Federal government announces $1M in funding to support crisis hotline services in Sask.

The federal government has announced $1 million in funding to support crisis hotline services in Saskatchewan.

“Supporting crisis hotlines is an important initiative that is part of the ongoing efforts by the governments of Canada and Saskatchewan to address gender-based violence in the province,” a press release from the government of Canada read.

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The funding is meant to help crisis hotlines offer more robust services, resources and supports to serve the needs of all survivors of gender-based violence and their families, no matter where they live in Saskatchewan, according to the government.

Marci Ien, federal minister for women and gender equality and youth was in Regina Tuesday to make the announcement.

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“We know that crisis hotlines are an essential service for survivors of gender-based violence, especially those living in rural communities,” Ien said.

“They serve as a safe space for anyone seeking help, and they offer a listening ear during someone’s most vulnerable time. Providing timely funding to these organizations will make sure that these hotlines are able to continue providing life-saving services for everyone, no matter where they live.”

The funding goes to a province that holds the highest rates of domestic violence in the country, according to Statistics Canada.

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Saskatchewan leads all provinces in family violence, police-reported family violence against children and youth, and intimate partner violence.

In Regina, 213 sexual assaults were reported in 2022, compared with an average of 160 in previous years.  This represents a 16 per cent increase from 2021 and a 72 per cent increase from 2013.

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While 2022 numbers are not yet available, Saskatoon saw a similar increase over the last decade as sexual assaults rose 60 per cent from 2014 to 2021 and eight per cent from 2020 to 2021.

For some advocates, the funding is only a small step in meeting a very high demand. Stephanie Taylor, the executive director of Transition House, believes the money may help with providing basic supplies, but not necessarily in helping even more people.

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“(The funding) could provide some of those front-end services and supports but then you need the infrastructure to support bringing women into shelters if that’s the next step that’s needed for them.”

While exact details on the distribution of the funding are unclear at the moment, Taylor said the $1 million is a small pot for every crisis helpline and organization to take a piece of, especially when calls continue to increase.

“Our calls have increased to 1,351 for people needing help in a year,” Taylor said. “That was another six per cent increase from the year prior and every year it just seems to be going up.”

Taylor said the funding is one piece of preventing gender-based violence but work also needs to be done at the community level to prevent it.

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“You kind of need to tackle things from both sides,” she said.

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