November 24, 2023 – The Ending Violence Association of Canada (EVA Canada) welcomes measures outlined in the federal government’s Fall Economic Statement that may benefit those experiencing or at-risk of experiencing sexual and gender-based violence, such as investments in housing, mental health, health care, and building women’s economic security. However, given the extent and urgency of the epidemic of gender-based violence in Canada, we press government to ensure such measures reflect the distinct needs of victims/survivors of gender-based violence.
Access to safe and stable housing is intricately linked to preventing gender-based violence, supporting those experiencing or at-risk of experiencing violence, and addressing the systemic factors that contribute to the perpetuation of such violence. Gender-based violence is also one of the main contributors to women experiencing homelessness. Measures included in the Fall Economic Statement aimed at increasing the availability and accessibility of housing, including commitments to build more homes, particularly affordable and rental housing, have the potential to address some of the housing needs of victims/survivors of gender-based violence.
However, ensuring the practical accessibility of these initiatives for victims/survivors of gender-based violence is imperative. Factors such as eligibility criteria, application processes, and geographical considerations must be considered to mitigate barriers for survivors seeking housing support. EVA Canada also underlines the urgency of the need for safe, accessible, and affordable housing. Those experiencing or at-risk of violence cannot afford to wait another day yet alone years for a safe place to live.
EVA Canada is pleased to see the government’s recognition of the need to improve accessibility to therapy and counselling by exempting professional services provided by psychotherapists and counselling therapists from GST/HST. However, we are concerned about the tangible impact of these measures for victims/survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence, especially given the prohibitive costs associated with most private counselling and psychotherapy services for those who do not have private health insurance. While GST/HST exemption is a positive step, it remains insufficient in addressing the financial barriers faced by many victims/survivors of sexual violence and intimate partner violence in seeking vital mental health supports.
Community-based sexual assault centres provide specialized counselling at no cost; however, many of these centres have waitlists of six months to one year, or even longer. In addition to GST/HST exemption, we encourage government to ensure that sexual assault centres, shelters, and other community-based organizations that provide low-barrier, no cost counselling have the resources they need to provide these vital mental health supports to some of the most vulnerable individuals in our communities. Strengthening these resources is crucial to ensure equitable access to mental health support for survivors of gender-based violence.
Finally, EVA Canada welcomes ongoing investments to strengthen public health care. Gender-based violence is a public health crisis in Canada, and we encourage all levels of government to ensure that the distinct health care needs of survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence are considered in the development and implementation of bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories.
Investments targeting the underlying factors that allow sexual and gender-based violence to go unchecked and that limit the healing journeys and safety of victims/survivors of violence is integral. EVA Canada acknowledges the potential positive benefit of the above measures to addressing issues related to gender-based violence. However, there remains an urgent need to ensure that the distinct needs of victims/survivors of gender-based violence are fully integrated into these initiatives. We urge government to prioritize these considerations to comprehensively address the multifaceted challenges faced by those experiencing or at risk of gender-based violence across the country.