Julie Green: Family Violence

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — November 5, 2020

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Madam Speaker, we know that family violence continues to be a serious issue across Canada. The Northwest Territories consistently records among the highest rates of violence against women in Canada, as reported by Statistics Canada. Two women have been murdered in the last two months. This violence is as heartbreaking as it is unacceptable. As a Territory, we need to do better.

This month is Family Violence Prevention Month in the Northwest Territories. Let us take time to focus on promoting a change in attitudes and behaviours about violence against women and the harm that comes with it. The government is dedicated to providing the necessary resources to reduce the incidence of family violence in the territory and better support those who have experienced this type of trauma.

We know that family violence can have lifelong impact on children and youth and influence how relationships are formed. It is critical that we do everything we can to stop this cycle and promote positive, healthy relationships.

Madam Speaker, the response to family violence involves many GNWT departments and agencies taking a whole of government approach.  It also requires us to work closely with our community partners to ensure the solutions reflect the priorities of the communities.

We have established an Inter-Departmental Working Group that will review GNWT programs and services providing family violence supports. This team is working on an action plan on the Calls to Justice from the Final Report of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls national inquiry. This work will contribute to addressing the issue of domestic violence, among other things.  We look forward to seeing the results of this work.

Family Violence Shelters are territorial resources that can be accessed
24-hours a day. There are shelters in Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik, Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Smith. Even if there is not a shelter in your community, travel assistance is available to get to one.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not necessary to call 8-1-1 to get an exemption to the public health orders to be in a shelter with non-family members. Call the family crisis line directly at
1-866-223-775. Staff will help you to make a safety plan, if required, and apply for an emergency protection order to keep the abuser away.

Shelters also provide a range of support programs for women and children who are trying to leave an abusive relationship.  Shelter supports include, supportive counselling, case management and referral, support in identifying housing and income supports, links to transitional housing supports and most importantly a safe place to stay.

For the five communities with shelters, the GNWT provides $3.5 million annually in core funding. In addition to this core funding, we appreciate the support of the federal government, which in August announced one time only funding of $321 thousand in COVID funding to support the shelters.

Madam Speaker, we believe that the incidence of intimate partner family violence is likely escalating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Families may be stressed by the challenges they face and self-isolation may make things worse.  In the early stages of the pandemic, very few women were seeking admission to the family violence shelters.  However, at the same time, the number of emergency protection orders increased.

Although these trends are disturbing, as a government, we have implemented a number of measures to help intervene at this difficult time. We have communicated to residents that NWT family violence shelters remain open and available during the pandemic.  We have distributed over 150 cell phones to victim service providers to distribute to those in need.  This ensures there is a safe way for women to seek information and support. The NWT Help Line, community counselling services, and Child and Youth Care Counsellors remain ready to help.  We are continuing to monitor this situation closely and encourage anyone who needs help to reach out to one of these supports. Madam Speaker, as a territory we cannot afford to view family violence as a special awareness week or a one-time initiative. The health and wellbeing of our residents depends on a coordinated approach to breaking the silence and working together in meaningful ways to end all forms of family violence. 

Thank you, Madam Speaker.