Saskatchewan is the lone province in Canada without a provincial sexual assault strategy. At the same time, the province ranks among the highest rates of sexual assault. According to Statistics Canada, Saskatchewan has the second highest per capita rate of sexual assault, behind Manitoba.
Justice critic Nicole Sarauer is now calling on the Saskatchewan Party government to introduce a provincial sexual assault strategy.
“That would entail doing the work, reaching out to those who are on the front lines with survivors, those who are in the justice field, those who are in the counselling field, the advocacy field to make sure we have a strategy that’s comprehensive,” Sarauer explained.
Sarauer introduced the issue during Question Period on May 17. Justice Minister Don Morgan rose in the house and said that he doesn’t agree with the NDP often, but said it is time to have a conversation about developing a sexual assault strategy.
After Question Period, Morgan said the question he has is how a strategy would be shaped in regard to a reactive or preventative focus.
“Virtually, everything that you see done here invariably deals with supports for a victim; trying to have better counselling, better medical, but I think as a society what we want to do as well, and equally as important, is try and adopt a prevention strategy,” Morgan said.
Sarauer said that prevention is often overlooked in all governments when drafting sexual assault policy. However, real change on that front also has to take place outside the halls of the Legislative Building.
“We need to do much more as a society to ensure that gender-based violence doesn’t happen anymore,” Sarauer said.
“We need to change attitudes towards women and just in a general sense be better human beings,” Morgan said.
The most recent initiative in Saskatchewan is The Listen Project. This is a federally funded pilot program that offers up to two hours of free legal advice to sexual assault survivors. Two free additional hours may also be approved depending on the situation.
Sarauer said it’s great to see this pilot project be put into place, but more concrete solutions are needed.
“We need something more comprehensive in this province, not just piecemeal pilot projects from the federal government with no guarantee that they’re going to be picked up and fully funded by the province once that money dries up from the feds,” Sarauer said.
In the assembly, Morgan said further discussions can take place once the province releases the long-awaited Domestic Violence Death Review. The planned release date for the report is Thursday, May 24.
The interim report was released last May. The review covers 48 domestic homicides that took place between 2005 and 2014. Since then, other high profile domestic homicides occurred such as an April, 2015 murder-suicide in Tisdale where Latasha Gosling and three of her children were killed.
“It wasn’t intended when it started to be an ongoing database, but I think it’s probably a sound idea to look at new cases as they come along to see what you can learn from them and see if we’re making any progress,” Morgan said.
Sarauer is happy to know the full report is “finally” coming out, but wonders why Morgan is bringing it up with the sexual assault talks.
“They’re different. In the Venn diagram there might be some overlap in terms of supports and resources needed for domestic violence as for sexual assault, but they can also be very, very different issues,” Sarauer said.
“So we need that Domestic Violence Death Review out as soon as possible. We need a strategy for domestic violence in this province, but we also need a strategy for sexual assault.”