Nearly thirty years after the École Polytechnique massacre, staff at the Lloydminster Interval Home Society say that gender-based violence is still a big problem in Lloydminster.
Chief Operating Officer Charlene Rowein, says Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Canada with Alberta closely behind. Here in Lloydminster, their shelter is typically always at full capacity.
“We see on average between 450 to 500 women and children every year, with just about half of those numbers being children,” says Rowein. “We also provide an outreach service to which we will see an average of around 130 women a year.”
This Thursday was the twenty-ninth anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre, or the Montreal Massacre. Marc Lépine shot 28 people and killed 14 women at École Polytechnique in Montreal.
Rowein says that domestic violence has been on the rise over the past five years and the shelter sees many calls that they have to turn away due to capacity.
“When we look at the numbers on average we’re seeing between three to four calls every day that we’re having to turn someone away to access emergency services,” says Rowein. “So right here in Lloydminster it’s still quite prevalent.”
The shelter is aware that while they may be full at times, there may be a very present need for someone escaping domestic violence. Rowein says the shelter tries exploring other options to ensure those escaping domestic violence are safe.
“We may be able to refer them to our outreach services, we may be able to refer them to social services, both through Alberta and Saskatchewan,” says Rowein. “Really exploring options with that individual if there’s somewhere else that they can be safe and call back each day to see if there’s a room available.”
Rowein says the shelter is open to working with other shelters, with Alberta Works or with social services. She says they do what they can to provide services according to need.
“We’ve really noticed the trend, even just people trying to come into emergency services increasing, and our turn-aways increasing. But also through our outreach services, we’ve seen that grown over the last year as well, as an alternative for women who may need that type of support instead of coming into an emergency shelter.”
Rowein adds that there’s no one way to pinpoint who will be affected by domestic violence, saying that there are victims from all socio-economic backgrounds.
“It’s trying to get the message out there: what does a healthy relationship look like?” says Rowein. “And that’s part of some of the initiatives we take part in educating the public. Like number one, what is gender-based violence, what does it look like?”
Initiatives like Leading Change Lloydminster and Breakfast With The Guys are some of those ways the Lloydminster Interval Home Society hopes will start a conversation. They hope to engage men and boys with these conversations to change attitudes around gender-based violence.
“We all can be a part of that solution. The more we talk about it in our everyday conversation, the more aware we can become and support those that are around us,” says Rowein. The Interval Home Society hopes to have more Leading Change presentations throughout the community in the new year.