Nova Scotia

Marguerite Centre funding, gender issue subject of petition

Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard knows only too well the funding crunch faced by Marguerite Centre, the province's only recovery house for women. She founded the facility in 2002.

'I don't know if it's a gender issue,' Community Services minister says about funding disparity

Marguerite Centre serves between 30 and 35 women in recovery every year. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

If the Marguerite Centre, Nova Scotia's only home for women recovering from addictions, is going to survive its funding crisis and avoid closure, its best hope might be sitting at the provincial cabinet table.

Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard, also the minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, founded the 11-bed facility located in Timberlea.

Her profile page on the Liberal Caucus website says her understanding of the "dynamics of addiction and how it tears families apart" led her to develop the centre in 2002.

Bernard says she's in talks trying to develop a plan to keep the doors open at Marguerite Centre.

"There's conversations happening between my department under the Status of Women and the Department of Health," Bernard said.

"Hopefully, we'll have a really great conclusion on that in the coming weeks," she said after the weekly cabinet meeting Thursday.

Online petition started

With the Marguerite Centre $100,000 in the red, executive director Lisa Mullin says the end of the line for the facility could be coming at the end of the year.

She's demanding funding parity with the three men's recovery homes, all of which receive more funding from the Health Department. Ending that funding disparity would go far to cover the centre's deficit, Mullin says.

Community Service Minister Joanne Bernard founded Marguerite Centre in 2002. The women's recovery facility is in danger of closing. (CBC)

The CBC report sparked a community response that's been overwhelming and touching, says Mullin. 

"The outrage that's been expressed over the injustice over non-parity has been tangible. It's the overwhelming sense of unfairness. Women and men are expressing that, in this day and age, gender [funding] nonparity is unacceptable."

An online petition has been started by Rachel Taylor, a former resident whose praises the centre for the help she received in 2009.

In her petition, Taylor says Marguerite Centre helped her gain "invaluable insight" into her disease.

'Deeply grieved'

The centre also taught her communication and conflict resolution skills to help her manage her disease.

 "As this is the ONLY women's facility in the province I can't help but be deeply grieved by the potential loss of such a resource," reads Taylor's petition.  

The petition to health minister Leo Glavine is closing in on its goal of 500 signatures. But Bernard doesn't believe the funding gap is because of sexism.

"It's been a chronic issue from the day that the Marguerite Centre was an idea until the day they opened their doors. I don't know if it's a gender issue. It's just been one that they've chronically been trying to catch up," said Bernard.

Mullin says she has yet to hear from the health minister's office, and a meeting with Glavine has yet to be scheduled. 

Despite that Bernard sounded a positive note, saying she's in discussions with her colleagues in the health department.

"We'll have information forthcoming in the next couple of days... I'm working on it."