ANTIGONISH: On May 18, the federal government announced over $162,000 in funding for the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association (AWRCSASA) to aid in funding the association’s bystander intervention project.
Central Nova MP Sean Fraser made the announcement on behalf of Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. He said this issue has been on his radar since before running for office.
“There is no question to me that funding initiatives to help reduce gender-based violence will result in social and economic returns that are far greater than the cost of the investment,” he said. “This is a no-brainer. This organization is doing great work. To the extent that I can be supportive or the federal government can be supportive, I know we’re doing the right thing.”
He said he studied ending gender-based violence while a part of the parliamentary standing committee on the status of women. He said the committee heard about the importance of ensuring young men and boys are engaged in the process and that people of all ages and genders can spot sexual assault when it’s happening and intervene to stop it before it happens.
“They’re starting by putting together training materials to help people better understand how they can intervene,” said Fraser. “[AWRCSASA] will be hiring a person to coordinate the project who is going to be working out of the women’s resource centre here in Antigonish. They’ll put together a project to help train members of society…on how to better deal with instances of sexual violence and to intervene.”
Following the announcement was a panel discussion on violence against women and advancing women’s rights. Featured on the panel were Fraser, Lucille Harper, executive director with AWRCSASA; Dr. Nancy Forestell, coordinator of the StFX Women and Gender Studies Department; Molly Peters, Paqtnkek First Nation councilor; and Annie Chau, community leader and women’s rights advocate.
“It’s going to enable us to do an important piece of work in Nova Scotia,” said Harper.
“The work has begun. It will really get underway over the next two years. We have until the end of the fiscal year [ending] March 31, 2019 to do this work, which is great because it will be quite a big process in bringing everybody around the table [and] reaching some common understanding.”
Harper said the centre is hoping the coordinator will begin on May 1, noting one of the coordinator’s first tasks will be to set up an advisory committee. She said the plan is to hopefully have the committee in place by the end of June.
“We’ll be actively looking then to answer some of the key questions, such as what would be key components of a bystander intervention program in Nova Scotia for campuses first and then, as well, communities,” Harper said.