CBYA recipients tackle gender-based violence

6 MIN READ

Every week in Ontario, a woman, child, trans woman, Two-spirit person, or gender-non confirming person is killed by a man. 

Each month, there is a new terrible milestone where the numbers continue to climb.   

It is against these trying conditions that leaders and organizations are working day in and day out not only to pull women and gender-diverse people out of crisis and protect them from violence, but to help them build a new life. Together, they rally our communities to stop the conditions that allow gender-based violence to continue. 

On November 9, 2023, we presented our highest honour, the Community Builder of the Year Award, to the following organizations: 


We gathered at The Enclave Monument at Minto Park in downtown Ottawa “To honour and to grieve all women abused and murdered by men. Envision a world without violence, where women are respected and free,” and give thanks to the organizations on the frontlines combatting gender-based violence in our communities.
 

Watch representatives from these organizations talk about what it means for them to receive this award amidst conditions that are increasingly difficult to respond to: 

“The level of violence is escalating.” 

United Way East Ontario’s Community Builder of the Year Award brings our sector and partners together to celebrate the remarkable work being done to make a difference for some of the most vulnerable people in our region.     

This year, perhaps more than any other year, this award is also a call for reflection and action on a crisis that must not continue any longer. 

55 women, children, Two-Spirit people, gender non-conforming individuals, and trans women have been murdered by a man in Ontario since November 2022. 

“When we think about gender-based violence in the unique moment that we're in, it's not just the immediate violence that a person is experiencing, but the ecosystems of care that have been deeply fragmented, that are impacting access.”

As the housing and homelessness crisis worsens, fleeing violence becomes even more difficult. Shelters are at capacity and have turned away hundreds of people in Ottawa alone. Crisis lines in Prescott-Russell received more than 10,000 calls in the past year. The Ottawa Police Service reported a 10 per cent increase in cases of intimate partner violence that resulted in criminal charges in 2022. We know that this doesn’t capture the full picture, as so many incidents go unreported, uncharged, or un-convicted. 

“The challenge is resources. The challenge is affordable and safe housing. So, it's fine to say I'm ready to go, but where do I go? It's not just safety planning now. It's like, how do we keep you alive until we get you out?”

But our Community Builders of the Year are on the frontlines, fighting to put an end to the violence.  

Saving lives, and changing the narrative

Every day, our Community Builders of the Year pull people out of crisis and violent situations to offer safe housing, connect them to legal services, and offer career and education supports. Most importantly, they keep people alive. The hope is that these survivors will start new paths forward for themselves and their families, free from violence.   

The recipients of the Community Builder of the Year award are collectively working together to advocate for resources to address gender-based violence to policy makers, and to tackle its root causes. Together, they are doing things like leading local engagement into the coroner’s inquest into the deaths of Nathalie Warmerdam, Carol Culleton, and Anastasia Kuzyk; contributing to the 86 recommendations to prevent further incidents of intimate partner violence in rural communities; leading prevention campaigns to educate the community about violence in relationships, and to encourage healthy alternatives; and so much more.   

These individuals and their organizations empower government, organizations, and community members to collectively take action. They have been doing this work for decades—one of our recipients is on the verge of retirement—and yet they know that we can’t be complacent in the progress we’ve made over the years. Another one of our recipients is only a few months into the job, looking to the future of how we push forward. 

We know that the women and gender-diverse people behind End Violence Against Women Renfrew County, Lanark County Interval House and Community Support, the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, and La Coalition de Prescott-Russell pour Éliminer la Violence faite aux Femmes are, rightfully, tired.  

We know that we have more to do, but we also know that with these organizations raising awareness of the severity of gender-based violence, that more people feel seen and are comfortable reaching out for help.  

By talking about this issue, over and over again, and by making resources visible, we make it easier for women, gender-diverse people and their families to seek help when they need it. 

“For United Way to say, we recognize that you guys are doing this every day. You're in the trenches, you're doing the tough work. You're supporting women, you're keeping them alive. You're doing the best you can with what you have. That was monumental for me to see somebody's recognizing the work we're doing.”

Allyship from across our region

Members of Parliament Anita Vandenbeld, Marie-France Lalonde, and Lisa Hepfner (who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth) joined to offer their commitments and solidarity from the federal government. Jane Torrance, Councillor for Almonte in Mississippi Mills; and Sawsan Al-Refaei, Acting Director of Gender and Race Equity, Inclusion, Indigenous Relations, and Social Development for the City of Ottawa also attended to show their support for the work being done to combat gender-based violence across our region.  

In the evening, a special Recognition Dinner was held at Joe Thottungal’s Coconut Lagoon to honour the recipients, their guests, and their allies – all thanks to United Way’s Women United and our partner, Accenture.  

 Accenture joined us with a commitment to making a difference for women in Canada and joined as a valued Program Sponsor of our Women United program in 2021. Thank you, Accenture, for supporting the wellbeing of women and gender-diverse people in our communities. 

Addressing challenges, getting results

At United Way, we advocate for increased capacity of the social services sector so we can address systemic challenges, identify resources and supports, and invest to support women and gender-diverse people in our communities.  

Together with our partners, we: 

  • Ensure access to comprehensive, integrated, community-based, culturally relevant counselling and supports for people experiencing crisis, including people experiencing gender-based violence.   
  • Invest in second stage housing and gender-based support programs in rural and urban areas.    
  • Increase the digital connectivity of supports and programs for women fleeing violence to safely and privately develop a plan to escape a violent situation.    
  • Ignite support from donors to rally around initiatives like Women United, which foster and create a deeper understanding and connection to issues facing women in our community through unique engagement opportunities, volunteerism, advocacy, and leadership in philanthropy.   
  • Use our voice to lift the voice of others: we are committed to ensuring the public and decision makers have a deep understanding of the escalating issue of gender-based violence and what they can do to end it.   

 

“The moment and crisis we are in calls for our attention, our action, and our willingness to change. We are deeply grateful for the work of our Community Builders of the Year in building healthier, safer, thriving communities for all of us.”

“All genders are impacted by violence and should be part of the solution. Everyone has knowledge and experience, whether they realize it or not, and every voice is wanted and needed.”

Discover United Way East Ontario’s Community Builder program.

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