Kasari Govender, British Columbia’s Human Rights Commissioner, is seen in an undated handout photo. (B.C. Human Rights Commission)

B.C. human rights observers concerned by spike in family violence amid COVID-19

B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender says she is deeply concerned

Advocates for the rights of women and children in British Columbia are shining a light on the rise in family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender says she is deeply concerned that the Battered Women’s Support Society of Vancouver has reported a 300 per cent increase in daily calls in recent weeks.

In a joint statement, Govender and Jennifer Charlesworth, the B.C. Representative for Children and Youth, say social distancing can increase the likelihood that abusers are exerting power and control and there are fewer “eyes on families” during the crisis.

Charlesworth says there are also increased pressures on shelters and fewer places where people can go to safely escape violence.

Angela Marie MacDougall, the executive director of the Battered Women’s Support Society, says she travelled to China last summer to meet with activists about the #MeToo movement.

She says when the novel coronavirus first broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan, those activists warned her of a surge in violence and she knew the society needed to act in case it happened in B.C.

MacDougall says her group’s crisis line is typically available during weekdays, but it quickly scaled up to operating 24 hours a day and calls have progressively increased.

She says one worker recently received 18 calls in a shift, and before the pandemic one worker would have received about four calls.

“Isolation’s already a major factor in abusive relationships,” says MacDougall, adding that violence against women is already a long-standing pandemic in Canada.

She says there has not been sufficient support from different levels of government in Canada for organizations that help women and children fleeing violence to adapt to physical distancing requirements.

Hundreds of women were already being turned away from transition houses every month due to lack of space, MacDougall notes.

“In some cases, what we’re dealing with right now can be a perfect storm in some families,” says Charlesworth, pointing out that the second-largest group of people that reports concerns about child well-being are teachers and school administrators.

She says school closures during the pandemic mean child protection advocates and services “lose that intelligence.”

Charlesworth says facilitating access to phones and internet connectivity is vital so women and young adults can access support at the same time as they’re practising physical distancing.

“So, if someone is out getting some fresh air they do have some way of connecting if they’re not feeling safe.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Summer Stories Around Town program encourages outdoor reading in Elk Valley

With storywalks and clothesline stories in Fernie and Sparwood, everyone can get reading

School District 5 identifies funding needs in yearly budget report

The SD5 board presented three main projects that need increased funding in the coming years

From baseball stars to forest fires: Southeast Fire Centre water bomber has an interesting past

Tanker 489 is stationed in Castlegar this year, but in the 1960s it belonged to the L.A. Dodgers.

Student athletes recognized for outstanding seasons

Fernie Secondary School students got their awards in a drive by ceremony last week

The Elk Valley celebrates Canada Day

Creative socially distant Canada Day festivities were held in both Fernie and Sparwood this week

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

COVID-19 cases identified in Kelowna, after public gatherings

Those who were downtown or at the waterfront from June 25 to July 6 maybe have been exposed to COVID-19.

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

Most Read