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York Region declares intimate partner violence an epidemic
Sept. 15, 2023

York Region has declared an epidemic of intimate partner violence within its borders.

Regional council endorsed the declaration today as advocates have made the call around the province and municipalities have responded. The concept is meant to shine a light on the issue and drive governments to action to address it.

York Region Centre for Community Safety executive director Jasmine Gill requested council to make the declaration and said intimate partner violence is a significant issue in the region and elsewhere. She further said her organization lacks core funding, and more support is needed to address this violence.

“I hope to see the Regional Municipality of York be a part of this incredible movement that validates the experiences of survivors,” Gill said.

There were 6,228 intimate partner violence incidents in the York Region reported in 2022, Gill said, adding that the number of incidents could be two or three times that due to underreporting. Another three women were killed in such incidents in York Region last year, including one by firearm.

“The stats underscore what we know. (Intimate partner violence) is a critical issue, and its impact is multi-generational,” Gill said.

Municipalities have taken notice, with more than 40 such municipalities agreeing so far to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic, as well as the Ontario Big City Mayors Caucus.

Still, Gill said organizations like hers need further support. The centre works collaboratively with partners to increase safety for survivors of abuse, but she said they lack core funding to adequately support the organization. It has five staff and two full-time case workers.

Vaughan Regional Councillor Mario Racco said this is a declaration worth making.

“There is an epidemic. That has to be stated, that has to be spoken and that should be reported so this epidemic can be eliminated, or at least reduced,” he said.

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti questioned what funding York Region could provide to help, given the boost it made in the social services category in its budget this year.

“I appreciate we shouldn’t take the gas pedal off the senior levels of government,” Scarpitti said. “But in the meantime, if there’s an opportunity to support organizations like this, I’ll leave it to staff to work through the details.

Community and health services commissioner Katherine Chislett said health services do have several services and supports to community-based agencies. Agencies can also make applications for funding to the region’s community investment fund, which has previously funded the York Region Centre for Community Safety.

Those in abusive relations can feel hopeless and isolated, Gill said, but a declaration of intimate partner violence as an epidemic can help change that.

“You would be sending a message that survivors are seen, they matter, and they are not alone, and there is hope,” she said.