ConcertAction Femmes Estrie and la Coalition des groupes de femmes de Haute-Yamaska et de Brome-Missisquoi gathered in front the office of Isabelle Charest, MNA for Brome-Missisquoi, Minister for Education, and Minister responsible for the Status of Women on Friday. The demonstration was organized in response to the recent suspected femicide of Dunham resident Patrizia Rao, and Maria Cristovao of Laval, and for the safety of all women who are victims of domestic violence. While the government has made investments in women’s shelters, women’s groups across the Eastern Townships are saying that more needs to be done.
“It’s a systemic problem and as a collective we all have a responsibility to get rid of this violence,” said Marie-Danielle Larocque, responsible for associative life and communications for ConcertAction Femmes Estrie. “Offering money is absolutely necessary because community organizations and women’s groups have been chronically underfunded, but at the moment, to keep women safe, there needs to be action in health, education, and secure lodging. They need to go further because once women escape that violence there need to be other doors that open for them to get even further from their violent environment.”
Lodging, security, and transport are the main priorities of women’s groups across the Townships. “The shelters can help women find lodging, but when they leave the shelter there aren’t really any specific resources for women for after, when they are no longer in a situation of violence,” said Aika Hamelin, from Sherbrooke group Éxlir. “A lot of women are living in a situation of precariousness because they don’t have a job, and finding a job can be hard,” she said, adding a lot of that type of support is missing.
Hamelin also explained that things also need to change when women approach the police in regards to a potential situation of violence, and that a system needs to be set in place for those women who feel that they are in danger before it’s too late. “When you make a complaint for a risk of violence, if the violence didn’t happen, not much is done,” she said.
Gayl Rhicard, member of Avante Women’s Centre in Bedford, added that it’s not only the moment that women leave the shelters that resources are crucial, but the moment before women enter the shelters is also of extreme importance. “Women’s centres are different than shelters whereas we don’t have the beds, but we can give counselling. So, if you’re in a situation but its not “bad enough” to be in a shelter, you can come to us and we can help you or we can refer you to the correct organization that can give the help that you need,” said Rhicard.
The most recent suspected femicide of Patrizia Rao hit close to home for the women’s groups and they decided to gather outside of Charest’s office in solidarity with victims and their families in hopes that she would stand in solidarity alongside of them.
“She is the Minister for women’s affairs in Brome-Missisquoi and she has not come out to speak about these femicides that have happened in her region. We find that abhorrent,” emphasized Rhicard. “She hasn’t come out to speak about it, to give her condolences to the families, and it really hit close to home. They all hit hard, but this one is in the town next door.”
Their symbolic gathering was also about encouraging the community to contact the resources around them, to ask questions, and to stand in solidarity with victims of domestic violence. “The resources are not just there for the victims, but for their entourage, their family, their neighbors and how to properly intervene,” mentioned Larocque.