Ontario joins national plan to end gender-based violence

By Terry Davidson

Law360 Canada (November 15, 2023, 3:41 PM EST) -- Ontario has joined a handful of other provinces and territories in signing on to the National Action Plan to End Gender-based Violence.

As a result of entering the “historic bilateral agreement” with Ottawa, Ontario will receive $162 million in federal funds over four years to support the implementation of the plan in that province, states a Nov. 15 news release.

The action plan’s mandate is built around three objectives: strengthening prevention efforts, reaching underserved and at-risk populations and “stabilizing” the gender-based violence (GBV) “sector.”

“This agreement will help the Government of Ontario strengthen the sector supporting survivors and people at risk of gender-based violence through enhancements to existing programs and services,” states the release. “The Government of Ontario, working alongside partners throughout the province, will build upon the extensive work already underway to increase awareness and prevention efforts, as well as enhance the services and supports for victims, survivors, underserved populations, and populations most at risk of experiencing GBV.”

It goes on to note that “[c]oordinated and collaborative actions from federal, provincial, and territorial governments are key in effectively preventing and addressing GBV.”

The provinces and territories that have already entered into agreements with Ottawa are Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut, Yukon, Alberta and the Northwest Territories, a federal government spokesperson confirmed.  

“Over the coming months, Women and Gender Equality Canada will continue to work to establish bilateral agreements with all provinces and territories to support the plan’s implementation,” they said.

Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien

Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien

According to the federal government, more than 11 million Canadians have experienced intimate partner violence — a type of gender-based violence, it states — at least once since turning age 15. In 2018, 44 per cent of women reported to have experienced some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

At a news conference announcing the agreement, federal Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien said GBV has touched many people.

“Many of us can imagine a friend, a sister, an aunt or a mother that has suffered in silence while someone she knew, someone she loved caused her physical and emotional pain,” said Ien. “We all know this cycle of violence has lasting impacts … on families and children and whole communities. And in moments like this, it’s so important that every level of government take action together.”

The announcement comes not a month after tragedy hit Sault Ste. Marie — a murder suicide involving a 44-year-old gunman killing a woman and three children before turning the weapon on himself.

Police reportedly said the killings were all connected, the result of intimate partner violence, and that the shooter had been involved in such investigations before.   

During the press conference announcing the agreement, which also included the participation of Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Michael Parsa, Brampton South MP Sonia Sidhu, and Ontario Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity Charmaine Williams, there was talk of a portion of the funding going toward “early intervention.”

Later, it was asked what this early intervention would look like.

To this, Williams talked about investments in programs dealing with victims’ futures, their security and their economic well-being.

“A number of these programs are very effective at helping women to either start a business or enroll in a program in school — something that is going to help them in those preventative stages.”

Parsa spoke of “localized supports.”

“The transfer payment recipients that we have are aware of the local supports, and that’s why it’s so important to work with partners, and that’s why in the coming days you’re going to hear more and more discussions about this. This isn’t something that we’re going to stop talking about today. I really appreciate this partnership because this needs to continue.”

It was also asked what assurances could be provided that the funding will reach organizations struggling financially.

“Right now, the supports will be provided to about 400 transfer payment recipients. There are a lot of great partnerships that are already happening in the province of Ontario. … This will also help with staffing, some of the pressures that these service providers are dealing with. … This is an issue that needs collaboration at all levels of government and with all partners on the ground.”

The action plan, launched in November 2022, is a decade-long initiative “that sets a framework to have a Canada free of gender-based violence” and aims to help support “victims, survivors and their families from coast to coast.”

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for Law360 Canada, please contact Terry Davidson at t.davidson@lexisnexis.ca or 905-415-5899.