

The walk began on September 21, 2017 in Prince Rupert and will conclude in Smithers, British Columbia for the start of the hearings on the National Inquiry of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“We are so honoured to be able to take part in the 7th walk through the Highway of Tears to remember Tamara Lynn Chipman. This walk is not only to remember her life, but to remember and bring light to the horrific levels of violence Indigenous women and girls face everyday”, said Summer Rain Bentham, Indigenous Women’s Support Worker at BWSS, “This is an opportunity as Indigenous women as family members and as survivors to reclaim space that for Indigenous women would be compromised or a risk to our safety”.

By all accounts, through consultation and conversation with women, the northwest and north coast of British Columbia continues to be rife with misogynist and racist violence against Indigenous women and girls. Misogyny and sexism is endemic in Canada and that permeates in the RCMP’s response to women and girls and in the legal system.  There is a belief in communities that Indigenous women and girls on the street are fair game and if a woman or girl is in need of support any effort to get help often leads to her exploitation.

“BWSS often receive calls from women experiencing violence in remote communities and because of their limited options they may have no choice but to escape to larger urban settings including the Downtown

Eastside of Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory”, said Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at BWSS, “It is a priority for BWSS as an organization to come out and support because women in northern and remote communities tell us that they don’t have access to services”.

There is no concerted political will by the Provincial government and the RCMP to implement changes to increase safety. The budget for the RCMP investigation into 18 murdered and missing women and girls along the Highway of Tears was slashed by 84 per cent. And while shuttles were promised, they do not run on the entire extent of the highway leaving many women vulnerable on the most dangerous parts of the highway. The Highway of Tears Symposium was held in 2006 and did not release its 33 recommendations until 2013.

“On the verge of the National Inquiry commencing in B.C in Smithers, we walk for the Spirits of the women and girls stolen from this land”, said Terriea Harris, Manager, Indigenous Women’s Program at BWSS, “Many Indigenous women and girls feel desperate to flee violence and oppressive experiences in the North but their only way of leaving is the Highway of Tears. The perfect set up for predators. The time is now for the Action and we hang on to the hope of what will come through the National Inquiry”.

Most of the cases on the Highway of Tears remain unsolved.

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Media enquiries
Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director, Battered Women’s Support Services
Tel. (604) 808-0507 E-mail: [email protected]

 

Canada’s Federal Government Fails to Provide Constitutional Right to Legal Aid and Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Lives Hang in the Balance

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
June 26, 2017

Canada’s Federal Government Fails to Provide Constitutional Right to Legal Aid and Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Lives Hang in the Balance

Vancouver, B.C. Coast Salish Territory – On June 26, 2017 Legal Services Society (LSS) announced that effective August 1, 2017 they will no longer accept applications for immigration and refugee cases due to a lack of funding.

According to their background and information sheet, LSS has experienced a 145% increase in refugee claims in the last three years without an increase in funding from the Canadian federal government. Under the Canadian constitution, the federal government is responsible for immigration and refugee laws including the immigration tribunals and their processes. By not providing the necessary funding, the Canadian federal government is in conflict with the constitution and the Supreme Court has ruling that legal representation is required when the right to life, liberty and security of the person is at stake.

At Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS), over 40% of women who access services are immigrant women, 2% are in Canada as refugees and every woman requires some type of legal information or support.

“Immigrant and refugee women in abusive relationships are navigating the intersection of immigration, family and criminal law systems,” said Rosa Elena Arteaga, BWSS Manager of Direct Services and Clinical Practice.  “While the federal government is not fulfilling its responsibility to provide legal aid for immigration and refugee law matters, this has prompted the province of British Columbia to announce they’re stopping service and now immigrant and refugee women’s lives hang in the balance.”

Without legal aid, immigrant and refugee women fleeing abusive partners will not have legal representation in their legal proceedings while in their pursuit of legal immigration status in Canada and without immigration status; they will be unable to access crisis support such as shelters or transition houses.  Without access to these supports, women and their children will have few options other than staying with a violent partner.  Further, without status and without legal representation women who have come to Canada fleeing gender persecution are at risk for deportation.

“It takes a lot for an immigrant or refugee woman to leave an abusive relationship and for women to flee gender persecution,” said Angela Marie MacDougall BWSS Executive Director.  “This move in British Columbia has ensured the further entrapment of immigrant and refugee women and their children in violent situations including deportation to dangerous circumstances.”

 

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Media enquiries

Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director, Battered Women’s Support Services
Tel. (604) 808 0507 E-mail: [email protected]

Press Release: Community Comes Together in Response to the Fentanyl Crisis in Vancouver

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
June 8, 2017

Community Comes Together in Response to the Fentanyl Crisis in Vancouver, B.C.

Vancouver, B.C. –What does Vancouver have in common with Columbus, Chicago, Manchester, Winnipeg and Calgary? An opioid crisis. Whether it’s heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, or spice, illicit substance use has taken a dramatic turn recently. Could this be a “canary in the coal mine” giving us clues into the current social cultural conditions and related systemic response?

According to the BC Corners Report, there were 139 illicit drug overdose deaths with fentanyl detected from January through February 2017 which is a 90% increase over the number of deaths during the same period in 2016. Much of the discourse thus far on this issue has been focused on men’s use but it is also important to look at the specific dynamics for women.

On Friday, June 9, 2017 Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS), Adler University and Central City Foundation are coalescing the community on this issue and the specific factors for women at Women and Fentanyl Crisis Panel and Community Café.

“This is a critically important event in aid of putting women’s voices and women’s experiences into the public realm. Our institutions, including the media, too often focus on numbers, not impact” said Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society “The impact of a woman’s death can be far reaching and intergenerational. As a community, we need a considered and appropriate response”.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the City of Vancouver had a four pillar policy for substance use based on four principals: harm reduction, prevention, treatment and enforcement. Since then, The Four Pillars section of the City of Vancouver’s website has no recent updates, there is no longer a drug policy coordinator and there haven’t been any recent progress reports on the policy.

Women and Fentanyl Crisis Panel and Community Café will begin at 10am until 2pm with panelists Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society, Mebrat Beyene, and Executive Director of WISH Drop in Centre Society and Terriea Harris, Manager, Indigenous Women’s Program at Battered Women’s Support Services and emceed by Jennifer Johnstone, CEO of Central City Foundation. This event is a direct community based response to a serious social issue and is designed to help amplify community engagement. We will revisit models like Four Pillars and the Portuguese Model as part of the event.

“It’s critically important to recognize the role of women who are on the frontline of the crisis literally breathing life into people every day”, said Terriea Harris, Manager, Indigenous Women’s Program at BWSS, “ Women support workers, advocates and activists who in their actions are challenging the definition of “first responder”.”

“In keeping with our long-standing commitment to bringing neighbours together to build hope in our community, Central City Foundation is pleased and proud to support our community partners and this critical dialogue on the devastating impacts of the Fentanyl crisis on women and to help seek solutions to this crisis” said Jennifer Johnstone, CEO of Central City Foundation.

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Media enquiries

Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society
Phone: 604.813.0851
Email: [email protected]

Jennifer Johnstone, CEO Central City Foundation
Phone: (604) 787-5286
Email: [email protected]

Terriea Harris, Manager, Indigenous Women’s Program at Battered Women’s Support Services
Phone: (604) 652-1867
Email: [email protected]

Event Updates

Opening and Territorial Welcome Audrey Siegl, Musqueam Nation

 Sχɬemtəna:t, St’agid Jaad, Audrey Siegl, is an independent activist from the unceeded lands of the Musqueam, has been active on grassroots environmental and social justice-political frontline movements. Audrey has worked on raising awareness on MMIW, DTES issues incl housing, the Fentynal crisis, displacement and the connection between extraction industry projects and violations of First Nations, land and human rights.

Emcee

Jennifer Johnstone is President & CEO of Central City Foundation since 2006, and has an extensive background in non-profit management and community resource development, including experience as a fundraiser, marketing and communications manager and non-profit executive for more than 25 years. Jennifer remains passionately committed to social justice and community investment and, throughout her life, has served as a volunteer in many capacities with various organizations at the local, provincial and national level.

 

 

 

 

If you are unable to attend Women and Fentanyl Crisis Panel and Community Café, catch Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director at BWSS on Roundhouse Radio’s Sense of Place with Minelle Mahtani at 11am, June 9, 2017 for more on this serious social issue.

Press Release: Women’s Organization Teams Up with Art Community to Help End Violence against Women

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
May 25, 2017

Women’s Organization Teams Up with Art Community to Help End Violence against Women

Vancouver, B.C. – Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) is Art! Vancouver’s 2017 charity of choice at their third annual international art fair May 25th through to the 28th at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Art can be an effective resource and tool for healing for women survivors of violence. The creative process has the ability to transform pain to healing. As a healing tool, art is inherently connected to advocacy; it is both universal and personal like many social issues. Artistic expression gives shape to thoughts, feelings, and ideas and often helps communicate, educate, and inform society.

BWSS is thrilled to partner with Art! Vancouver as part of the ongoing work to connect with all communities who are innovative, progressive, and ahead of change –much like the violence prevention and intervention work that happens every day on the frontlines at BWSS. Since 1979, BWSS has provided education, advocacy, and support services for women in the work towards the elimination of violence against women and girls.

In one month alone, BWSS responded to 600 calls, 70 new women accessed services, 56 women accessed legal services and 53 women now have a personalized safety plan. This fundraising and awareness collaboration with Art! Vancouver supports BWSS direct services to women survivors of violence every day on the crisis lines, in counselling, and in support groups.

“Artists are at the forefront of social and political change, they provide awareness that helps shift the way society sees social issues and lead others to take action”, said Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS Executive Director, “coming together with the art community in Vancouver is a natural progression for BWSS as the ongoing collaboration with community movements involved in social change”.

 

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Media enquiries

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

Tel. (604) 808-0507 E-mail: [email protected]

 

PRESS RELEASE: Statement Regarding New Charges against Detective Constable Jim Fisher

 

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
May 24, 2017

STATEMENT REGARDING NEW CHARGES AGAINST DETECTIVE CONSTABLE JIM FISHER FROM BATTERED WOMEN’S SUPPORT SERVICES

 

Vancouver, B.C. –Late afternoon on May 19 three new charges were laid against Detective Constable Jim Fisher, former Detective with the Vancouver Police Departments counter exploitation unit. Charges include two counts of sexual assault and one count breach of trust.

Earlier this year Detective Constable Jim Fisher was arrested and charged with three counts of sexual exploitation, one count of sexual assault, one count of breach of trust and one count of attempt to obstruct justice; against two young women one whom was under age.

“This is part of a rape culture that allows men especially men in positions of power, such as Fisher, to get away with sexist attacks on women and girls with near impunity.  Men in positions of authority should be held even more accountable because their stature and position of trust held in the community” said Angela Marie McDougall Executive Director, BWSS “It is an atrocious betrayal to women when men who commit themselves to protect and serve vulnerable populations, and have pledged to ending violence and exploitation commit those very crimes. It is imperative that we hold men accountable, especially men who have committed to ending violence against women”.

It is essential that the Vancouver Police Department acknowledge and eliminate the ingrained culture of sexism, colonialism and racism within the department that allows predators like Detective Fisher to misuse their power and position of trust to gain sexual access to those very women and girls he swore an oath to protect. New protocols and policies are required to ensure policing of gender based violence leaves no women or girls in a position to have their heightened vulnerability preyed upon by men like Detective Fisher.

The Vancouver Police Department’s counter-exploitation unit is responsible for and responds to cases involving sexual exploitation/ human trafficking along with online exploitation of children and, child luring and child pornography.  Jim Fisher used his badge and delegation of power in this specially designed unit to gain access to these specific women and girls in which he was in a position of trust and a figure of authority assigned to investigate the exact assaults he is currently facing charges for.

“We are not surprised that new charges have been laid against Detective Fisher. It was unlikely that it would have been an isolated incident” said Jeannette MacInnis BWSS Board of Directors board member, “We want the strong, courageous, young women who have come forward and spoke out about the grave acts of violence perpetuated by Detective Fisher to know that we stand beside and in solidarity with each of them”.

Battered women Support Services has a confidential crisis line and is available to support any woman who has experienced male violence.

 

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Media enquiries

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

Tel. (604) 808-0507 E-mail: [email protected]