Abused women’s shelters unhappy with McGuinty
Complain they need government funding, not help with fundraising

Dec. 13, 2004. 02:57 PM


The people who run shelters for abused women in Ontario say they’re not impressed with a new government strategy to combat domestic violence that was unveiled earlier today by Premier Dalton McGuinty.

“We’re very troubled by the announcement about the money, essentially for shelters to do it on their own,” said Eileen Morrow, executive director of the Association of Interval and Transition Houses.

“Shelters have been absolutely crushed by the amount of fundraising they’ve been doing,” she added.

Instead of providing more funding for women’s shelters, the province is offering them financial support to better connect with their communities to raise funds locally, something the shelters say they already do very well.

“We are very connected to our communities, very much so,” stressed Morrow.

“And I’m a little disappointed today that the minister didn’t recognize that the pressure on shelters to do more and more fundraising did not lead shelters to ask for fundraisers.”

The four-year, $56-million plan includes $3.5 million dollars in each of the first two years for shelters to “improve their functional capacity and help them become more financially independent.” A ministry spokeswoman said that means shelters will be able to hire full-time fundraisers but the funding for that program falls to $1.4 million a year in 2007 and 2008.

There will also be one-time funding of $2 million to help refurbish existing shelters and second-stage housing, the places abused women and children go after leaving the shelters.

Pam Cross, a lawyer with the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children, said it was insulting to hear the government say shelters need help connecting with their communities.

“Our shelter has been operating for 25 years (and) is an intrinsic part of our community,” said Cross. “We don’t need somebody in Toronto telling us how we should work to do that.”

But Social Services Minister Sandra Pupatello said the Liberals don’t believe shelters should be dependent on the province for funding because the government of the day can slash its support, just like the Conservatives did in 1995.

“We know that they have to be better attached to their community, and cannot be subject to the whim of a government,” said Pupatello. “They’re spending vital operating funds on fundraising, (so) we need to help them so their operating dollars go to helping women.”

NDP social services critic Marilyn Churley said it was “insane” for the province to ask shelters to compete with hospitals and other community agencies looking for support.

“It doesn’t make sense,” insisted Churley.

“The Liberal government has broken yet another promise by not passing a strong Victim’s Rights legislative bill,” said Conservative critic Elizabeth Witmer in the legislature.

“You focus on . . . (legislation allowing people to) bring your own bottles of wine to the restaurant rather than making sure that our children can be protected from violence and abuse.”

Morrow also said there is not enough of a fundraising base in parts of Ontario, especially the north, to allow shelters to cover all their operating costs.

A total of $5.9 million is earmarked to train front-line workers and others to better recognize early signs of abuse and to help victims get information and support. Another $4.9 million will go to a public education and prevention campaign, including television ads aimed at eight-to-14 year-old boys and girls.

There was positive response to other aspects of the domestic violence strategy, especially its efforts to help francophone women, natives, disabled and new Canadians trapped in abusive situations.

“We’re very supportive of things like designated funding for marginalized groups like aboriginal women and francophone women,” said Morrow, who also applauded the public education portion of the domestic abuse strategy.

“The fact this province is going to take a lead on legislative amendments with respect to custody and access is potentially enormously positive,” added Cross.

McGuinty said it was clear that no government or police force could effectively fight domestic violence unless the entire community agrees to make it a priority.

“We have to bring the power of public censure to bear on this issue. Women and children have the right to live free of fear and violence, especially in their homes.”