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

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

Creston’s Fields Forward collecting data for potential food processing plant

An Oct. 1 survey will collect input from regional farmers and food processors

West Kootenay mother searching for son missing since Sept. 1

Police are investigating the disappearance of Cory Westcott

MP Morrison faults federal Throne Speech as new Parliament session begins

Kootenay-Columbia representative criticizes a lack of focus on jobs, support for resource sector

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read