Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Winnie Byanyima, director general of Oxfam International, at the World Economic Forum Tuesday, January 23, 2018 in Davos, Switzerland. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Winnie Byanyima, director general of Oxfam International, at the World Economic Forum Tuesday, January 23, 2018 in Davos, Switzerland. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Groups that help vulnerable women ask Liberals for lifeline after losing out on aid

About half of the 117 groups involved in the report say they had to reduce service offerings

Groups that offer services to vulnerable women across the country say they were shut out from federal pandemic aid and now face an uncertain future.

A report this morning from a coalition of women’s rights organizations suggests the pandemic has led to a steep cut in the services groups provide.

About half of the 117 groups involved in the report say they had to reduce service offerings or cancel programs outright when the pandemic hit.

And about two-fifths say they weren’t able to access federal aid, either because eligibility criteria didn’t account for their unique funding models or because the groups themselves lacked the capacity to fill out applications.

As a result, groups now face the prospect of being unable to use existing funds to help cover increased costs from COVID-19 while potentially losing out on future funding because they aren’t offering as many services as they used to.

It’s why the organizations involved are asking the Trudeau Liberals to create a specific funding stream now so they aren’t forced to close in the coming months.

“Not only are women experiencing all these challenges across the country, but the organizations that are deeply focused on supporting them, they’re also at risk,” said Anjum Sultana, national director of public policy for YWCA Canada.

“The fear now is that whatever social safety net many of the women we’re serving had, that may also disappear.”

When COVID-19 struck, many in-person services had to stop, meaning groups weren’t able to offer their usual counselling, employment and skills-training services, often on shoestring budgets.

Most employees at these small and medium-sized non-profits and charities are women. They, like many women, had to care for children at home and that in turn further strained resources.

“It didn’t take very long for us to start seeing these cracks almost immediately,” said Jackie Neapole, executive director of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women.

The report attaches data and details to the anecdotal stories federal officials heard through the spring.

Eligibility criteria for programs like the wage subsidy required a decline in revenue that some groups couldn’t show because of the project-based nature of their financing.

Funding flows as projects or programs meet certain targets, with specific rules on how dollars can be spent.

Groups were unable to spend the money they had, nor were they able to quickly revise their programming, said Diana Sarosi, director of policy and campaigns at Oxfam Canada.

“If they can’t move ahead with their programming, or the costs that are involved in it are very different now, it makes it difficult for them to get the next tranche of money or it’s going to be cut down,” she said.

“That, again, causes a lot of financial insecurity for them moving forward.”

The report recommends the government quickly set aside an easily accessible pool of funding for these groups to help cover overhead and essential operating costs. It also calls on the government to help groups digitize their services since many weren’t easily able to.

Neapole said she was concerned her organization could collapse without some change in government help, much like other organizations in the sector.

She said a point of optimism is the federal promise of a task force on women in the economy to help a group disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

“Valuable expertise and knowledge and analysis from the women’s movement will be a key to that task force’s success, but only if we have the capacity to meaningfully participate,” Neapole said.

“And we’re only going to be able to do that if we’re not devastated financially.”

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

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

Just Posted

Hotel Zed Tofino has won a Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Award. (Westerly file photo)
Hotel Zed Tofino wins commercial building award

Vancouver Island Real Estate Board holds virtual gala.

The District of Ucluelet is fast-tracking temporary use permits for RVs/campervans as seasonal housing. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet reviews 11 applications for RVs as seasonal housing

“Housing is so essential to everyone, and an issue that cases a lot of stress to business owners.”

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht public works dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike on Snowbirds plane during training in Comox

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

The Village on Third in Nanaimo won the Judges’ Choice award as top overall entry at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards. (Photo submitted)
Top developments north of the Malahat honoured by Vancouver Island Real Estate Board

Nanaimo’s Village on Third takes top honour at VIREB Commercial Building Awards

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Most Read