The 2021 Federal Budget released on April 19th by Canada’s first female Finance Minister and her all-female task force has the aim of bringing about a more inclusive, feminist pandemic recovery.
Women have been disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The economist Armine Yalnizyan uses the term ‘she-session’ to point to the phenomenon of women leaving the workforce in unprecedented numbers in the last year, reversing the progress made since the 1980s. Women have not only been doing the brunt of the unpaid care work at home, but racialized women in particular are over-represented in Canada’s precarious caring professions, putting themselves at risk to take care of others.
Another emerging trend affecting women during the pandemic has been a rise in intimate partner violence, sexual violence and interpersonal violence. Being asked to stay at home is not a safe option for everyone, and countless women struggle to access services, find a shelter space, or leave their abusive partners in what the UN has called a ‘shadow pandemic’ of violence against women.
EVA Canada is heartened to see that the 2021 Budget recognizes the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and gender diverse, Indigenous and racialized people and takes steps to address increasing inequalities. More specifically, we are glad to see concrete investments to address gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual violence in particular.
Long before the #Metoo Movement of 2017, sexual assault centres have been operating well over capacity, and survivors of sexual violence often have to wait for months before receiving the support they need. Although the demand for services has dramatically increased in recent years, funding has not reflected this adequately.
EVA Canada particularly welcomes the government’s investment of $601.3 million towards the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence. This includes:
- $200 million to build the capacity of organizations that work to support survivors of GBV, including sexual assault centres and women’s shelters
- $105 million for GBV programming, including violence prevention, engaging men and boys, programming to counter human trafficking, and support for at-risk populations and survivors
Commitments to establishing a dedicated Secretariat for the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, and investments in additional funds in crisis lines, research and developing a national femicide database, violence prevention and promotion of healthy relationships, and supervision services for parenting time during/post separation and divorce are also welcome.
In addition to the funding to build the capacity of sexual assault centres, the budget included a number of other investments of particular importance to supporting sexual violence survivors:
- $85.3 for independent legal advice and representation to victims of sexual assault and intimate partner violence
- $45 million to address gaps in sexual and reproductive health services
- $20.7 to tackle online child sexual exploitation
- over $236.2 million dedicated to eliminate sexual misconduct and gender-based violence in the Canadian Armed Forces and enhance supports for survivors
Throughout the budget, the government recognizes that certain groups such as young women, Indigenous women, women with disabilities, racialized women and members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community are at higher risk of experiencing violence. With that in mind, EVA Canada is encouraged to see $2.2 billion intended to address root causes and implement the Calls for Justice from the Final Report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
In addition, $55 million will go towards Indigenous organizations to enhance their capacity with regards to GBV programming, and $2 million has been set aside for information and supports for new Canadians facing GBV. Other notable measures include $200 million towards initiatives that empower Black communities and counter anti-Black racism, as well as investments to counter radicalization to violence, gun control measures, and reforming federal disability programs and benefits. Continuing to advocate for others disproportionately impacted by violence in distinct ways, including 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, sex workers, women with a precarious immigration status and senior women will be important to ensure that these communities receive necessary and adequate support. For instance, although $15 million in funding was directed toward 2SLGBTQIA+ community initiatives, advocates say it will do little to address decades of chronic underfunding.
The Budget proposes further key investments that will make a substantial difference in women’s lives by strengthening their economic security, and in particular that of working and single mothers, and of marginalized communities who are overrepresented in low-paid sectors. These are:
- $315.4 million in rent assistance for low-income women and children fleeing violence
- $30 billion towards affordable and accessible childcare, bringing costs down to $10 a day
- A $15 minimum wage
These measures have the potential to make considerable headway towards achieving a thriving, diverse and inclusive anti-violence movement, where survivors’ needs are promptly addressed and where violence prevention is ongoing, systematic, and carried out on both the individual and structural levels. However, a key preoccupation for too many anti-violence organizations continues to be the need for ongoing core funding to support direct service delivery in order to meet the increasing needs of the survivors who depend on them.
EVA Canada applauds the tangible steps in the 2021 Federal Budget to address GBV, and we look forward to engaging in the work necessary to ensure these commitments are implemented in ways that work toward the end of gender-based violence.