By Arielle Zerr
Hot on the heels of a Statistics Canada report that showed Saskatchewan having the highest rates of domestic abuse against women in the whole country, the Saskatchewan government has increased funding for provincial women’s shelters.
During his budget speech Wednesday, finance minister Ken Krawetz announced the funding of a new transition house in Melfort that will be available for women in northeast Saskatchewan. The construction cost of the new shelter will be shared between the government and the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation.
According to Louise Schweitzer, executive director of North East Outreach and Support Services, the new transition house in Melfort will fill a need in the area.
“The closest (transition house) is in Prince Albert and they currently run at about 99 per cent capacity. So it’s very hard when we get women to the point where they seek shelter and then not be able to assist them in finding shelter,” she said.
The original proposal for Melfort’s transition house went to the government in September 2010. Despite the wait, Schweitzer is still thankful for the funding, which she feels will be life-changing for the women who access the shelter.
“I feel it gives them a chance at hope, leaving an unsafe situation and giving their children a chance to live domestic violence-free,” said Schweitzer.
In addition to Melfort’s new transition house, the Saskatchewan government has increased the money going to all the province’s women’s shelters by $800,000. This brings the provincial funding up to $7.6 million.
Social services minister June Draude said the increased funding shows the government’s commitment to women. She also noted that in light of Saskatchewan’s high rate of domestic violence that was outlined in the Statistics Canada report, the government will be looking for more solutions.
“That’s one of the issues that as a government that the premier has tasked us all with. This is not a statistic we’re proud of,” said Draude. “So I’m working with my colleagues to come up with a plan to say, 'How can we change where we are right now?”'
Social services critic Danielle Chartier said the budget is not doing enough for women in domestic violence situations.
“Not only is it (about) opening more beds but ensuring there are good supports for people to feel like they can earn a living on their own. There are so many things that keep people in family violence situations so I think that dealing with some of those social determinants of health is really important, too: housing costs, education and those kinds of things,” said Chartier.
And in a province where the occurrence of domestic violence is nearly double the rest of the country, Chartier said we should be doing a lot more.