The federal government is working with its provincial counterparts as part of a bilateral agreement to support crisis hotlines.
Marci Ien, Canada’s minister for women and gender equality and youth, announced funding Wednesday in Winnipeg, alongside Manitoba Status of Women Minister Rochelle Squires.
The $30 million in federal funding will support crisis hotlines across Canada, after the government works out bilateral agreements with each province and territory.
The demand for crisis hotlines and the services they provide saw a significant increase during the pandemic, Ien said, and the funding will go toward crisis hotlines offering more resources and support to help prevent gender-based violence.
“Calls to crisis centres have significantly spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. At times, volumes were at capacity,” Ien said.
“We know that these hotlines are a lifeline for women fleeing domestic violence, as they are a crucial connection to the services that ensure their safety. Today’s historic investment is another step towards supporting survivors and creating a safer Canada for everyone.”
Squires said Manitoba — the first province to sign on to a bilateral agreement — has one of the highest rates of intimate partner and family violence nationwide.
“This violence primarily affects women and girls, disproportionally affecting those living in rural, remote, and northern communities; Indigenous people; people of colour; and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people,” she said.
“Supporting access for those dealing with gender-based violence through crisis hotlines is an important way to ensure that Manitobans affected can receive critical support services.”
People who work in this area say they’ve been seeing a great deal of distress.
Dr. Andrew Lodge, medical director at Klinic in Winnipeg, told 680 CJOB’s The Start that the question of why there’s been such an increase in calls isn’t easily answered.
Klinic, despite losing volunteers to the pandemic, answered more than 38,000 crisis call lines in 2021, and saw a 231 per cent increase in calls to its Sexual Assault Crisis Program between 2020 and this year.
The organization has already trained 75 additional volunteers this year, with more to come in the fall.
“Certainly it looks like there’s a lot of people who are in a fair amount of distress right now,” Lodge said.
“Whether that was something that existed pre-pandemic and it was compounded by COVID-19, or whether this was something more of trigger that was caused by the pandemic, I can’t speak to that … but the reality is that we’re seeing a great deal of need and a great deal of demand in our community.”