Minister for the Status of Women visits Regina to discuss gender-based violence strategy

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Minister for the Status of Women Patty Hajdu was in Regina on Friday to discuss framework for a federal strategy against gender-based violence. File / Global News

Violence against women exists in many forms, like domestic abuse and sexual assault. Federal Minister of the Status of Women Patty Hajdu was in Regina on Friday trying to answer questions on how to combat the issue.

“Part of our challenge is it’s really different across the country,” she said.

“Some of the experiences are similar, but there are all kinds of things that come into play.”

Hajdu is on a cross-country tour to gather stories and input from advocates, policy-makers, and people that work on the front lines with those impacted by gender-based violence.

The goal is to gather stories and ideas over the summer, and begin to introduce policy changes and federal strategies to reduce rates of violence against women and girls in early 2017.

This strategy will also include a number of round-table discussions with provincial agencies.

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The Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS) will be taking part in one of these discussions, and have plenty of experience in helping those escaping violence.

“We consistently have the highest rates of intimate partner violence, family violence, of sexual assault,” Crystal Giesbrecht with PATHS said.

She believes Saskatchewan regularly tops provincial domestic violence stats because of the large portion of the population that lives in rural areas.

“It can be really, really hard to leave a violent relationship if you’re hundreds of miles from the nearest shelter. Or if you live in a small community or on a reserve you might not want to leave your community, or you might not have the funds or resources to do so,” Giesbrecht explained.

She said PATHS plans to discuss the need for education and developing prevention strategies as key points they will bring to the round table.

These are similar to the issues brought up by the Regina YWCA during their meeting with Hajdu on Friday afternoon.

“An emphasis on advocates and support and outreach ahead of a woman’s stay in a shelter system… that’s a real missing piece,” Regina YWCA CEO Melissa Coomber-Bendsten said.

There will be a lot of work to do, but Coomber-Bendsten is encouraged by the direction of the initiative.

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“We’re actually asking questions on how can we actually make some progress on the elimination of gender-based violence, instead of just dealing with it when it happens,” she said.

In addition to domestic violence and sexual assault, the consolations are also focusing on ways to protect sex workers.

“I think it’s time that we come up with some concrete ways of dealing with it, and come up with some funds to address it,” EGDAZ Executive Director Don Meikl said.

EGADZ has a sex worker outreach program in Saskatoon, and Meikl said some of their clients are as young as 14 years old.

On August 14 EGADZ will be having their 17th annual day of mourning for 110 deceased women who have used these services.

However, while he’s happy to see sex workers being included in this framework he has reservations after 24 years of seeing studies.

“They study it to death, but I think the proof’s going to be in the pudding on whether they actually put any resources towards this,” he said.