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B.C. supporting survivors, breaking the cycle of gender-based violence

Press Release

Dec. 10, 2023

VICTORIA – B.C. is ramping up safety and supports for survivors of gender-based violence with a new three-year action plan released on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023.

“We have a great deal of work underway in B.C. to help address the systemic issue of gender-based violence,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Finance. “Today, we move forward with our next steps, in alignment with our partners and community service providers, in supporting survivors and making our communities safer.”

Safe and Supported: B.C.’s Gender-Based Violence Action Plan reports on vital work underway across government and actions that will be coming next year and beyond. The actions include boosting programming and supports for survivors, strengthening government’s response to the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and ramping up prevention and awareness campaigns. Initiatives were developed in consultation and co-operation with Indigenous partners, and with advice from community service providers and advocates.

The federal government is committing $61.9 million in new investments over four years for the plan under a new Canada-British Columbia bilateral agreement to end gender-based violence announced Dec. 8, 2023. This funding will help reduce critical wait lists, build capacity for community-based services, and address gaps for underserved communities. More than half of new funding will be invested in Indigenous-led initiatives to be announced in the coming months.

“We are working together to end isolation, stigma and apathy when it comes to gender-based violence, and make sure survivors can access the care and supports they need,” said Kelli Paddon, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity. “With this action plan, we are lifting up Indigenous-led approaches, breaking cycles of violence and working with communities to strengthen safety and supports for survivors.”

The new funding will contribute to transformational investments already underway in B.C., including: $1.2 billion over 10 years to create safe spaces and housing for women and children leaving violence; expanded cell service to make travel safer; 75 new sexual assault programs, including five sexual assault centres; new 24/7 crisis lines; new policing standards; and stronger victim supports and other programming supported by more than $60 million from the Province each year for gender-based violence supports and services.

“This action plan builds on new victim-centred and trauma-informed policing standards we’ve put in place to support survivors and respond to gender-based violence,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Everyone deserves fair and empathetic treatment after they have experienced devastating trauma, supports that are critical while we work towards a world where every woman, girl and gender-diverse person is able to live free from violence.”

The plan recognizes that gender-based violence is highly pervasive. Indigenous women and girls, and other racialized people, newcomers and 2SLGBTQIA+ people are especially affected by violence, as well as those living in poverty, in rural and remote communities, and those living with disabilities.

In particular, addressing the national crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people requires commitment and action from all levels of government. The Safe and Supported plan moves critical work forward in response to the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the 231 calls for justice.

The action plan has been informed by perspectives and recommendations from Indigenous leaders, community members, service providers, advocates, and survivors and their families. To continue to support collaboration in addressing gender-based violence, B.C. is expanding the mandate of the Gender-Based Violence Action Plan Advisory Committee, which was established in 2022 to provide guidance and feedback. The advisory committee, comprised of Indigenous partners, community service providers and advocates, will work with government to learn and monitor progress throughout the life of the plan.

Based on the advice of Indigenous partners and the advisory committee, B.C. will continue to strengthen initiatives and identify further actions in the future years of this three-year plan. To best meet the needs of survivors and service providers, Safe and Supported will be updated on an ongoing basis. A key foundation of the plan is continuous learning to monitor progress.

The Province also works collaboratively with the federal government and responds to priorities that support Canada’s recently released National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.

Learn More:

To read the Gender-Based Violence Action Plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/SafeandSupported_GenderBasedViolenceActionPlan_Dec2023.pdf

To read A Path Forward: Priorities and Early Strategies for B.C., B.C.’s response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/law-crime-and-justice/about-bc-justice-system/inquiries/mmiw/mmiwg-status-update-2023.pdf

To learn about StrongerBC Safe Communities, visit: https://strongerbc.gov.bc.ca/safer-communities

Four backgrounders follow.

Contact:

Joanne Whittier
Ministry of Finance – Gender Equity Office
Joanne.Whittier@gov.bc.ca

BACKGROUNDER 1

What people are saying about B.C.’s action on gender-based violence

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president, Union of BC Indian Chiefs –

“For far too long, governments and people in positions of power have turned a blind eye to gender-based violence, particularly when committed against Indigenous Peoples. The release of B.C.’s Safe and Supported Action Plan signals hope that the depravity of such violence will no longer be ignored, tolerated or relegated as ‘women’s work’ for women’s organizations and advocates to solve. Ending systemic violence against women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, and ensuring healing for survivors as well as perpetrators, will take the collective action of us all. I challenge this government to continue their work to uphold the rights of survivors, families and First Nations, to apply a gender-based analysis plus a trauma-informed and culturally safe approach to service provision, to collaborate between ministries and all levels of government to ensure this is a priority, and to act boldly to implement the National Inquiry’s Calls to Justice to end the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit people. It’s been centuries of unending heartache and senseless racialized violence towards our cherished relatives. The time to see all hands on deck to end the genocide once and for all is now.”

Cheryl Casimer, political executive, First Nations Summit –

“We acknowledge the principled and relational approach that the Province of B.C. undertook in the development of Safe and Supported: B.C.’s Gender-Based Violence Action Plan. First Nations traditional laws and knowledge guide how our communities prevent and respond to violence in a way that aligns with our values, and it is critical that this valuable knowledge is at the forefront as we collectively work to implement this plan. Existing reports on the unique and disproportionate forms of violence that are committed against Indigenous women invariably highlight the need for a new relationship between the Crown and First Nations based on respect and partnership. As we move forward on this initiative, we urge the Province to not only leverage the momentum and committed resources, but to also strengthen the government-to-government relationship with First Nations in alignment with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act so that we ensure a strong foundation and positive change where it is needed most.”

Regional Chief Terry Teegee, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations –

“The release of Safe and Supported: B.C.’s Gender-Based Violence Action Plan marks a positive milestone in our collective efforts to address gender-based violence in a holistic way that targets the root causes of this violence: colonialism, patriarchy, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. This plan, and the advisory committee that supported its development, will enable ongoing accountability and collaboration as we move forward. Ensuring that progress is transparently communicated, and that actions for Year 2 and 3 are developed in collaboration with First Nations and other partners will be intrinsic to successfully accomplishing our shared goals. I look forward to seeing the actions proposed in this plan contribute to positive change on the ground and in the lives of all people in B.C., including First Nations communities.”

Dr. Kate Elliott, chair of Métis Women BC, Métis Nation Minister of Mental Health and Harm Reduction –

“This action plan is critical to the Nation. Its commitment to inclusivity and the recognition of Métis-specific services, particularly the pivotal emphasis on implementing gender-based violence services for Métis women and 2SLGBTQQIA+. The four identified focus areas, notably lifting up Indigenous approaches, align with a vision of cultural visibility for our people. MNBC’s dedication to ensuring that Métis women and the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community, not only find themselves reflected in the services but also experience them in a culturally safe manner. This crucial recognition and focus underscore the profound importance of the action plan, and I am eager to witness MNBC’s continued collaboration with the Province in advancing the well-being of Métis individuals, families and communities.”

Leslie Varley, executive director, BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres –

“Until now anti-violence services in B.C. have been managed within a colonial mainstream model that was neither accessible nor safe for Indigenous women. As a result, Indigenous community has been left far behind in developing our anti-violence service capacity. BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres is hopeful B.C.’s gender-based violence action plan will ensure Indigenous capacity, cultural safety and inclusion within mainstream programs and services, and importantly, that it supports the development of a full suite of Indigenous-specific anti-violence services by and for Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people.”

Ninu Kang, executive director, Ending Violence Association of BC –

“Ending Violence Association (EVA) BC has been honoured to work with the B.C. Gender Equity Office to advise in the creation of the B.C. action plan, as we have continued to help move key strategic priorities forward to end gender-based violence in our province. This plan was created by actively listening to the knowledge and experience held by survivors, communities and those who understand the systemic barriers that individuals face when accessing supports. British Columbia’s communities must remain centred on elevating Indigenous approaches and working collaboratively to implement and monitor the plan’s outcomes. On behalf of EVA BC, I want to congratulate the Gender Equity Office and all who were involved in the creation of this plan and recognize that this is one more step in our continued work to ensure safety for survivors and our communities.”

Dalya Israel, executive director, Salal Sexual Violence Support Centre –

“Ending gender-based violence will require the earnest and focused efforts of all facets of society. The pervasive presence of rape culture, transmisogyny and misogyny in our culture underscores the need for comprehensive action, and Salal is honoured to collaborate with the federal and provincial governments in our shared commitment to transform this goal into a reality.”

Anoop Gill, executive director, QMUNITY –

“This action plan will finally include all those impacted by systems and structures that facilitate gender-based violence. Today, we see an increase in hate and violence especially towards our trans and gender-diverse community, which grossly impacts 2SLGBTQIA+ communities who experience gender-based violence. To be excluded from the conversation regarding shelter, intimate partner violence and policing has felt like an erasure of experiences and identity. The hope with this action plan is visibility, recognition, understanding and resources mobilized to support 2SLBGTQIA+ communities in beginning to heal from and resist gender-based violence.”

Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) –

“At BWSS, survivors of gender-based violence have told us what they need to be safe so that they can thrive, in particular that there is no universal experience or approach. So, the release of the B.C.’s Safe and Supported Action Plan presents a vital opportunity to enhance urban and rural community-based interventions and systemic responses toward advancing gender and racial justice. The vision of ending gender-based violence endures and BWSS is eager to work alongside our communities, First Nations, the provincial and federal governments to turn the plan into action.”

Amy FitzGerald, executive director, BC Society of Transition Houses (BCSTH) –

“The BC Society of Transition Houses applauds the B.C. and federal government’s commitment to addressing gender-based violence (GBV) through a national action plan and now B.C.’s GBV action plan. BCSTH is grateful to serve on the Province’s GBV advisory committee and looks forward to working collaboratively with the government and our 130 member programs all across B.C. to implement the plan. How fitting that these investments focus on the prevention and elimination of GBV while enhancing supports for survivors, children and youth during the 16 Days of Activism international campaign to prevent violence against women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ individuals in every community, country and culture. BCSTH and its membership stand in partnership and solidarity with the B.C. government to build a province and world where all survivors and their families thrive and GBV is no longer a daily reality.”

Sussanne Skidmore, president, BC Federation of Labour –

“For workers experiencing gender-based violence, this action plan couldn’t be more timely. Whether it happens in the home, the workplace or anywhere else, the impact of that violence resonates in every aspect of their lives. Preventing gender-based violence – and supporting those who experience it – should be high on the agenda of governments and employers alike. So it’s good to see the B.C. government listening to survivors and taking urgent action.”

Contact:

Joanne Whittier
Ministry of Finance – Gender Equity Office
Joanne.Whittier@gov.bc.ca

BACKGROUNDER 2

Increasing safety and supports for survivors

Actions underway and planned to address gender-based violence in B.C.:

  • doubled the number of Women’s Transition Housing Fund safe spaces to 3,000, with nearly 1,000 new spaces complete or underway;
  • introduced provincial policing standards to better support survivors during sexual assault investigations;
  • restored stable funding for 70 sexual assault programs, 22 of which are specifically for Indigenous survivors;
  • providing wraparound, compassionate, community-based care for sexual assault survivors with five new sexual assault centres in Vancouver, Victoria, Kamloops, Prince George and Surrey;
  • boosting funding to help service providers reduce waitlists and respond to pressures unique to their programs, enabling more access to services;
  • creating a 24/7 crisis line provided by Salal Sexual Violence Support Centre to give immediate support and referrals for people experiencing gender-based violence;
  • introduced B.C.’s new Intimate Images Protection Act to provide a faster way for people to get exploitative images offline quickly and seek monetary damages;
  • modernizing the Family Law Act;
  • increased flexibility and support for survivors with changes to the Crime Victim Assistance Program;
  • increasing cell service in rural and Indigenous communities and along high-risk transportation corridors;
  • introduced paid leave for people experiencing domestic and sexual violence through updates to the Employment Standards Act;
  • introducing free virtual counselling for survivors of intimate-partner violence and sexual assault, tailored for underserved communities;
  • keeping the locations of survivors and shelters confidential through co-ordination across government and with ICBC;
  • supporting survivors with new training, including brain injury awareness, to help shelter and supportive housing staff identify and respond to gender-based violence;
  • providing additional funding for specialized community teams that support survivors of domestic violence, sexual exploitation and human trafficking;
  • improved access to appropriate, culturally safe and trauma-informed sexual assault forensic examinations in hospital emergency departments;
  • providing access to legal services for survivors facing financial barriers through Legal Aid BC, in addition to eight provincially supported legal clinics, administered by the Law Foundation, which offer up to three hours of free legal advice for all survivors;
  • supporting the Bad Date and Aggressor Reporting Project to create a system for sex workers to anonymously share reports about bad dates across B.C.

Contact:

Joanne Whittier
Ministry of Finance – Gender Equity Office
Joanne.Whittier@gov.bc.ca

BACKGROUNDER 3

Lifting up Indigenous-led approaches

Actions underway and planned to lift up Indigenous-led approaches:

  • continue to address violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQIA+ people with ongoing work through A Path Forward: Priorities and Early Strategies for B.C. to respond to the recommendations from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls;
  • boosting the Path Forward Community Fund to provide direct resources for Indigenous-led safety planning and capacity building;
  • providing crisis support for Indigenous people through a new 24/7 crisis line led by the Indian Residential School Survivors Society;
  • supporting for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, which is leading development of the Oomiiqsu (Aboriginal Mother Centre) to provide a safe and culturally appropriate home for up to 48 mothers and children leaving violence or abuse, or facing mental-health and addictions challenges, poverty or other trauma;
  • recognizing the Moose Hide Campaign, a nationwide initiative of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who share a commitment to moving forward on lasting reconciliation and creating a safer world for Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQIA+ people;
  • expanding community-driven healing through programs such as the Giving Voice grant program;
  • moving the justice system toward more safety and responsiveness for First Nations survivors and perpetrators of gender-based violence with initiatives led by the BC First Nations Justice Council;
  • supporting Indigenous-led responses to gender-based violence and alternative resolution through Indigenous Justice Centres and programs;
  • supporting First Nations-led cultural practices and coming-of-age ceremonies for inter-generational healing and resiliency, and rebuilding connections to community, culture and Indigenous ways of knowing; and
  • implementing new gender-based violence programming for Métis women, girls and gender diverse people through partnering with Métis Nation BC.

Contact:

Joanne Whittier
Ministry of Finance – Gender Equity Office
Joanne.Whittier@gov.bc.ca

BACKGROUNDER 4

Breaking cycles of violence through prevention, healing, accountability

Actions underway and planned to break cycles of violence through prevention, healing and accountability:

  • to prevent sexualized violence at post-secondary institutions, continue annual consent campaigns and launch a new initiative to help end sexualized violence at these institutions;
  • promoting bodily autonomy and safety for students through consent-based training for educators with updated Student Health Guides in the K-12 school system;
  • educating young children about bodily autonomy through Let’s Talk About Touching, an inclusive child sexual abuse prevention program for children between three and eight;
  • investing in the Violence is Preventable Program, which brings Prevention, Education, Advocacy, Counselling and Empowerment Program counsellors to schools to deliver presentations about intimate partner violence and helps connect K-12 students experiencing violence to these counsellors;
  • helping men who commit abuse by expanding Caring Dads, a community-based program that helps men take responsibility for their abusive behaviour and understand the impact it has on their children and partners;
  • introducing new online resources for vulnerable youth transitioning out of government care to ensure they have access to information about gender-based violence, consent, healthy relationships and other important topics to help stay safe while building independence;
  • supporting children and youth who have experienced abuse with increased funding for the Sexual Abuse Intervention Program;
  • developing new conditions for gender and cultural safety on and around work camps, led by the Environmental Assessment Office;
  • continuing to combat hate and violence so that communities can be safer and more inclusive for transgender and gender-diverse people; and
  • improving civilian oversight for gender-based violence and harassment in policing.

Contact:

Joanne Whittier
Ministry of Finance – Gender Equity Office
Joanne.Whittier@gov.bc.ca

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