The Quebec government is committing more funding to combat intimate partner violence — including increasing the number of spots available in emergency shelters — after 10 women were killed in the first four months of 2021.
That is far above normal in Quebec, where, on average, 12 women are killed every year by their partners.
Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault announced at a news conference Friday afternoon that $223 million is being added to a five-year plan to address the problem. The government had already said it intended to spend $200 million by 2025 to improve services offered to women living in violent situations.
Calling the recent deaths "horrifying, heartbreaking for everyone," Guilbault, who is also public security minister, said that the government's first priority with this funding is to make sure that a woman in crisis is able to get help.
Guilbault said 313 full-time jobs would be created for external services and staffing at emergency shelters, so that more workers would be able to meet with women who are trying to get out of a dangerous situation.
Over the next 12 months, 163 new spots in existing shelters will be made available to deal with this "emergency situation," Guilbault said.
Other initiatives will also be announced in the near future using this funding, she said, including bolstering law enforcement, prosecutors and the corrections system, providing more money to organizations that assist violent men who are seeking help and specialized programs for the province's remote Indigenous communities.
And while the pandemic has left Quebecers spending more time at home with their families, Guilbault said that women fleeing violence should not be worried about getting ticketed for violating COVID-19 restrictions.
"To all the women of Quebec, there is no constraint — pandemic, full hospitals or curfew — there is no constraint that prevents you from fleeing a violent situation," she said, urging women to call a shelter or go to a friend or neighbour if they are in a dangerous situation.
Chantal Arsenault, president of the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale, said this funding "will allow us to improve our services to women where they are, according to their needs and their own reality."
With the funding paying for more intervention workers, she stressed that shelters provide far more than a safe place to sleep.
"Maybe you have doubts. Maybe you have difficulty putting words to describe what you're living," she said, addressing potential victims.
"Know you have people close to you who will listen, know you can speak with professionals, know that shelters offer more than just housing. You can call us 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
If you are affected by domestic violence, SOS violence conjugale is a provincewide toll-free crisis line, available 24/7. You can reach them at 1-800-363-9010 by phone, or via text at 438-601-1211