Inuit women and children face heightened challenges when seeking refuge from domestic violence and abuse. They face violence at a rate 14 times greater than other women in Canada and unfortunately the majority of them do not have safe places to go to. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this already dire situation, where some women are concerned about domestic violence during the pandemic than they are about the virus.
Shelters provide protection, services and resources, which enable women who have experienced abuse, and their children, to recover from violence and take steps to regain an independent and self-determined life.
As part of their 2020 Annual General Meeting, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada (Pauktuutit) called for the construction of five new emergency shelters – one in each of the four regions of Inuit Nunangat and one in Ottawa, which has the largest population of urban Inuit in Canada.
Today, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, along with the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, committed to fund the construction and operations of shelters for Inuit women and children across Inuit Nunangat as well as in urban centres. Funding for the new shelters will be part of the $724.1 million for a comprehensive Violence Prevention Strategy as announced in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement.
Indigenous Services Canada and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) will continue to work with Pauktuutit and other Inuit partners to determine the locations and define the details of the projects to best meet the needs of women and families seeking shelter.
In addition, the Government of Canada is working tirelessly on the federal component of the National Action Plan in response to the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The Government of Canada is committed to continuing to work with Pauktuutit and other Inuit partners to ensure the security and wellbeing of Inuit women, their children and 2SLGBTQQIA people by supporting and expanding a network of family violence prevention shelters across the country to help best address their specific needs.
“Today’s announcement is what concrete action toward meaningful reconciliation with Inuit women looks like. Last year, Pauktuutit met with federal cabinet ministers and told them our highest priority was funding for five emergency shelters for women and children. They listened to us and today the federal government has delivered. Pauktuutit looks forward to working with our Inuit Nunangat partners, as well as Inuit organizations in Ottawa to co-develop the applications for these new shelters which are urgently needed and will save lives.”
President of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada
“Inuit women experience a disproportionately high rate of family violence compared to other Canadians. We listened to Inuit partners and we are reaffirming our commitment to address the critical safety needs of vulnerable Inuit women and children. This important commitment will provide the necessary protection and support services necessary to aid survivors and end further violence and abuse.”
The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Indigenous Services
“Every Canadian should have access to shelters when seeking refuge and a safe, stable environment. Our investments in these shelters will support women and their children as they rebuild better lives for themselves and their families. Our Government’s plan under the National Housing Strategy continues to provide housing options for vulnerable Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and I especially look forward to continuing this important work in the North.”
The Honourable Ahmed Hussen
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
“Shortages in shelter space for Inuit women mean those experiencing violence and abuse at home often have no safe place to turn to when they need it. There is a critical need for shelter space across Inuit Nunangat and it is essential that safe places be made available. I am proud that our government is moving forward in partnership to make these new shelters for Inuit women and their families a reality. I look forward to these projects proceeding at the earliest possible time and I want to thank Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada for their continued advocacy, collaboration, and partnership.”
The Honourable Daniel Vandal
Minister of Northern Affairs
“The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified systemic racism and has deepened longstanding inequalities. It has exacerbated threats to the safety of Indigenous women, girls, and Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ people. Today’s announcement will help those who have no safe place to stay. I want to thank Pauktuutit for their leadership in ensuring the safety of Inuit women and girls, no matter where they live. Their work to co-develop the National Action Plan to end missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people is essential to ensuring we end this national tragedy.
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
Statistics show that the population of Inuit Nunangat experiences the highest rate of violence in the country, yet more than 70% of the 51 Inuit communities do not have access to an emergency shelter.
The Family Violence Prevention Program under Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) currently supports the day-to-day operations of 46 shelters serving First Nations communities in provinces and Yukon, as well as funding for community-driven proposals for family violence prevention projects on and off reserve.
As part of its COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the federal government has allocated a total of $100 million in funding to women’s shelters, sexual assault centres and organizations providing supports to those experiencing gender-based violence across the country.
This includes $10 million through the Family Violence Prevention Program to the network of 46 emergency shelters that provide a place of refuge and services for women and children fleeing violence.
In addition, $44.8 million is also being allocated to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, over 5 years, to build 10 new shelters to serve First Nations communities across the country and 2 in the territories, to support Indigenous women and children escaping violence. In addition, $40.8 million will be invested in operational funding for these new shelters over 4 years and $10.2 million annually thereafter.
This will bring the total number of ISC-supported shelters to 58.
The 2020 Fall Economic Statement announced $724.1 million to launch a comprehensive Violence Prevention Strategy to expand access to a continuum of culturally relevant supports for Indigenous women, children and LGBTQ and two-spirit people facing gender-based violence. This strategy will support new shelters and transition housing for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples across the country, including on reserve, and in the North and in urban areas.
Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada estimates the cost of construction of the new shelters will be approximately $20 million via the Violence Prevention Strategy. The final cost will be determined once applications are received and approved by CMHC.
Details on how to access this funding are forthcoming.