The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, which operates a multi-service clinic, is suffering from a lack of core funding, which Victoria MP Murray Rankin says is unacceptable in this day and age. Victoria Sexual Assault Centre

The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, which operates a multi-service clinic, is suffering from a lack of core funding, which Victoria MP Murray Rankin says is unacceptable in this day and age. Victoria Sexual Assault Centre

MP REPORT: Support for sexual assault centres sorely needed

Victoria MP Murray Rankin fighting to get more funding for Victoria centre

Is the federal government failing survivors of sexual assault?

Last month, the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre announced that after 36 years of service, it was being forced to terminate its 24-hour Crisis and Information Line due to funding constraints. The loss of this specialized crisis line, which has served the immediate needs of survivors of sexualized violence, will be sorely felt. In 2017 alone, the crisis line received over 1,800 calls.

Amidst financial uncertainty, VSAC is also threatened by the closure of its Sexual Assault Clinic.

The first of its kind in British Columbia, this innovative clinic has taken a holistic approach by shifting key services and support for survivors of sexual assault from the hospital and police station to one centralized location. The clinic gives survivors the option of having a multitude of services in one confidential and compassionate location, including medical and forensic exams, crisis support, police interviews and referrals to counselling and other community supports.

As our awareness of sexual assault and available services increases, due in part to social movements like #MeToo, so has the demand for these services. In fact, demand for the Sexual Assault Clinic has increased by a staggering 124 per cent over the last year or so.

Despite the clinic’s success, it receives no core, stable, predictable funding to cover their $120,000 yearly operating cost. This year, VSAC has a shortfall of $90,000; as mentioned above, it may have to close. At a time when so many survivors are courageously coming forward, and with a federal government claiming that it is committed to advancing gender equality, how is it that organizations like VSAC are unable to obtain core funding?

In response to the closure of VSAC’s Crisis and Information Line, I called on the government in the House of Commons to include stable, predictable, operating funding in the budget for rape crisis centres.

This problem of inadequate (or nonexistent) funding is not unique to Victoria. Rape crisis centres across the country are scraping by on a combination of short-term grants, project-specific funding and private donations. Less than half of VSAC’s funding comes from government contracts.

In an effort to assist VSAC to continue their important work, I have also written the Minister of Status of Women to request emergency funding, so that VSAC may reopen their crisis line and continue operating the clinic.

The Liberal government boasts that it has doubled funding for women’s organizations and rape crisis centres, but organizations like VSAC are simply not seeing those funds. As it stands, rape crisis centres are not sufficiently funded to meet the needs of survivors. In January, Justin Trudeau said, “It’s essential to start from a place of belief and support for anyone coming forward with stories or allegations of harassment or assault.” That’s not enough.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I have heard first-hand about sexual violence and exploitation in Canada. Recently, we completed a cross-Canada tour to learn about the very real existence of human trafficking and its often devastating impact on survivors.

While this horrific crime is certainly different from sexual assault and other acts of sexual violence, the importance of front-line organizations like VSAC has been forcefully brought home to me. The need to help those who need reliable, compassionate and professional care is painfully clear.

These services are not optional. It is our collective responsibility as a community to ensure appropriate supports are there when people need them most. I will continue pressuring the federal government to match its rhetoric with concrete action, in the case of the VSAC and across the country.

Murray Rankin is member of parliament for the Victoria riding.

MP ColumnMP Murray Rankin

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

Just Posted

Sipili Molia, regional kettle manager, shows off the Salvation Army’s new contactless donation system for the 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign outside municipal hall on Dec. 1. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Tech offers hope as Salvation Army sees need skyrocket across B.C.

Charity is equipping hundreds of kettles across B.C. with ‘touchless giving technology’

Kathy MacNeil, president and chief executive officer of Island Health, Dawn Thomas, acting deputy health minister and Island Health’s vice president, Indigenous health and diversity and Chief Don Tom of Tsartlip First Nation, stand out Saanich Peninsula Hospital Tuesday morning, when they also answered questions about a new report that “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in the provincial health care system. (Island Health/Submitted)
Head of Island Health says Saanich Peninsula Hospital not part of racist guessing game

Tsartlip First Nations Chief Don Tom welcomes changes following report but promises future scrutiny

Firefighters on scene for a gas leak in the 800-block of Viewfield Road in Esquimalt on Dec. 1. (Vanessa Nicholson photo)
No injuries after vehicle strikes Esquimalt gas line

Esquimalt Fire Rescue was called to the 800-block of Viewfield Road at 5 p.m.

The Capital Regional District and the Habitat Acquisition Fund have agreed to partner on the purchase of the $3.4-million Mountain View Forest in Saanich to establish a new regional park. (Photo courtesy the Habitat Acquisition Trust)
CRD, Habitat Acquisition Trust to spend $3.4M on 20-hectare forest park in Saanich

Mountian Road Forest property to be conserved as regional park

Caroline Sousa, Bela Spick and her son Mateo marched along Prospect Lake Road in November 2019 to bring attention to the unsafe conditions on the road. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich reduces Prospect Lake Road speed limit to 30 km/h

New speed limit in effect as of Dec. 1 from Goward Road to Estelline Road

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Dave Wallace coached the Parksville Royals for 23 years. (PQB News file photo)
B.C. baseball community mourns death of legendary Vancouver Island coach Dave Wallace

‘All who knew Dave and his passion for the game will miss him greatly’

B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Most Read