Oct. 8, 2013

Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters & Transition Houses

Logo of the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses

In 2010, there were 593 shelters for women survivors of abuse and their children operating in Canada with a total of 11,461 beds. That’s the kind of undiminishing reality that prompted the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters & Transition Houses to launch the Mapping VAW Policies & Opportunities project last year. An emerging report funded by the Canadian Women’s Foundation reviews gaps between existing policies and legislation in Canada related to violence against women (VAW).

In the absence of a National Action Plan, responses to violence against women in Canada are largely fragmented, often inaccessible, and can work to impede rather than improve women’s safety, according to the report released today: The Case for a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women in Canada.

Shelters across the country support the need for a National Action Plan noting that services alone will not bring an end to VAW.

In addition to comprehensively reviewing policies, legislation, and provincial/territorial action plans relevant to VAW, the report looks at protection and support for survivors, response of legal systems and the law, housing, social justice, research/measurements, and VAW prevention.

Researchers found the federal government does not identify women – as a singular demographic – as an at-risk population in terms of intimate partner violence or sexual violence which impedes progress on VAW and its root causes.

“The Canadian federal government is taking an increasingly gender-neutral approach to women’s safety and by doing so, fails to consider violence in the context of gender inequality compounded by other social inequalities,” says the report’s lead researcher/author, Professor Holly Johnson. “The result is a perilous absence of robust policies needed to effectively address root causes of VAW”.

Among the report’s other key conclusions:

  • Women’s safety is compromised by government under-funding and that a change in orientation is needed for service provision to Aboriginal women
  • Legal systems across Canada are costly, inaccessible, fragmented, and must be improved in order to better address VAW and benefit survivors
  • There are few evaluations of what works to prevent VAW, change attitudes and behaviour, and respond effectively

A National Action Plan on VAW in Canada is needed to finally ensure: consistency across and within jurisdictions in policies and legislation that address VAW; shared understanding of the root causes of VAW; consistent approaches to prevention of and responses to VAW; collective pursuit of the most appropriate solutions; coordinated, clear, and effective services and systems for survivors of VAW that respect and respond to diversity.

The Network will be calling on the government to ensure the National Action Plan includes new commitments – including financial – as well as clear targets and effective mechanisms for monitoring, evaluation and data collection.

“Such an important, progressive Plan on VAW in Canada is long overdue,” says Lise Martin, the Network’s Executive Director. “It will be crucial that the insight and knowledge of shelters and shelter workers are at the heart of such a Plan.”

This fall, the Network will begin strategic collaboration with partners and allies to develop a viable template for Canada’s first National Action Plan on VAW including a process that ensures the Plan responds effectively to VAW survivors and meaningfully includes the insight and knowledge of shelters and shelter workers.

The Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters & Transition Houses is a coalition of 12 provincial and territorial shelter networks representing over 350 shelters across Canada. It works as a unified voice to collaborate, educate, and innovate for systemic change that ends violence against women, making Canada a model for safety in the world.


Executive Summary – The Case for a National Action Plan on Violence Against WomenOpen in new window.

Available for comment:

Professor Holly Johnson, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa

Lise Martin, Executive Director, Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters & Transition Houses

Media contact:

Lise Martin

Executive Director

(613) 680-5119


CNWSTH online: