PEI

P.E.I. family violence prevention committee unveils new strategy

P.E.I.'s Premier's Action Committee on Family Violence Prevention unveiled a new family violence prevention strategy at a news conference in Charlottetown today.

New document to guide provincial efforts over next five years

Ann Sherman, chair of the Premier's Action Committee on Family Violence, unveils an updated strategy at a news conference Wednesday. (CBC)

P.E.I.'s Premier's Action Committee on Family Violence Prevention unveiled its updated family violence prevention strategy at a news conference in Charlottetown Wednesday. 

It's only the second time the strategy has been updated since the first was released when the committee formed in 1995.

"We have a society that accepts or occasionally condones violence in certain areas," said Ann Sherman, the committee's chair.

If you have parents at the rink … telling their child to sort of knock somebody out or get rid of him or whatever, what's that child learning?— Ann Sherman, Chair, Premier's Action Committee on Family Violence Prevention

"What we want to do is to develop a society where violence is viewed as completely inappropriate and that it is not something that is used to get your own way."

Progress toward that goal is being made — slowly, Sherman said, offering children's hockey as an example of how violence in the community doesn't fit in with the message family violence is not okay.

"If you have parents at the rink … telling their child to sort of knock somebody out or get rid of him or whatever, what's that child learning? He's learning that it's appropriate to use violence to get your own way."

Reaching out to men and boys

The committee wants to increase awareness among men and boys around family violence, and encourage more male leaders to engage family violence prevention efforts.

More effort must be made to teach schoolchildren about healthy relationships too.

"The children that we talk to in the school now will be parents in what — 15 years' time?" said Sherman. "Maybe they will have learned what a safe and healthy and respectful relationship is, and they will have families which are safe."

Another new focus in the updated framework is on research, "to learn more, to get at the evidence for what's working on Prince Edward Island," said Jane Ledwell, executive director of the P.E.I. Advisory Council for the Status of Women.

The committee is calling for up-to-date, accurate local data on family violence, and an examination of the costs and benefits of obtaining new data.

What little data is currently available on family violence in P.E.I. shows that progress toward eliminating family violence in the province may indeed be slow.

A Statistics Canada report on family violence in Canada revealed most provinces had a decrease in self-reported victims of spousal violence between 2004 and 2014, but the rate on P.E.I. remained static. Because of the small survey sample size in the province, Statistics Canada urges caution in using the P.E.I. numbers.

The committee would also like a further examination of programs and positions which could help prevent violence, including a family violence court and a child advocate.

'Limited resources, uncertain budgets'

The committee says its next step will be to come up with a plan to implement the more than 40 strategies in the new framework. 

Implementation may require additional resources — at a time when government is expected to be scaling back its spending to table a balanced budget this spring. 

"The Committee recognizes that many service providers are currently struggling to address inconsistencies and gaps while operating with limited resources and uncertain budgets," the document states.

"Demand for services can be expected to increase as awareness increases."

The new plan is the product of a full-day strategy session that took place in June 2015.

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