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Letter to Attorney-General asking for much needed support for sexual assault services.

The Honourable Doug Downey, Attorney General

Dear Minister Downey,

AWH is a non-partisan coalition of community groups located in the Region of Halton, which seeks to promote the advancement of women by developing and supporting social, political, cultural and economic strategies to achieve gender equality municipally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

As you will know the #MeToo movement has meant that the number of women who feel safe enough to disclose rape or sexual assault and seek support and counselling has increased worldwide.  This includes women living in the communities of Halton.

In September 2019 Statistics Canada released its findings of Incident Based Crime Statistics.  They reported that sexual assault in Ontario rose from 7,434 incidents in 2016 to 10, 634 in 2018.  (These numbers are underestimates, as many rape and sexual assault survivors do not come forward and engage in the criminal justice system.)

In Halton SAVIS (Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Service) offers walk-in/drop-in services, short term crisis support and short-term counselling and partners with community social services to create new and increased frontline resources.

In 2019, recognising the situation of rape and sexual assault survivors, the Ministry of the Attorney General allocated $1 million dollars in one-time funding, distributed to 42 sexual assault centres across Ontario.  This funding (roughly $25,000 per centre) made an enormous difference to the service SAVIS was able to offer, allowing them to hire additional part-time counsellors and reduce wait times for survivors.  However, the one-time funding  comes to an end on March 31st, 2020, with no additional resources.  SAVIS estimates that, as a result, their waitlist for services to survivors will increase to 10 months.

We are concerned that women who are raped and sexual assault survivors will not be given the opportunity to heal and, ultimately, to participate in making this a better community for all.

AWH urges you to:

  • Annualize the $1million in additional one-time funding to sexual assault centres initiated in 2019.
  • Provide stable core funding for community based sexual assault centres that meets the needs of survivors of sexual violence in a timely and effective way
  • Invest in community-based primary prevention.

Sincerely,

Tina Agrell, Chair Advancement of Women Halton

Letter to Minister Lecce supporting teachers

The Honourable Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education

Dear Minister Lecce,

Advancement of Women Halton (AWH) is a non-partisan coalition of community groups located in the Region of Halton, which seeks to promote the advancement of women by developing and supporting social, political, cultural and economic strategies to achieve gender equality municipally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Currently, teachers are seeking a reversal of the proposed cuts to the education budget and a restoration of funding levels to allow all students to receive the support they need to achieve their potential.

We ask you to Increase funding for all education programs and services (autism services, speech and language assistance, psychological assessments, social work interventions and counselling, classroom assistance for those with identified needs) by at least Ontario’s current rate of inflation;

 We also ask you to: revert to the 2018-19 class size regulation and maintain class size caps; maintain the current sick leave provisions; improve existing JK/SK teacher and early education workers’ staffing levels and eliminate mandatory e-learning programs.

It is important that you ensure that free collective bargaining is not impeded by Bill 124, so that real conversations about a cost of living raise of 2% can be had.  Average cost of living increases in the private sector have been 2.1%.

The education sector is predominantly female.  In elementary teaching, over 80% of staff are women.  When others in the public sector like police, a predominantly male occupation, receive increases well beyond 1%, the gender pay gap widens and this is unacceptable.

We ask you to consider education in the province of Ontario as part of the social commons, or the necessities of life from which everyone benefits and to which we all contribute.  Education is at the heart of our efforts both to adapt to change and to transform the world within which we live.  A quality basic education is the necessary foundation for learning throughout life in a complex and rapidly changing world.

Sincerely,

Tina Agrell (Chair Advancement of Women Halton)

 

PRE-BUDGET PRESENTATION TO ONTARIO GOVERNMENT

Given by Tina Agrell, Chair, AWH, Jan.27,2020:
It has been said that a budget is a theological document, it shows what you believe in.  In a speech to the Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference January 20, 2020 the Premier said “We need to ensure everyone, no matter where they live in Ontario, has access to a good job, the opportunity to start their own business, start a family, and the chance to build a better life for themselves and a better future for Ontario.”

Women in Halton wholeheartedly share that belief and so there are a few things we would ask the Provincial Government to consider.

Apply a gender lens – We would ask you to conduct a Gender Based Analysis of Ontario budgets to ensure that women will have their  interests  protected.

Pay Equity – We would ask you to introduce proactive pay equity legislation for provincially-regulated workers.  Women’s participation in the paid labour force doesn’t just benefit women—it helps the whole economy.  A study by the Royal Bank of Canada estimates that the GDP could grow by 21 per cent if women had pay equity.

Access to education and training – To achieve the goals of greater gender equity in the labour market, women need access to affordable, high quality post-secondary education.

Young women are less likely to obtain degrees in high-demand fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which can offer better career and income opportunities.  Specific funding and apprenticeships would help eliminate barriers in these fields.  We would ask you to create a plan that facilitates the education and training of women.

Reliable and affordable childcare  – would allow women to contribute to productivity in the province.  But according to Statistics Canada, Ontario has the highest cost of full-time childcare in Canada.   Affordable, quality day care is still the stuff of dreams.  We would ask you to work on the implementation of a Provincial Early Learning and Childcare Framework

Comprehensive gender violence strategy and action plan – Ontarians spend millions a year coping with the terrible price of violence against women.  We would ask you to ensure that no one fleeing domestic violence is left without a place to turn by growing and maintaining Ontario’s network of shelters and transition houses.

Affordable housing – The Investment in Affordable Housing for Ontario program  was designed to provide over $800 million in funding to improve access to affordable housing over six years.  But the program will end March 31, 2020  although the need is still there.  What will replace the program?  We would ask you to design a Provincial Housing Strategy,  perhaps offering incentives to private investors, to introduce innovative projects that develop affordable housing.

Investing in the future – to safeguard Ontario in years to come we would ask you to ensure the uninterrupted education of our children and for our grandchildren we would ask you to focus on the development of environmental protection and the creation of jobs in a green economy.

Our governments have consistently placed priority on tax cuts or eliminating the deficit.  Keeping taxes low means making choices that impact the most vulnerable members of Ontario’s population.  And invariably that means women.

This year there is a projected surplus of almost 1 per cent of GDP between what we collect in revenues and what we spend.  According to the Centre for Policy Alternatives, 1 per cent of GDP could fund a provincial childcare program, an affordable housing strategy, a post-secondary granting strategy and still leave more for any other initiatives.

More than 50% of voters in Ontario are women.  Our dreams of a decent, egalitarian society are reasonable —and with a little work, they are practical.