March 19, 2020
Dear EVA BC Members, Colleagues, Partners, Friends, and Supporters:
I know we are all feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, both in our personal and work lives. We felt it was important to reach out to all of you involved in the work of responding to, or supporting the response to, gender-based violence in BC.
We want to say that first and foremost, we hope you are safe and that you have found ways to physically distance yourself from others for your own safety and to contribute to #FlattenTheCurve. At the same time, we hope you are able to stay connected to the people you love and to the clients/community members who may need you right now.
Gender-based violence increases during disasters
Many of you will know that sexualized violence, intimate partner violence, and child abuse have been found to increase dramatically immediately when disasters strike, as well as in the short-, medium-, and long-term recovery times post-disaster. This has been true in areas where there have been earthquakes, forest fires, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, and other disasters. This has been documented in BC and around the world.
The situation we currently face is unprecedented in its reach and in its potential period of impact. Those with expertise in the area of gender-based violence and disasters have helped us to understand that while the vast majority of people will rise to the occasion to assist others, there remains a small segment in society, those with histories of violence, who may try to take advantage of the vulnerability of others.
Additionally, because of the stress caused by loss of income or jobs, loss of housing and other losses, people who may have already acted out in violent or abusive ways may all be doing this at the same time. So, although disasters don’t cause people to act out in these ways, destabilizing factors can lead some to be short tempered and to lose control and others to be downright abusive and violent.
Please see our past EVA Notes on this subject.
We are ready to provide you even more support
Together, we have put in place many strong mechanisms in BC to assist those of you on the front lines with managing and mitigating risks from gender-based violence. Our collective hats continue to go off to you, the first responders to gender-based violence. It is our hope that your ICATs are able to carry on their work in ways that are safe, such as secure Zoom meetings or conference calls.
We hope that those who do not have an ICAT will know that EVA BC’s virtual doors remain open. We are ready to provide you even more support than on regular days. We are prepared with a full complement of staff, both from our EVA BC office and in our Community Coordination for Women’s Safety program.
New economic measures provide nation-wide support
On March 18, the Prime Minister of Canada announced a new set of economic measures to help stabilize the economy and help Canadians affected by the impacts of this challenging period. These measures, delivered as part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, will provide up to $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses, plus $55 billion to meet liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through tax deferrals to help stabilize the economy.
Combined, this $82 billion in support represents more than 3 per cent of Canada’s GDP. This wide-ranging support will help ensure Canadians can pay for rent and groceries, and help businesses continue to pay their employees and their bills during this time of uncertainty.
$50 million to sexual assault centres, shelters and more
This includes $50 million to help sexual assault centres, shelters, and other community anti-violence programs in their capacity as first responders during the current health crisis, to prevent or manage outbreaks in your facilities and/or other COVID-19 related capacity impacts to gender-based violence. This, of course, includes funding for facilities and programs in Indigenous communities.
I just now got off the phone with Minister Monsef’s office [Maryam Monsef, federal Minister of Women and Gender Equality], which wanted to make sure we knew about this coming support and to assure us that they are working fast to get this funding into the gender-based violence response programs that need it. Please stay tuned in the coming days for more detail about where and how to apply for the funds. Bravo to Minister Monsef and Prime Minister Trudeau!!
BC Provincial Court to delay cases
You may have also heard the announcement from BC’s Provincial Court this past Monday. They let us know about their own response to COVID-19 that will entail putting forward some cases until May. While completely understandable, we want to let you know that if you are worried that such court date changes will impact anyone’s safety, we want to help — that is, if you are unable to find a resolution in your community.
Critical incident process to come
As soon as we can, we will be touching base with BC Prosecution Services, RCMP E Division, the BC Chiefs of Municipal Police, MCFD, and BC Corrections so that we can put in place a critical incident process to fasttrack anything that is urgent, life threatening or where severe violence is imminent. We are here to assist you, so please don’t hesitate to be in touch. Email is likely the best route.
We will continue to use these channels to provide you updates. Together, we are stronger and so while we all keep physical distance, let’s stay connected. Please also see below.
Until our next update, please stay safe and please know that EVA BC is with you.