Tuesday, May 15, 2007

SOS for Aboriginal Women's Shelters

The Montreal Gazette has a great article on Aboriginal women's shelters. Apparently, these shelters are massively underfunded, leading to problems in offering services:

Aboriginal women's shelters serve clients who are three times more likely to experience violence than their non-native counterparts but receive only one-third the funding of other shelters, Quebec women's groups said yesterday.

"How can we justify that because a shelter is in an aboriginal community, it receives three times less in subsidies? It's shameful," said Louise Riendeau, head of a provincial network of non-native women's shelters and transition houses.

Riendeau joined the Federation des femmes du Quebec and other women's groups in supporting an appeal by the Quebec Native Women organization, which coordinates the province's five on-reserve shelters, asking the federal government to correct the discriminatory funding situation that exists to similar degrees across Canada.

Aboriginal shelters in Quebec are funded by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. They receive an average $150,000 each per year vs. $487,000 for those funded by the provincial government, even though they offer comparable services and roughly the same number of beds, the groups said.

That level of funding has not increased since 1990, said France Robertson, shelter co-ordinator for Quebec Native Women.

"With the $150,000 they receive they have to offer services 24 hours a day, seven days a week," she said.

This is a truly terrible situation and something that needs to be rectified immediately. The article highlights this point:

Deirdra McCracken, a press aide to Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice, said the federal government is consulting with aboriginal groups and shelter directors to develop a fair funding formula that is expected to be in place "soon."

It has also taken other steps to prioritize aboriginal women, like working to grant them equal matrimonial property rights, McCracken said.

The government "knows the needs," Gabriel said. "We don't need further consultation; we need action now ... to change this deplorable situation."

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