News that Ontario has abandoned an expert panel aimed at ending violence against women has left Michelle Batty feeling defeated.
“It feels like we are going backwards,” said the executive director of both the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre Sarnia-Lambton and Women’s Interval Home.
She’s referring to last week’s announcement that Doug Ford Conservative government is ending the Roundtable on Violence Against Women, formed by in 2015 by the previous Liberals.
Led by activists and educators Farrah Khan and Pamela Cross, the group was launched to advise the government on emerging issues of gendered violence and included members from 22 organizations, including the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, which represents the SASCSL.
“I’m really disappointed because it was such an important partnership between government and front-line services,” said Batty, noting the roundtable was the first of its kind in Ontario and largely volunteer-based.
“This was a great opportunity for the government to learn about issues that impact women’s lives — from their health to the criminal justice system.
“Violence against women is non-partisan and we need our government’s support.”
The announcement comes as new statistics show 106 women and girls were killed in Canada over the first eight months of 2018, primarily by men. Half the deaths were in Ontario.
According to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, those numbers are part of a decades long trend of femicide — when men kill women and girls in the context of their intimate relationship and/or the result of sexual violence.
Locally, the number of women accessing services continues to rise, Batty said, noting the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre alone had more than 400 clients last year.
“We’re totally full,” she said of the Interval Home. “We are over capacity.”
The emergence of the #MeToo movement has helped women come forward who may not have otherwise had the courage to seek help, she said.
“This (roundtable) was part of the solution and I’m not understanding the reason to disband it,” said Batty.
“I’m hoping they’ll come up with something. We’ll be watching.”