THE new Violence Free BC (VFBC) strategy lays out a long-term vision of ending violence against women in this province – something that needs both strong government leadership and the active participation of stakeholders, partners and each and every British Columbian.
The Province’s action on this goal started Friday with a promise of dedicated civil forfeiture funds – including $3 million in 2015 – for local anti-violence support services, the opening of a newly integrated Domestic Violence Unit (DVU), and an upcoming campaign to raise awareness of the dangers women can face. The Province is also committed to dedicating a portion of civil forfeiture funds to support the VFBC strategy in future years.
“Violence against women is not a women’s issue – it’s an issue for all of us in British Columbia,” said Premier Christy Clark. “The Violence Free BC strategy is our roadmap to creating a province where each of us does our part, working together, to keep women safe from harm.”
Last year’s throne speech promised a concrete plan toward ending domestic violence, and the VFBC strategy is delivering on that promise. It combines immediate actions with a long-term vision, and identifies five key priorities for moving toward a violence-free B.C. over the next decade. These include:
* Challenging beliefs and behaviours.
* Ensuring services are responsive, innovative and co-ordinated.
* Supporting women to rebuild their lives.
* Addressing violence against Aboriginal women.
* Fostering strong relationships and new partnerships.
“We all have critically important and shared roles to play in preventing violence before it starts, responding to violence when it happens, and rebuilding from its devastating effects. Fundamentally, stopping the violence starts with all of us,” said Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton. “Recent incidents have highlighted the need for ongoing work to address violence against women. This includes higher-profile cases of domestic violence, which have received much attention in communities throughout B.C. Today, we are able to take specific action on that issue with the opening of a newly integrated Domestic Violence Unit here in Surrey.”
The Surrey DVU is the sixth of its kind in British Columbia, and brings together, in one location, Surrey RCMP police investigators, community-based victim services, and a Ministry of Children and Family Development child protection worker to co-ordinate and collaborate on the highest-risk domestic violence cases.
“This newly integrated Domestic Violence Unit is something our community has been working towards for a long time,” said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner. “With the creation of this unit, we will now be better able to respond to the highest-risk domestic violence cases and provide an integrated approach to supporting victims and holding offenders accountable.”
Government will also launch a public-awareness campaign in the near future with a focus on domestic violence, to educate and encourage everyone to share the responsibility of stopping violence against women.
“To make a difference in the lives of women in Surrey and around the province – and particularly those women who are being abused by their partners – it is critical we have the proper supports in place,” said Sonya Boyce, executive director of the Surrey Women’s Centre Society. “Raising awareness, opening a local Domestic Violence Unit and funding anti-violence and prevention initiatives are concrete steps that government is taking in the right direction.”
“This enhancement to our Domestic Violence Unit will be a lifeline for Surrey families who are most at risk of being harmed by violence,” said Officer-in-Charge of the Surrey RCMP, Chief Superintendent Bill Fordy. “Our officers will work side-by-side with support workers, and together they’ll co-ordinate the investigation of cases and the support of victims who need to be brought to safety, often immediately.”
* Up to $3 million in civil forfeiture proceeds is available this year to support anti-violence and prevention initiatives throughout the province. Funding streams focused on violence against women and identified in 2014-15 civil forfeiture grants include:
– Training and education for service providers.
– School-based prevention programs.
– Preventing the exploitation and human trafficking of women and girls.
– Innovative partnerships.
– Healing and rebuilding after violence for Aboriginal Women.
* Other funding streams include Serving Victims through Restorative Justice and Community / Youth Crime Prevention.
* In March 2014, Surrey RCMP and the Surrey Women’s Centre Society received close to $200,000 in civil forfeiture proceeds to help establish a newly integrated DVU, located within the Surrey RCMP’s local detachment on 57th Avenue.
* Expanding the number of DVUs in B.C. was one of 14 ministry-specific initiatives outlined in Anton’s mandate letter from the Premier on June 10, 2013.
* The three-year, $5.5 million Provincial Domestic Violence Plan included a $1-million investment to assist the start-up and implementation of DVUs across the province.
* Since the Civil Forfeiture Office became active in 2006, it has returned more than $16 million from successful forfeiture actions in the form of grants to crime prevention programs, victims of fraud and phony investment schemes, and victim services programs.
* Government provides more than $70 million per year for prevention and intervention services and programs to help B.C. families involved in domestic violence and other crimes.
* Over $3.4 million in grants from civil forfeiture proceeds were used to support vulnerable women in 2014 alone.