Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef arrives on Parliament Hill during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef arrives on Parliament Hill during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Feds double COVID-19 fund for abused women to $100 million

Data shows that one in 10 women is very or extremely concerned about possibility of violence during pandemic

People are told to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic to stay safe, but homes are not safe places for abused women, says Silvia Samsa, the executive director of Women’s Habitat.

Samsa’s organization provides a shelter for women and children fleeing violence in the Etobicoke area in Toronto. It also runs a crisis line.

“We’ve had a woman who called us from the washroom of a local grocery store,” she said in an interview. “It’s becoming more and more difficult for women to do that safety planning to figure out how to leave in a way that’s going to be safe.”

Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the conditions that make women, children and gender-diverse people vulnerable to violence.

She said that’s why the government is doubling the emergency funding it’s promised to agencies and organizations that help victims of gender-based violence. The new funding adds to another $50-million program announced in March.

“Our government, since the very beginning back in March, saw it as a risk,” Monsef said.

Samsa said her organization is getting crisis calls from women, not only seeking physical safety but also emotional support.

Her organization received about $64,000 from the federal government near the beginning of the pandemic.

“We (ordinarily) do a lot of fundraising, a lot of third-party events. We have our own large gala that we can’t we weren’t able to do,” she said. “That type of money from the federal government has really helped.”

Monsef said the government partnered up with about 1,500 organizations working with women and children across the country.

“(The organizations) were able to keep their doors open, keep their staff safe and their clients safe,” she said. “There is help for you; talk to someone you trust and seek the support.”

Leah Morgan, the executive director of Alternatives for Women in Prince Edward County, Ont., said her organization received $32,000 from the federal government.

She said she’s seeing a decline in calls on Alternatives for Women’s crisis line, but she’s sure that domestic violence has increased, based on statistics released from the local police department.

Many women have been isolated at home with their abusers and their children, so they have very limited opportunity to reach out for support, Morgan said.

Statistics Canada data show that one in 10 women is very or extremely concerned about the possibility of violence in the home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Morgan said workers used to schedule time to connect with abused women when their partners are away, but the pandemic has meant fewer chances to do that.

Many women who have left their partners and have children are unable to make in-person appointments or even find the time for counselling over the phone because they are busy caring for children who haven’t been in school or daycare, she said.

“Women are unable to reach out,” Morgan said. “It’s the most concerning challenge for women living in violent homes right now.”

READ MORE: NDP wants to criminalize domestic emotional abuse with new law

Alternatives for Women was providing counselling services remotely from March until the end of July.

The organization was able to create an outdoor counselling space with a privacy fence and a gazebo to establish a comfortable and secure place, Morgan said.

The organization also has a transitional shelter with 11 apartments where women reside with their children.

She said the operation is run solely by women who have other obligations such as parenting their children, and that was a challenge when their children were home.

The organization has faced understaffing because of COVID-19.

“If they show any symptoms, like even a runny nose, they have to self-isolate for 14 days or until their test results come in,” Morgan said.

The fact that people are having a conversation about gender-based violence is one of the few good things that happened during the pandemic, Monsef said. “I suppose that’s among the few silver linings that have come because of this awful cruel virus.”

She said there’s a need for a longer-term plan to deal with the problem.

“The issue of gender-based violence is not a women’s issue, per se. It is an issue of public health, of public safety.”

The Canadian Women’s Foundation has created a signal that women can use on video call without having to say out loud that they need help, Monsef said.

“You can open your hand, (curl) your thumb in, close the hand, form a fist,” she said.

Monsef urged anyone who sees this sign to reach out to the woman and ask whether she needs help.

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusdomestic violence

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Ponoka youth fills backpacks for less fortunate

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County, donated 20 backpacks he filled with necessities

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

The Calnash Ag Event Centre will be closed for competitions until at least Jan. 21, 2020. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Outlook for Calnash in 2021 a waiting game

Ag event centre losing thousands during shutdown

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

(Photo submitted)
Community Futures brings back Social Media Challenge for 2021

This time the challenge is for non-profits and community groups

A conveyor belt transports coal at the Westmoreland Coal Co.’s Sheerness mine near Hanna, Alta., on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Coal mining impacts are already occurring in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry’s presence in one of the province’s most beloved landscapes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
As Alberta debates coal mining, industry already affecting once-protected Rockies

UCP revoked a policy that had protected eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mining since 1976

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb. TC Energy Corp. is planning to eliminate more than 1,000 construction jobs related to its decision to halt work on its Keystone XL pipeline expansion project. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
TC Energy cutting more than 1,000 Keystone XL construction jobs as Biden pulls permit

Some 200 kilometres of pipe have already been installed for the expansion

Kyla Gibson with her boyfriend Gavin Hardy. (Photo used with permission)
Sylvan Lake couple lose ‘fur babies’ to house fire

‘They were our world and nothing will ever replace them,’ Kyla Gibson said of her three pets

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Most Read