Toronto, Thursday, July 26, 2018 – The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic supports the motion put forward by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam to create an intersectional gender equity strategy and gender equality office for Toronto.
Since 1985, the Clinic has worked with the marginalizedpopulations of women identified by Councillor Wong-Tam, to provide them with the legal, counselling and interpretation services they need to escape violence. Over the years, we have witnessed a steady increase in the number of women calling on the Clinic for help. In 2017, we assisted 4,700 women. In 2018, we assisted 7,000 women – a shocking 49 per cent increase over the previous year.
Due in part to a lack of predictable funding, the Clinic’s team of highly skilled women remains comparatively low at approximately 36 full and part-time staff. Our ratio of staff to clients is a staggering ratio of three staff to every 600 clients (3 : 600), and yet – despite this ongoing demand for our services – our funding increased less than 1 per cent.
Broken down, in 2017/2018 we provided: trauma-informed individual and group counselling services to 2,171 women (93 per cent increase); legal advice to 2,293 women (27 per cent increase) and served as the only community-based site that offered Independent Legal Advice (ILA) to women survivors of sexual assault; and interpretation of 2,474 refugee and immigrant women (110.4 per cent increase)so that their experiences of violence were accurately understood and language was not an impediment to justice.
When the writ was droppedfor the provincial election, our funding was frozen, and the ILA program was not renewed.This is particularly disturbing because since the program’s launch in 2016, the Clinic has seen more than 425 clients and provided more than 895 hours in service – more than 50 per cent of the total number of people accessing the province-wide program.
The City of Toronto has a proud history of equity strategies that help us create a more inclusive city for all. In this spirit, we urge that council and the mayor take women with intersecting identities seriously. We know, from our more than 30 years of providing service, women from underrepresented communitiesare among the most vulnerable to human rights violations. By including a gendered intersectional equity plan to ensure that the voices of women and girls are heardin all of the City’s key decision-making, the city will live up to its track record and its aspirations.
About Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic is a specializedclinic for women experiencing violence, established in the memory of Barbra Schlifer – an idealistic young lawyer whose life was cut short by violence on the night of her call to the bar of Ontario on April 11, 1980. In her memory, the Clinic is a multi-disciplinary, frontlineservice provider that assists nearly 4,000 women a year to build lives free from violence through counselling, legal representation,and language interpretation. Since it was foundedin 1985, the Clinic has assisted more than 65,000 women.