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BCIFV home > Newsletter > 2002 Archives > Winter 2002 articles

Interview with the Honorable Lynn Stephens,
Minister of State for Women’s Equality
Province of British Columbia

Anti-violence service providers are currently concerned about the BC Government’s announced intention to cut 30% to 40% from the budgets of Ministries in the next three years. The Minister of State for Women’s Equality recently responded to our questions regarding the impact of these cuts on services for those who experience family violence.

Institute Against Family Violence: What do you see as priority issues you will be most concerned with during your term in office?

Lynn Stephens: Over the long-term, I want to work to advance women’s concerns in three priority areas – Poverty/Economic; Women Centre Health Care; Safety and Security.

  • I have been instructed by the Premier to concentrate on the following priorities in the short-term:
  • Review and make recommendations on the provincial inventory of transition houses and emergency shelters.
  • Develop a safer community strategy for women in provincial emergency shelters and transition houses.
  • Review and make recommendations on the feasibility of development of a province-wide perspective for delivery of women’s services.

IFV: Your ministry funds a number of services that are essential to preventing family violence or assisting women and their children to deal with the impact of violence. However, these services have long waiting lists for women and children urgently needing assistance. What can you tell us about the impact proposed funding cuts may have on services for women and their children who experience violence? And what are your short and long-term goals for Children Who Witness Abuse and Stopping the Violence programs?

LS: No decisions have been made on changes to services for women and families. The Core Services Review includes a careful, cross ministry consideration of services currently provided.

IFV: In the coming year, what is your Ministry’s plan for addressing the serious under-funding of programs for women and children in transition houses across the province?

LS: I am reviewing and will make recommendations on the provincial inventory of transition houses, but the key to finding solutions is to work with community partners and non-profit organizations.

IFV: If funding is cut to women’s centres, how will small communities effectively deal with violence against women and children? In particular, in rural communities dominated by industries facing layoffs (i.e., mills, mines, CP Rail, etc.), the frustration, anger and hardship resulting from economic loss is expected to increase risk for violence and other problems in BC families. To whom will victims of violence turn should services in their communities also be threatened?

LS: Again, I have to reiterate that no decisions on services have been made.

IFV: In reviewing services for women who experience violence, how is your ministry working with other ministries, such as the Ministries of Attorney General and Public Safety and Solicitor General, to improve the enforcement of protection orders for women and their children?

LS: We are working very closely with all ministries to ensure that issues that affect women in the province are being considered during the review and budget process. We are working with the Attorney General on justice initiatives related to women, including developing legislation related to domestic violence as well as providing input to the federal custody and access legislation.

IFV: Also, what is your ministry doing to ensure that women who require the protection of criminal orders have access to adequate Crown counsel and Crown victim services, and that women who require civil protection orders or enforcement of orders have access to adequate legal aid? Is your ministry advocating for dedicated criminal Domestic Violence Courts, e.g., as exist in Ontario and Manitoba, to improve the quality of prosecutions and enforcement of protection orders?

LS: My ministry is working closely with Ministry of Attorney General on all significant programs and services that affect women and their families.

IFV: Is your ministry advocating amendments to the Family Relations Act to ensure that family violence is a factor that judges must consider in determining custody or access?

LS: Members of my staff are involved with the interministry group led by the Ministry of Attorney General, known as the Family Justice Services Initiatives Steering Committee. This group advises the Ministry of Attorney General with respect to any proposed amendments to the federal Divorce Act, the BC Family Relations Act, and any associated services.

IFV: Is your ministry advocating for adequate training and resources for those providing court ordered custody assessment reports to ensure that they address the impact of exposure to family violence on children?

LS: I believe the system of services associated with custody and access decisions, including court-ordered custody assessment reports, must be appropriate and adequate and must address the impacts of exposure to family violence on children.

IFV: Is your ministry advocating for more supervised access programs in BC to ensure the safety of children and their mothers during access visits with abusive fathers?

LS: Again, we are working with the Attorney General on all aspects of legal impacts on women.

IFV: We at the Institute would like to extend an offer to you to assist the provincial government in understanding family violence issues. In which ways might we best assist in this aim? Would you be willing to meet with some of our Board members, for instance, who have differing interests and expertise on women’s issues?

LS: Thank you for your offer of assistance. I have been meeting and consulting with women across the province to listen to their concerns. I have met with (IFV Executive Director) Penny Bain on a number of occasions and look forward to our discussions in my new role as Minister of State For Women’s Equality. Please contact my office to arrange a time convenient for both of us.