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Saskatchewan women, children are turned away from shelters 600 times a month, says new report

Tina Beaudry-Mellor, who also serves as the minister responsible for the status of women, did not know how many Saskatchewan women and children are being turned away from shelters, despite being provided the information a day earlier. Dave Parsons / Global News

The Saskatchewan NDP is asking the province to start funding second-stage shelters for women and their children who are fleeing domestic violence.

Their call to action comes a day after a CBC News investigation published a report showing Saskatchewan shelters turn away those escaping domestic abuse around 600 times a month due to lack of resources.

“What’s so concerning for me is that despite a number of things we’ve done over the last number of years…we’re not getting at the problem,” said MLA for Regina University Tina Beaudry-Mellor.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan has highest family violence rate among provinces

Beaudry-Mellor, who also serves as the minister responsible for the status of women office, did not know how many Saskatchewan women and children are being turned away from shelters, despite being provided the information a day earlier.

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NDP Deputy Leader Nicole Sarauer said Beaudry-Mellor’s lack of knowledge points to the provincial problem.

“This is a very important file, and it is her file and her responsibility,” said Sarauer.

“She should know how drastic this issue is for women and families in Saskatchewan and it’s not a new problem. It leaves a lot of concern for how seriously the Saskatchewan Party takes this issue.”

Click to play video: 'Domestic violence surges in Saskatoon over the summer months' Domestic violence surges in Saskatoon over the summer months
Domestic violence surges in Saskatoon over the summer months – May 26, 2017

Second-stage shelters in Saskatchewan currently do not receive any provincial funding, which leaves federal housing dollars untapped.

All other provinces — except Newfoundland — have provincial funding in place for these long-term shelters.

According to Women’s Shelter Canada, insufficient funding is leading to major challenges for victims of domestic abuse.

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However, Beaudry-Mellor stated she fears “no amount of money is going to change” domestic violence until “we all start having a different conversation.”

The minister said the government needs to get creative in resolving the issue like making it “become a man’s issue.”

“Men are unfortunately the overwhelming perpetrators of violence and women are unfortunately overwhelmingly the victims,” said Beaudry-Mellor.

READ MORE: Sask. government introduces domestic violence police disclosure legislation

The provincial government says it aims to repurpose social housing to accommodate women and families fleeing domestic violence. For example, there’s a 14-per cent vacancy rate within the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation that could be used for victims of domestic violence.

The Ministry of Social Services said 124 units have been already transformed into shelter bedrooms and second-stage units.

“I think what I can commit to is looking at what we have currently for resources and how we can better use those resources today in a way that we’re not using,” said Beaudry-Mellor.

She added investments are important, but reiterated that “we also need to have a different public conversation about this.”

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