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Northern Ont. reaction as Ford government to declare IPV an epidemic

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With the Ford government set to support a NDP bill proposing intimate partner violence (IPV) be declared an epidemic, many say the move has been a long time coming.

NDP Health critic and Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas said the move will be a big win.

Gélinas said there were numerous survivors of IPV and victims’ families at the Queen's Park meeting Wednesday morning. NDP leader Marit Stiles posed the question, asking if the bill would be passed.

"To everybody's amazement, their answer was yes, they’ll vote in favour of the bill,” Gélinas said.

“The bill is simple. It's one line, that Ontario will declare IPV an epidemic.”

By declaring IPV an epidemic, survivors would receive more resources, support and services.

"There should be support systems for that woman who is facing that situation, that they don’t have to be homeless, that there's a shelter in place for them, that there's a place that can support them and their children until they're on their feet again," Gélinas said.

"It's important because it has the opportunity to trigger a whole lot of changes that are within the Ontario government’s mandate to help survivors of intimate partner violence."

Last year, four people — including three children — were killed in an act of IPV in Sault Ste Marie. Since then, multiple municipalities -- including Sudbury, Timmins, Sault Ste Marie and North Bay -- declared it an epidemic.

Kristine Lalonde, executive director of Phoenix Rising Women's Centre in the Sault, said the declaration is something the organization and many have called for.

"With the tragic event that happened in Sault Ste Marie, I think it's become apparent that it's not going away and more services are needed," Lalonde said.

With the Ford government set to support a NDP bill proposing intimate partner violence (IPV) be declared an epidemic, many say the move has been a long time coming. (Photo from video)

Danielle Morin, centre coordinator, said it's a step forward.

"It brings it to the forefront that it's a chronic issue happening in our society," she said.

Northern Ontario faces unique challenges with IPV, Gélinas said, with some communities without a police station close by or organizations struggling to keep themselves afloat.

"The strategies that are developed province-wide often do not work that well in northern Ontario," she said.

"So we really need a northern Ontario lens. There are people who do that work on a day to day basis who know how to protect people, how to support them after it happens, how to help them transition."

Marlene Gorman, executive director of YWCA Sudbury, said Genevra House's 32-shelter bed facility is often full. She said calls to the organization's crisis line, and the need for services, are on the rise.

Step in the right direction

Gorman said the province's acknowledgement is a step in the right direction.

“Declaring intimate partner violence an epidemic is saying we hear women, it's important and it demands our utmost attention and resources and a strong commitment to change," Gorman said.

"So it’s the first step, really, in working towards ending intimate partner violence. We know the first step in addressing any problem is admitting there is a problem, and this is a problem of epic proportions."

She said the YWCA needs more funding to meet the demand for support, and is hopeful funding will be included down the line.

"We need more money on the front end, to reach young women and men, more resources and counselling and supporting women," Gorman said.

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"It will leverage what we're currently doing, provide that public knowledge and prevention to make those changes."

Morin said if more funding was allocated to supporting their organization, more time could be spent helping women in need than fundraising initiatives.

"I do think there should be expectations of funds so we can build services and programs and have more workers that can meet women where they're at and what they're going through," she said. 

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