N.W.T. women's shelters receive over $300K as domestic violence rates surge

N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod said the four organizations have been “deeply affected” by the pandemic, which has caused a spike in domestic violence rates across Canada.

4 organizations in Inuvik, Hay River, Yellowknife and Tuktoyaktuk will receive funding

A file photo of a woman at a shelter. Four N.W.T. organizations 'deeply affected' by the pandemic are getting federal funding. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a spike in domestic violence rates across Canada. (Jessa Runciman/CBC)

The federal government is giving a handful of N.W.T. women's shelters more than $300,000 in funding as a result of COVID-19.

These organizations have been "deeply affected" by the pandemic, it says in a Thursday news release from N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod. 

"The COVID‑19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for survivors of sexual and domestic violence and the organizations that serve them," the statement said.

"That is why our government acted to support women and children fleeing gender-based violence, including front-line organizations here in the North."

The four organizations, which together represent five shelters, to receive the $321,350 in funding are the Aimayunga Women and Emergency Foster Care Shelter in Tuktoyaktuk, the Family Support Centre in Hay River, the Inuvik Transition House Society, and the YWCA NWT in Yellowknife.

The organizations have provided essential services to survivors of gender-based violence throughout the pandemic. 

The COVID‑19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for survivors of sexual and domestic violence.- Statement from MP Michael McLeod

Lyda Fuller, executive director of the YWCA, said the funding gives them flexibility to meet the challenges of the pandemic.

That includes being able to purchase additional cleaning supplies and protective equipment, and to make other changes to ensure physical distancing for clients and staff who live or work in the shelters.

Fuller said part of that has meant taking in less women or families so that each have their own bathroom.

Before the pandemic, Fuller said the Yellowknife shelter could take in six women; now, that number is three. And in the Fort Smith shelter, only two women can be accepted where as before it was four. Some of the beds are reserved for children that come with their mothers. 

She said the YWCA shelters have also stopped taking in women who have come due to homelessness and not for family violence issues. 

"It does make it difficult," Fuller said, adding that she wants women to know that the shelters are safe places, should they come. 

"We work very hard to keep the pandemic out of the shelters," Fuller said. "We want to help women who need help. If women are unsafe at home, please phone the shelters."

The pandemic has caused rates of domestic violence to climb across Canada and beyond due to orders to stay indoors and limit social interaction to curb the spread of COVID-19. There have also been closures to women's shelters.

The United Nations called for immediate action to halt the surge. In April, Canada's Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef said in some regions calls for help have gone up by some 400 per cent.

The funding announced by Monsef will be split between the four groups, with Aimayunga Women and Emergency Foster Care Shelter and YWCA NWT each receiving $97,000. The Family Support Centre (Hay River) and Inuvik Transition House Society will each receive $63,675.