I call the meeting to order.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the 122nd Meeting of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. The meeting is in public today.
Today we will be continuing our study of the system of shelters and transition houses serving women and children affected by violence against women and intimate partner violence.
For this, I am pleased to welcome the panellists for our first section.
We have Eva Kratochvil, Survivor and Front-Line Worker, Hiatus House; Dr. Anita Olsen Harper, Research Consultant, National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence; and Dawn Clark, whom you will also see on the screen, by video conference. Welcome all.
Just as a reminder, you each get seven minutes for your opening statements.
I'm passing the floor to Eva.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today from a front-line worker and survivor's perspective.
Each day when VAW shelters across the country are forced to turn away women and children due to capacity issues, those women and children fall into the homelessness stream and shelter systems. Unfortunately, the severe underfunding of the homelessness shelter systems and their functioning from a Housing First model not adapted to working with victims of violence means these women and children never receive the counselling and services they are entitled to and would benefit from.
I would contend that this inability to obtain assistance specific to domestic violence perpetuates the cycle of violence, as there is a lack of intervention and counselling to address the abuse that has taken place. We fool ourselves into believing that women we turn away to the homeless shelters are receiving services when this is often not the case.
For example, they may not meet the eligibility requirements for admission to a homeless shelter. These differ greatly from community to community. Even if they do secure a space within the homeless shelter systems, these were not constructed to be secure facilities meant to protect women from danger.
When systems fail, often women are the ones who end up owning the blame. I have watched first-hand as women who try to access services are denied due to capacity then spend several weeks bouncing around from place to place, utilizing friends and family as an interim measure. Attempts to access services at a later date may find a woman being told that her situation is no longer an immediate issue of domestic violence but a housing issue.
The other reality is that VAW shelters providing limited stays push women out of the VAW system and into the homelessness stream if they cannot achieve their goal of securing safe, affordable housing in the allotted time. Homeless women have often advised that their homelessness is cause for them to be in abusive relationships, making the decision to select one abuser to live with rather than the many abusers they will face if forced into a position of absolute homelessness and into the streets.
We can no longer pretend there is not a correlation, a definitive overlap between the VAW and homelessness sectors. To do so is to be irresponsible and deny all women the right to adequate services. The funding provisions to the homelessness sector help to create this unnatural divide for fear that the funding could be affected. There should not be a distinction in women so as to treat homeless women as second-class citizens within the shelter systems.
If you need to have a visual of the difference in the level of service, the community of Windsor, Ontario, invites you to witness the distinction between VAW and homelessness for women. Last fiscal year, 146 women and 188 children were turned away from Hiatus House, and this number only continues to rise.
I think it is important for you to know the impacts on workers each day when we pick up the crisis line and do not have a bed to offer women. I want you to know the pain in our throats each time there is a news story of a woman who has been assaulted or lost her life as we wait to find out her name and check our systems to see if it happens to be the one we turned away.
I want you to know the hardship on women and their children when they are unable to find affordable, safe housing within our community through no fault of their own, simply due to the lack of its existence, and they are pressed with the decision to transition to the homeless shelter, return home to the abuse, or settle for substandard housing options.
I want you to know the impacts on the shelter when we bleed our biggest resource, the people we train and have as co-workers that we lose to other employment opportunities due to the non-competitive rate at which shelter workers on the front lines are paid.
When shelter workers are forced into the position of constantly assessing for risk using the high-risk category as the determinant for shelter services by asking questions such as “Have you been physically assaulted? Do you have injuries? Has he choked you, threatened to kill you, abused the children or pets? Does he have weapons, prior charges? Were police involved?” to assign the limited available bed space, we continue to perpetuate society's understanding that abuse is only really abuse if it's physical.
My work has changed over the years. There was a time that I would say to a woman that she did not have to wait until the abuse became physical. Now I try to strategize as to which woman's situation is the most severe to entitle her to one of the last beds available.
We can talk all we want about preventive measures and education initiatives that teach women the red flags of abusive relationships so that they are aware early on if they are at risk. However, if they are not able to get the help, then it feels rather pointless.
The solutions are not simple, and there is no one fix that will solve this issue. Women need to see a way out. They need to have support, financial resources, access to child care, counselling, and ultimately safe, affordable housing in which to re-establish effectively. A woman needs to have a sense of optimism that things will get better if she leaves, that she need not fear that by leaving she will lose everything—her children, her job, credibility, and any semblance of normalcy.
Shelters are able to provide a lot of what is needed, but they cannot provide everything. There need to be adequate shelter beds available to meet the demand. The issue is that shelters need to have operational dollars to function. It's not so simple as just building the structure; it's how you keep it staffed and running.
Shelters are being placed in the position of having to make decisions that compromise the services they are able to deliver. For example, Hiatus House had to cut the number of child and youth workers from five to one and a half so that midnights would no longer be single-staffed, as it was becoming a safety issue with the shelter constantly running at over 100% capacity.
Making these kinds of sacrifices has consequences. I watch as the one full-time worker and one part-time worker stretch themselves thin to meet the needs of an average of 20 to 25 children daily, and to help moms as they try to help their children adjust, find new ways of parenting, regain the parental role in chaotic times, or just provide them with a few moments of alone time or time to complete the tasks they desperately need to attend to. It's really an impossible feat.
I wonder how we teach women about healthy expectations when we ourselves function in an unhealthy environment based on the sheer levels of stress, overwork, and endlessly tapped-out resources, yet I feel guilty complaining about the circumstances of workers, as I know we are not the most important people in this: it is the women and children who are most important. However, I am reminded that they are impacted by everything we do. We are capable of so much better, if we were only equipped to be able to do so.
There is no set standard of services provided by shelters. We all struggle along to do the best we can, based on the circumstances of whatever location we happen to be in across this vast country, but there is no consistency, and women and their children should no be at the mercy of the government of the day. Shouldn't all women across the country be entitled to the same number of days of leave if they suffer from domestic violence or sexual assault? I should think so. We all know that the only way to make this happen would be for the federal government to take the leadership on this issue. Please consider implementing a national action plan that would address these gaps.
You need to strengthen what is offered by shelters. One of the greatest ways to create a connection of shelters is to put support in place for the provincial shelter associations, so that all shelters can be members and use these as hubs of expertise, training, and best practices. However, as long as shelter associations depend on membership fees for their existence, they will not be a strong collective, because the smallest and most remote shelters cannot possibly afford to belong. Please consider new funding formulas for provincial associations to do the work they do as leaders.
Most importantly, meaningful survivor inclusion is essential—putting survivors back in the forefront of the movement—so that credibility is restored, stigma is reduced, and nothing is created for us without us. Create, support and fund survivor work involvement and initiatives.
My name is Anita Olsen Harper. I'm an Anishinabe from Namekoosipiing, or Trout Lake, in northwestern Ontario. My Ph.D. is in education. My dissertation was on domestic violence and resilience in first nations communities.
I'm a researcher for the National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence, or NACAFV. We are a non-profit. We work with most on-reserve women's shelters, but there are several off reserve as well. We provide as many necessary supports as we possibly can so that shelter directors can help their clientele. These are the women and children who need a place to stay because of violence in the home.
For the purposes of my talk, just to be clear, I'll be using the word “shelter”. By this I mean a housing or residential complex. It has rooms, such as kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms, for the women and children. It is a place of temporary protection and support for those having to flee from domestic violence. Some use such terms as “transition house”, but I will use the word “shelter”.
Through the family violence initiative, or FVI, Indigenous Services Canada, or ISC, funds and oversees on-reserve women's shelters. Other family violence programs, such as outreach programs to indigenous families, are also funded by ISC through its family violence prevention program, or FVPP. Currently there are 40 shelters funded and controlled by ISC that also belong to NACAFV's membership.
The most pressing issue that on-reserve women's shelters face is insufficient financial funding from ISC. The funding that on-reserve shelters receive ranges anywhere from about half to three-quarters of what provincially funded or mainstream women's shelters receive from the province in which they are located. This is unequal funding for on-reserve shelters. This is despite their higher needs.
As well, when first nations women—women who have Indian status and normally live on reserve—access women's shelters off reserve, ISC reimburses that provincially funded shelter at the provincial rate, a rate that is higher than what it pays the first nation to provide these services on the reserve, when these services are available. This is actually discriminatory.
There is also inequitable funding. In particular, ISC's funding structure is based on population and the presumption that the indigenous clientele is identical to the mainstream clientele rather than its actual needs. ISC fails to take into account the historical circumstances and the increased needs of a population that has lived through Indian residential schools, ongoing colonialism, and intergenerational trauma. It also fails to consider the heightened cost to deliver services in rural and remote communities, including on reserve.
Reserves are known for their limited health, housing, educational, and social services. These are essential to provide support and to complement shelters' programs and services. This unequal and inequitable funding of on-reserve women's shelters results in at least the following four consequences.
The first is regular burnout, high staff turnover rates, feelings of isolation by staff who are underpaid, and difficulty in recruiting and retaining professionals for women's and children's actual needs.
The second is lack of indigenous-appropriate resources and programs for shelter clients.
The third is poor infrastructure, with limited and inefficient spaces for both children and adults. Often there is a dire need for renovations and also expansions. Therefore, there is little by way of complying with health and safety standards.
The fourth consequence is that shelters cannot provide second-stage housing, by which I mean longer-term residence complete with programming.
Indigenous women fleeing or at risk of experiencing domestic violence do not have access to the same quality of shelters as other women in Canada. Some cannot access these services at all. Currently, Canada does not provide indigenous women access to equal, equitable and culturally appropriate protection from domestic violence.
Finally, as a remedy and as a very specific recommendation, Canada must fund and provide equal, equitable and culturally appropriate shelter services and programming. This would be for the indigenous women and their children who are fleeing or at risk of experiencing domestic violence. This means that services and programs must be tailored to the unique geographical, cultural and historical circumstances of women who are accessing the 40 ISC-funded shelters in Canada.
Meegwetch. Thank you.
Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to appear before this committee. My name is Dawn Clark. I'm the programs director at Haven Society in Nanaimo.
The Haven Society was incorporated as a non-profit society and registered charity on December 22, 1978. This year marks our 40th year of providing shelter services to women and children fleeing violence and abuse. In Nanaimo, we operate a 17-bed transition house and, in 2013, in partnership with the Society of Organized Services, we expanded our shelter services to include an eight-bed safe house in the Oceanside area.
Our mission is to promote the integrity and safety of women, children, youth and families and the development of a respectful and healthy community. Haven has a strong reputation in our community and in B.C. as a leading anti-violence organization and a respected leader, trainer and collaborator. We endeavour to provide a continuum of services, public education and advocacy.
I'm sure most of us have heard these statistics before, but I believe they're worth repeating, as these are the women we see daily.
According to the most recently published Canadian Women's Foundation fact sheet of August 2016, women are four times more likely than men to be victims of intimate partner homicide; indigenous women are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of violence than non-indigenous women; approximately every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner; aboriginal women are killed at six times the rate of non-aboriginal women; and, 70% of spousal violence is never reported to the police.
Also, on any given night in Canada, close to 6,000 women and children sleep in shelters because their safety at home is at risk and nearly 300 women and children are turned away because the shelters are full. Women who identify as lesbian or transgender and experience spousal violence are less likely to access shelter services; women are at greater risk of experiencing elder abuse from a family member; and leaving an abusive relationship may involve a choice between remaining with an abuser or falling into poverty and risking homelessness.
As well, cyber-violence, which includes online threats, harassment, physical threats and stalking, is quickly emerging as an extension of violence against women; women with mental health and behavioural disabilities and chronic or debilitating medical conditions experience personal victimization at a rate four times that of women who have none; and substance use and mental health problems often co-occur among women, as many women identify substance use as a way to cope with gender-based abuse and trauma.
Many of the women who come to our transition house or safe home are dealing with complex traumas, various mandated services, health concerns, poverty-related issues and an unknown future. Their children may show a range of behaviours directly related to the violence these kids are exposed to, and many have difficulty living in a communal living environment with strangers and new rules and may isolate and become overly protective or exhibit aggression. Also, women with poor health, mental health concerns or alcohol or substance use may not disclose these concerns at intake for fear they may be turned away.
These intersecting barriers have made it necessary for our staff at our transition house and the safe home to be Jills of all trades, able to manage a crisis at any given moment and provide women with emotional support and safety while addressing immediate and future needs.
The heart of our work at Haven is to offer a safe place where victims of violence are heard, believed and supported. Foundational to the relationships we build with each woman is the belief that she is her own expert. Our intention is to provide a constellation of equitable services, and we presume that each woman and child is entitled to supports that address individual needs and are culturally sensitive and uphold their dignity.
To ensure a complete service to the women and children we serve, we believe the following recommendations are necessary to implement.
First, ensure that women's shelters and transition houses are fully funded and have professional capacity and the staffing numbers to provide appropriate emotional support and manage crises while safeguarding the well-being of all in the shelter or transition house;
As well, continue to advocate for increased second-stage housing that allows women the time to transition from a violent relationship to a safer place; provide housing options that enable women to preserve or re-establish their relationships with their children, with subsidized child care and family services; increase funding to trauma-informed programs, such as Stopping the Violence and children's programming, to address wait-lists and allow more women and children access to expanded counselling and clinical services; and expand education and agency development around women-centred approaches, trauma-informed practice and mental health and addictions.
In addition, increase community-based follow-up for individual and innovative support services, such as opportunities for women to provide feedback and input regarding program designs and influence service delivery; develop voluntary and mandatory programming for perpetrators of violence; and provide funding to develop and strengthen partnerships across sectors that support women.
Work with government agencies and community partners to promote a better understanding of the systemic barriers that many women face when fleeing violence, and implement ways to reduce barriers, including economic stability, and increase access to safe and affordable housing, support services, increased assistance rates, and culturally sensitive services, to name a few.
Provide mandatory school curriculum that includes Violence is Preventable programming for children at all levels in our school systems.
Research best practices and develop and implement innovative approaches of service delivery for women fleeing violence that have been successful elsewhere; examine current capacity in some key areas of women's services in order to gain a better understanding of the service shortages among agencies; and provide funding to address these gaps.
In closing, I would like to add that domestic violence will not be eradicated by interventions solely focused on women or survivors of domestic violence. We need to promote systemic interventions that circumvent domestic violence, and include measures directed not only at perpetrators of domestic violence but at the wider society as well.
I understood the question.
In light of what I went through, what I try to do in my work is find a way to make the system work better. It helps because I provide services to women, and I'm a survivor, as you know.
I think being a survivor providing services allows women to see that there's potential to escape the violence. They can see for themselves that there's hope.
The truth of the story is that it was not the shelter system that allowed me to escape the situation I was in. In fact, it was friends whom I had to turn to. I was employed by a shelter at the time I went through the situation I was in, so that compromised a lot of possibilities.
I think that speaks to the stigma that women face when they're in a situation of domestic violence and where it is that they turn. The reality is that I think it's less than 11% of abused women who turn to shelters specifically to flee violence.
It's a much greater question than just shelter services. The biggest question is on how these women can be assisted to get back on their feet and ensure that by leaving violence, they're not looking at a future in poverty, especially when they're with children. It's so much more complex than the shelters alone.
However, being there as a survivor on the front lines, at least for the women I meet with and have the opportunity to touch base with, has been impactful for them. I truly come from a place of understanding and caring, and they appreciate that.
To have survivors on the front lines.... As we professionalize the shelter systems, we've kind of removed the survivors. We need to reinfuse that.
That's why I think it was so important to be here at this table. When I looked at your list—it was one of the comments that I forwarded to the clerk—I realized how many upper-level individuals you were hearing from. You weren't hearing from the front lines and the women who are impacted. I really appreciate being here for that.
I'm filling in on the committee today, so it's my first opportunity to sit on this particular committee. So many of the issues that you talk about are familiar to me because of other work that I do on mental health. I have a son with autism, and I've talked with many families who are living with autism who, at their most desperate point, have nowhere to turn either. They talk of almost the identical things you talk of.
Eva, you used the “nothing about us without us” line that is so prevalent in so many of the areas that we talk about.
I'm going to start with Anita, if I could.
Anita, on first nations, from my experience of visiting women's shelters, one of the things that is really important is the secret nature of the location. Oftentimes a woman will go to a shelter somewhere that is different from where she lives because of the nature of the violence. It seems to me, from hearing you speak, as though that would be a bit more of a challenge in some first nations communities where you might have a small community and someone might want to stay within the first nation community. How much of an issue would that be?
To Hiatus House, thank you. Your testimony is our final argument, basically. Everything you've said is extremely powerful, deeply articulate and terrible and true. Thank you for getting it on the record.
To the Haven Society, which is in Nanaimo and which I represent, I'm so proud of the work you do. Following on my colleague's question about collaboration, I've heard your executive director, Anne Taylor, say, “We collaborate.” The women's movement and particularly the shelter movement collaborate like crazy, yet when it comes to the point of submitting funding applications for particular programs, you have to prove and re-prove how collaborative you are. You have to invent new programs to show how collaborative you are and deliver a brand new service that has never been done. The way it's been described to me by a number of operators is that you are just going into pretzels to invent some new thing, when really what you need is to pay the workers well, keep the lights on, pay the rent and deliver the core service.
On Friday the NDP launched a new campaign in Nanaimo, and Lesley Clarke, from the Women's Resource Centre in Nanaimo, said most particularly that for women in her program and her organization she feels like she's building their safety system on a house of cards. The bottom layer of the house of cards is all these individual programs, but she has to pull out the bottom layer of the house of cards, because once you've done an innovative program, it's no longer innovative and the funding disappears.
That's what we're really trying to impress on this government: the need for the government to fund core operations so that across the country women have an equivalent access to safety and the shelter operators can just get on with their work of providing that safety net. Can you give us a picture of what that costs? What kinds of good practices has Haven had to abandon for the purpose of fitting into a new program funding operation instead of investing in that core operations funding?
I think Lesley hit the nail on the head when she said that in order to keep the doors open and the lights on, your core services may not exist, because you have to reinvent them when in fact you're actually doing the same thing.
I think about the transition house in particular. We have 17 beds, 10 for children and seven for women. In order to provide the kinds of services that we want to provide, we have to reinvent those services, i.e. groups. We have a variety of different groups. It could be 16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment, Weaving Our Voices or Process of Change, but at the end of the day, it's a support group that's peer-led by women.
In terms of providing services to kids, we have the PEACE Program. It used to be called the Children Who Witness Abuse program. I can't remember now what the acronym stands for, because I'm somewhat nervous right now, Sheila. We've named it something different, but at the end of the day we're providing services and supports to kids and families and their caregivers as a result of the abuse and violence that kids have witnessed.
In terms of housing, we've had to be very creative around our work with landlords and with other community partners, such as the Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society, in terms of moving women from shelters into safe and affordable housing that they can be in for the long term.
At the end of the day, you have to be extremely creative and you have to get the best bang for your buck. You have to be totally committed to being fully engaged in providing that service, because you don't know when that funding is no longer going to be available.
Thank you all. This is really fascinating and troubling.
I come from a municipal background, so we worked as councillors—and I was the mayor of Hamilton—from the ground up seeing these issues. As an example, Mission Services had a building they were going to use. I suggested to them that they sell it, which they weren't inclined to do at first, but they did sell that building for $700,000. They said, “Well, we sold it. Now what do we do?” We found them a surplus building that was actually better for $350,000. This is 2008-2009, so prices have gone up, but the point is they were able to manipulate their assets to get a better outcome.
What I would ask you all is whether you have a relationship with a municipality, and whether they are knowledgeable and aware. They have things like vacant buildings, properties and so on, that may become useful to you.
I'll ask Dawn first, and then Eva, and then Anita.
Dawn, do you have a relationship in Nanaimo with the municipality, and does it work to your benefit?
You know what? I'll make this very personal, and I'll take it back to a time in Ottawa because this is where we are and this was my hometown. Often there are suggestions of empty buildings, and I look around my community and I see in Windsor there are vacant buildings, and I sometimes question that.
I also believe that women and children deserve the best quality of services and that it should not be a building that is in disrepair that is somehow made to be somewhat better, so I appreciate when it's good.
I will use the example of Ottawa in 1983-1984. We had Ottawa's finest move to their brand new building in 1983 on Elgin, and, as a result, the 60 Waller building, the old police station, became the homeless shelter, the emergency shelter, for women and children, where I resided from just before Christmas until February of the following year in 1985. It was in disrepair and eventually it was torn down, I think. The new Ontario gallery stands there.
In terms of it being a place where you put women and children, we were in a small room that was quite possibly, I gathered, an interrogation room with windows so high they were unreachable, cement planks that had little foam mattresses on them, and a steel toilet. I'm not sure that this was the best venue for a child to be in in terms of a homeless shelter, so I would seriously have you look at those solutions and what they mean in different communities. When you do it well, that's great, but I think we're—
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to Dawn, Anita and Eva for the work you do with your different societies and associations. I spent 35 years as a policeman, mostly in aboriginal policing, and the service that you provide is so great. I remember, so many years ago, that there was just nothing. I remember calling my wife in the middle of the night, saying she should take the kids into our bed because I was bringing some people home. That's what you had to do in a lot of the rural communities, because there was nothing there for them. You had to look to protection.
You've all spoken. I think you're here because you see a need for us as a federal government to get involved. I believe you are so correct.
I'll start with Eva, then go to Anita and finish with Dawn. Of the funding you get today to operate your facilities, how big a percentage would you say is federal, provincial, or local community-driven, be it either fundraising or through municipal grants and stuff like that?
Are community agencies such as policing, social services and medical professions aware of the services you do, and do they work with you fairly closely, or do we need to do a better job to ensure those agencies assist you?
Go ahead, Eva.
Following up on my colleague's question, every organization that has come here has talked about the need for core funding. I'm not disagreeing at all, but if you're going to run women's shelters—and we all hope they're going to go away, but they've been here for 45 years—and if a government provides core funding, then, as we're seeing in Ontario, where programs in social services are being decimated, you could easily have all of it disappear.
How do you make it easier for you to access grants, or whatever it might be, with the knowledge that governments change? If we were to provide core funding to you, in time you could have a new government come in and take it all away, as has happened in Ontario. Then you're really in trouble.
Eva, you're shaking your head. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on how to make the grant process more useful for you. How can we deal with that?
Very good. Thank you very much.
Thank you for the opportunity to present our findings, which I hope will give you insight into the demand for shelter space among women seeking help because of intimate partner violence. I will be presenting data collected through police reports as well as a shelter survey.
Slide 2 shows our key findings. In the past three years, the rate of intimate partner violence against females has increased slightly, by 4%. The rates are highest in the territories, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The last time we collected shelter data, we found that one in four women had sought shelter from the facility before and that more than half of the women who sought shelter because of abuse were admitted with their children. I would also like to point out that we have new shelter data coming out in the spring, data I believe will be essential to the committee's study.
Slide 3 shows data from the survey on shelters. The last time these data were collected was in 2014. At that time, more than 600 shelters across Canada offered services to women fleeing domestic violence and their children. In all, the shelters provided over 12,000 beds. The provinces with the most shelters were Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. The day on which the survey was administered, more than half the women who had sought shelter were under the age of 35, and more than seven out of 10 women were looking for a shelter in a big city. In 2014, the average number of beds per facility was 19.
Moving on to slide 4, I should note that it provides an overview of shelter capacity in relation to the number of police-reported incidents of intimate partner violence. We know that, during the same year, about 70,000 women were victims of intimate partner violence, as reported to police. Once again, the highest rates were observed in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, the three largest provinces in the country.
Another data point worth noting is the rate of intimate partner violence. From that standpoint, we look at the number of victims and population differences. That way, we are able to see which regions present the highest risk. In 2014, the regions with the highest rates of intimate partner violence, as with crime overall, were the three territories, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.
Switching to slide 5, from this slide we note that the majority of women in shelters cited abuse as their primary reason for seeking shelter in 2014, and 78% of them identified their abuser as an intimate partner.
If you turn to the next slide, slide 6, this graph shows the various forms of abuse women have been reporting to the shelter. Note here that women can report more than one form of abuse. We can see the various forms of abuse experienced by these women on this chart. For example, two-thirds reported emotional abuse and half reported physical abuse. Also, 21% of women reported that sexual abuse was a factor for seeking shelter, and more than a quarter of women wanted to protect their children from witnessing the abuse.
On the next slide we can highlight some information that looks at capacity issues. In 2014, on a snapshot day, more than 300 women and 200 of their children were turned away from a shelter. More than half of these individuals were turned away because the shelter was at capacity. Other reasons for being turned away included alcohol and drug issues, 8%; mental health issues, 6%; and women being on a non-admit or caution list, 4%.
Another critical data point to consider is that one in four of the residents served on the snapshot day had stayed at the shelter before—that is, they were return clients of the shelter. Among these, 37% had stayed at the same shelter one time in the previous 12 months, and 17% had stayed there two to three times, while 30% had stayed at the shelter but had their stay more than a year ago.
Additionally, almost half of the female residents had not reported the abuse to the police.
Now we turn to the type of services these shelters are offering. According to the last iteration of the transition home survey covering the year 2014, there was a range of services that were available to women residents, including counselling, transportation services and housing referrals. Many shelters were also able to meet the diverse needs of indigenous women and children.
Up to now, I've presented information that was collected in 2014, the last time we captured information on shelters. Now I'd like to provide you with trend analysis related to intimate partner violence against females reported to the police and coming from the uniform crime report.
Overall in Canada, between 2009 and 2014 there was a year-over-year decline in rates of intimate partner violence against women. However, since 2014 these rates have increased by 4%, almost all driven by an increase in females being victims.
We now look at regional differences.
The largest increases over the three-year period were noted in Northwest Territories, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island. However, decreases were noted in Yukon, B.C. and Alberta. Remember these are percentage changes. Overall, levels of intimate partner violence against females remain much higher in the territories and higher in Manitoba and Saskatchewan compared to British Columbia and the east.
To finish this presentation, I would like to draw your attention to two new surveys that are still in collection right now and being processed, and will be informative to your critical research here.
The first survey is the survey of residential facilities for victims of abuse, which is replacing the transition home survey we conducted the last time in 2014. It will be collecting important new information listed on slide number 11 here. Specifically, the survey will provide us with information on the characteristics of shelter residents, according to age and gender, and further by indigenous identity, visible minority identity, residency status and whether they have disabilities, and, if so, which type. The first results will be available next spring, in 2019.
Also coming toward the end of next summer in 2019, Statistics Canada will be releasing data from the new survey of safety in public and private spaces. We will have additional information that will be of value to this committee—in particular, intimate partner violence victims will be asked to report on whether they have had to leave their home because of violence and, if so, where they went. Combined with numerous individual characteristics and other victimization results, these data will present a very interesting picture of the situation.
This ends our presentation today, so we're ready for questions. Thank you.
Thank you to the witnesses. The timing is really good to bring this information together.
On November 8, your Centre for Justice Statistics in Stats Canada released a report called “Police-reported sexual assaults in Canada before and after #MeToo, 2016 and 2017”. The numbers were pretty striking. There were 25% more victims of police-reported sexual assault in the three months after #MeToo first went viral. The average number of police-reported sexual assault victims went from 59 per day before #MeToo to 74 per day after #MeToo.
I'm hearing that this is increasing the load on the front-line women's organizations, whether they're operating domestic violence shelters.... It's all sexual assault prevention. They're very intertwined.
I'm curious as to whether you have data or are planning to collect data, now that the taboo on reporting is being lifted, on how this increase in demand is stretching the limits of these sexual assault support centres and the rape crisis centres, the help lines, the trauma lines. There are so many that are involved in this.
Is this something that StatsCan is collecting or is planning to collect?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'd like to thank the witnesses for coming out today. You brought some very interesting statistics.
There's one question I want to ask you, and then I keep thinking maybe I shouldn't ask you, but I will leave that towards the end.
I'm finding your graph number 3 very interesting. I'm either confused or I'm going to be shocked at what your answer is going to be.
According to the 2014 GSS, 6% of women who were victims of spousal violence in the provinces reported that they had contacted or used a shelter, transition home....
That's what you say on that line. Then you're telling me that we have 12,058 beds across Canada and that 51% of the women were turned away, and I'm trying to do the math here.
It's already shocking that we need 24,000 beds. We know that. That tells us that right off the bat, but what it tells me is that it's only 6%, and if 6% is 12,058, where am I missing the math here, folks? It's a little confusing to me. Either we're drastically under-bedded or there's a lot more going on there than we realize. According to your statistic, it's telling me that there's a lot more going on than we really realized. Can you answer that?