CBC News: Thunder Bay women’s advocate welcomes new COVID-19 relief program for women

NWOWC Executive Director, Gwen O’Reilly, was interviewed by CBC News Thunder Bay to discuss how the COVID-17 pandemic has made it harder to protect those experiencing gender-based violence. Read the full article, posted on February 18, 2021, here or below.

The executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Women’s Centre says she welcomes news that the federal government is freeing up funds to help women, who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The government has issued a new call for proposals Wednesday for its $100 million Feminist Response and Recovery Fund.

Priority will go to projects that end violence against women and girls, improve women’s and girls’ economic security and encourage women and girls in leadership and decision-making roles, according to a news release issued Wednesday by Women and Gender Equality Canada. 

The centre hopes to access funds to help improve women’s safety during the pandemic, Gwen O’Reilly told CBC.

The pandemic has made it much harder to protect women from partners and others who want to harm them, she said.

“Prisons are releasing people,” O’Reilly said. “You know, offenders are being released on recognizance. They’re not being put in jail where they normally might. And, you know, COVID just makes everything difficult … including enforcing safety orders and exclusion orders and access and custody orders.”

The women’s centre spent the past year working with the Thunder Bay and District Coordinating Committee to end Women Abuse to draft a high-risk navigation protocol for women at risk, O’Reilly said.

It recently received funding through another government program to hire an advocate to coordinate responses for women experiencing violence — such as safety planning and risk assessment — across the social and legal service sectors.

O’Reilly hopes the new government program will provide additional funding to extend the position.

Asked how else she hopes the new funding will help Thunder Bay, she said the city desperately needs a women-only homeless shelter.

“They are often choosing to sleep outside, even in this weather, instead of using the current resources,” she said. “It’s not that anybody at any of the other shelters is doing anything wrong. It’s just that women don’t feel safe there because there’s so many men.”

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