During the pandemic when the city was locked down, a mom reached out to me in a dire situation. She was 8 months pregnant with 2 little ones bundled up standing outside a police station in the cold. She was trying to leave a violent situation at home. Due to Covid restrictions, the police could not let her in the building and instead told her shelters were full. Myself and a group of moms worked together to find her a shelter space as she waited hours on central intake to see if a place was available in the city. Luckily due to a great online moms network, we were able to find her shelter space one hour away.
It takes an average of 7 times before a woman successfully leaves an abusive relationship. Each attempt is filled with anxiety and fear while requiring tremendous courage. It is unacceptable that there are not enough spaces in our system and that police would have turned a woman in this situation away at such a critical moment.
Due to my work with North York Moms, I have now helped a handful of women through such a critical moment, something I never imagined doing when I first started the group.
Yesterday, Toronto City Council joined 30 municipalities which have declared gender-based violence and intimate partner violence (IPV) an epidemic in the city. These municipalities represent more than 50% of Ontario. Mayor Chow’s motion urged the provincial and federal governments to enact the 86 recommendations from the inquest into the 2015 Renfrew County murders of three women, including providing the necessary support to meaningfully address gender-based violence.
I moved an amendment to recommendation 6 in order to include community organizations servicing victims of IPV and the Toronto Police Services in the list of stakeholders to be consulted in developing the best way to action our declaration of this epidemic.
I began my second day of council meeting attending the mayor’s press conference with about 25 female advocates who travelled from many parts of Ontario to celebrate this important motion. Mayor Chow, Councillor Nunziata and myself shared, during council meeting, our own past painful experiences with violence in our homes. Several female councillors offered warm embraces.
Following the unanimous adoption of the motion by council, these women leaders gathered in a committee room to share their experiences and perspectives in order to identify some next steps to action Motion CC8.2. The next step will be forming a Roundtable to create a Toronto Action Plan. The mayor tasked me with delivering an interim report on what the city’s action plan for Intimate Partner Violence will be by the end of 2023. I am grateful for these brave women, including our new Mayor, who faithfully fight back against gender-based violence to protect vulnerable women and children. Toronto is embarking on a meaningful journey with Motion CC8.2.
I’m happy to say I was able to check in last year with the woman whom I described earlier. She has now established a new life as a single mom and is seeing success in her career. Not every woman has the benefit of an accessible village at such a critical moment. We need to ensure the resources and education are there so every woman can escape violence with the supports and clear pathways that are needed. I am also grateful to say that in my own circumstance, my family has gone through a significant healing journey that allows me to be who I am today.