This article was in the Toronto Star today.
(Do NOT, under any circumstances, read the comments. Just don’t.)
A one-stop-shop for abused women and children, the Kitchener project is a coordinated effort between the justice system and social services where victims of domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and sexual assault can access everything from shelter and food to help navigating the often-intimidating legal process.
This one-stop-shop, based on an innovative model first tried successfully in San Diego, is now coming to Brampton, the first in the Toronto area.
This has been talked about in the VAW sector in Ontario for a number of years. Many small, feminist women’s shelters have been concerned about these one-stop centres because of what inevitably happens when the criminal/justice system is involved in any way with service provision to women in crisis.
The de-politicizing of violence against women.
While, yes, women do need to navigate many MANY services, which are challenging, difficult and even dangerous for them, and yes, it would perhaps be helpful for them to have more easy access to such services, in my opinion, having them all located in one non-political super-centre, isn’t the solution.
First, the close link to police services is troubling. For women who are racialized, living in poverty, and particularly for women who are in Canada without immigration status, or whose status is linked to their abuser who they are now estranged from, this has the potential to be even more devastating for women in crisis. There have been documented cases in which a woman has gone to the hospital after a sexual assault, decided to charge her abuser, and when the police learn she has no legal status in Canada, arrest and deport her. This is not an insignificant point, especially for a shelter-centre opening in the GTA, where the populations of women who aren’t born in Canada are higher than in other parts of the country.
Second, the manner in which services are delivered. Many shelters that I work with, shelters who were created in the 70s during the height of feminist expansion of raising awareness of the issue of violence against women, have a feminist, client-centered approach that serves to empower the women who require their services. Such shelters also do lobbying and advocacy (individual and systemic) for greater access to appropriate services to meet the wide range of needs of their clients/service users.
Advocacy isn’t funded, nor it is specifically allowed, given the government funds that are the foundation of all shelters’ budgets.
And yet is must continue.
The sector is vastly under-funded. And while the federal government can find $1 billion to pay for security at the G8/G20 summit this past summer, or $800 million for a new stealth fighter jet fleet, finding funds to support women leaving abusive partners, or funding affordable housing, well, that’s magically not possible. No more money.
The centre should be open by next summer, said Shelina Jeshani, coordinator for the Family Justice/Child Advocacy Planning Committee, which consists of 14 agencies, including Peel Regional Police and the Crown.
It is led by Catholic Family Services for Peel and Dufferin.
A building in Brampton has been identified and the different agencies are now hammering out details of this model, said Jeshani.
The federal government has given $2.3 million, while the province has given $1 million for the project. “We’ll need to fundraise another $3 million and that will give us a home,” she said.
So another huge concern is that this particular centre, opening next year in Brampton, Ontario, is being led by Catholic Family Services.
In general, feminism, and mainstream Christianity/Catholicism don’t mix well. I’m not sure why….. maybe because of the church being anti-woman, pro-stay-married-no-matter-what, anti-abortion, anti-queer. You know, those piddly little details.
Talk about de-politicizing. Fuck.
So my concerns, already on alert, have switched to a higher radar level.
This shit wouldn’t have had a chance in Toronto, where services and funding are desperately needed in the sector. No fucking way would the strong feminist organizations in my town have allowed the lead on such a project be run by a Catholic organization.
My skepticism has increased, and many of us will be keeping a close eye on what happens here.