Roundtable on Supporting the Safety and Well-Being of Survivors
(August 24, 2016 – Montreal)

On August 24, 2016, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women along with Catherine Ferembach (Associate Deputy Minister responsible for the Secretariat for the Status of Women) hosted a roundtable on Supporting the Safety and Well-Being of Survivors, in Montréal, Québec. This roundtable is part of a broader engagement process to engage stakeholders across the country to inform the development of a federal strategy on gender-based violence. See http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/violence/strategy-strategie/index-en.html for more information about the engagement process.

This roundtable was rooted in the acknowledgment that any action to address gender-based violence must include support for the safety and well-being of survivors. Survivors are experts on their own personal experiences and have diverse backgrounds, needs and experiences. In Canada, there are a variety of supports for survivors such as: shelters and housing, victim services, counselling and advocacy support (including for those involved in the legal system).

This roundtable focused on what the federal government can do to support the safety and well-being of survivors. This included identifying interventions that support survivors, and identifying challenges faced by professionals who work with particularly marginalized survivors of GBV, and the resources they need.

Highlights

The roundtable discussion is summarized here. This summary should not be interpreted as a comprehensive account of the discussion, nor is it meant to suggest that there was consensus among the participants on the points outlined below.

Research participants identified the following as priority areas for federal government support for the safety and well-being of survivors:

  1. Coordination
    • This included coordination across departments and levels of government, as well as ongoing coordination and collaboration between government and community partners
      • Participants encouraged the extension of government engagement to all stages of the GBV strategy process.
      .
  2. Research and data collection
    • National baseline data is needed so that organizations can measure their impact and their effectiveness.
      • Participants noted that data should be collected with specialized measurement tools that recognize the diversity of identities in Canada and their intersectional impact on experiences of violence. These measurement tools must be specialized instruments that can attend to the unique and sensitive nature of collecting information on GBV.
    • Existing research should be shared to support evidence-based policy and programming.
    • Participants recommended researching international promising practices.
  3. Public awareness
    • Recognizing the importance of prevention through education and changing attitudes and the culture of violence, participants recommended national public education and awareness campaigns. These campaigns should address the root causes of GBV (for example, sexism and racism).
      • This included campaigns that sensitize Canadians to the many forms of GBV, campaigns that involve men and boys, and campaigns geared towards children and youth of all ages.
    • Participants also recommended thinking through the effectiveness of past campaigns, asking whether they actually changed behaviour, and how to make future campaigns innovative and effective.
  4. Strengthening the supports for survivors in the justice system
    • Survivors face challenges navigating family court and the criminal justice system.
    • Participants emphasized the importance of supporting and respecting survivors, particularly in the face of re-traumatization through the court process.
      • Newcomer, racialized and Indigenous women were identified as feeling particularly unsafe in the justice system. Violence against Indigenous women by police officers was highlighted as a major issue.
    • Participants recommended revisiting Bill C-36 and its impact on the safety of sex workers and their families.
    • Participants recommended anti-oppression training for police officers and as a requirement for judicial appointments.
    • Participants noted that currently intersex and trans people do not have adequate legal rights and recognition. This is needed for their safety from institutional, cultural and interpersonal violence.
      • For example, participants recommended amending the clause in the criminal code that allows doctors to determine the sex of intersex people.
  5. Funding
    • Noting the limitations placed on organizations by short-term funding, participants recommended federal program funding that is more consistent and long-lasting.
      • Participants also noted the problems of funding opportunities that are in silos. They recommended increased collaboration between funding bodies to facilitate collaboration at the grassroots level.
    • Participants also noted the importance of direct funding for survivors escaping violence to account for the financial burden of leaving an abusive home

Participants identified the following as promising practices in supporting the safety and well-being of survivors:

  • Peer support: participants emphasized the importance of peer-to-peer support, including organizations founded by survivors for survivors.
  • Equitable services delivered in the first-language of survivors and that recognize intersecting identities
  • Decolonizing research and campaigns:
    • For example, research that links violence against Indigenous women (for example, sisters in spirit) and strengths-based campaigns that honour Métis, Inuit and First Nations women as distinct identities who are more than the violence done to them.

The following were identified as priority populations and issues that should be addressed in order to equitably support the safety and well-being of survivors:

  • Participants recognized the need for a continuum of supports for survivors of violence.
    • For example, shelters, transitional and long-term social housing; support during and after leaving a partner who uses violence, and services for children, including accessible daycare.
  • On-reserve shelters were identified as inconsistently and under-resourced.
    • On-reserve shelters should be given the support to be the model for what a shelter could be.
  • Newcomer women face unique challenges and vulnerabilities:
    • Participants noted that conditional spousal sponsorship and regulations embedded in programs like the Live-in Caregiver program increase women’s vulnerability and should be amended.
    • Trauma-informed support is needed for newcomer women who may have experienced multiple forms of violence, including genital mutilation, war trauma, or sexual violence in refugee camps.
    • Participants noted the high percentage of newcomer women in shelters, and the need for affordable housing, as well as training and research to address their unique experiences.
  • Elder abuse was identified as under-recognized, in part because elderly people are afraid to report.
    • Poverty of older women was linked to elder abuse.
  • LGBTQQI2S face unique forms of structural and street violence, and often lack support for experiences of intimate partner violence. Trans people – and especially young trans women – lack supports and services, like shelters.
  • On-campus violence requires federal leadership.
Date modified: