Small increase for Sask. domestic violence shelters 'a nice token': advocate

Province puts $75K toward shelter staff salaries in 2019-20 budget

Original Article: CBC News  |  Kendall Latimer  |  March 26, 2019

Jo-Anne Dusel said Saskatchewan's latest budget doesn't go far enough when it comes to dealing with domestic violence.

Dusel is the executive director of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS.)

"There was a very small increase for the women's shelters that PATHS represents," she said.

The increase comes from $75,000 for interpersonal violence and abuse focused community based organizations to increase salary budgets by one per cent.

"One per cent is a nice token," Dusel said. 

She also noted that "over the past decade the women's shelters have not received more than a 1.5 per cent increase per year."

Dusel said shelters are "falling behind" and struggle to keep up with rising costs of necessities such as food or utilities. 

"It essentially amounts to very small but actual real cuts in their funding," she said. 

"A lot of our member agencies are having to cut back on services and programs that they've been able to offer over the years because the small increase of one per cent doesn't actually meet the need."

Furthermore, she said donations have eased up during the last decade as the economy slowed.

Province must invest more: Dusel

Dusel said the province appears willing to work with PATHS, pointing to the recent Domestic Death Violence Review Report and Clare's Law, which lets police inform people who may not know they are in an intimate relationship with someone who has a history of violence.

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan said the province is "increasing things across the board." 

He pointed to $427,000 being used for expanded programming. 

The money will go toward four new sexual assault counsellor positions in Prince Albert, Estevan, Meadow Lake and Swift Current.

It will also be used to expand the Children Exposed to Violence program to Sandy Bay and Deschambault Lake as well as the Kids Matter program.

He said the province expects Clare's Law to come into effect later this year and added that the province offers ten unpaid days of leave for people dealing with domestic violence. Morgan said discussions around paid leave are underway. 

"I feel like the political will is there, in a sense, to do the work, but what we haven't seen is having a lot of dollars in place to actually address the scope of the issue," Dusel said. 

She said the province has long known about Saskatchewan's high rates of intimate partner violence.

"If we're serious about changing that, we're going to have to put some investments in."

Calls for prevention programming 

Dusel said more money needs to go toward looking at more innovative ways to address the problem — including looking at community programming for perpetrators of violence.

She said one shelter has had to cut its second-stage housing program and another had to cut a program targeted toward men who had used violence in relationships.

"It was something that our member agency had been doing because there was a need," she said.

She noted the recent case of Duran Redwood, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing his romantic partner Celeste Yawney in Regina in 2015. Yawney had at one point worked at the YWCA with women fleeing abuse.

"She knew what safety measures were out there, what supports were available to her and she still was not able to stay safe," she said.

Yawney's family said they knew she was in trouble but didn't know how to help.

Dusel noted that's often the case in domestic homicides. 

She also noted Redwood's lengthy criminal history of domestic violence involving his past girlfriends. Court heard that in one incident, he called the police in search of help before the situation escalated.

"When do we start putting our money and our attention on preventing it by providing services to those who are using violence?"

Dusel also said that more work needs to be done when it comes to raising awareness about domestic violence in the public and through school curriculum.