Earlier this week, we were at BC’s 2022 Budget presentation in Victoria on the unceded Coast Salish homelands of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples.
While West Coast LEAF welcomes BC’s announcement that it will reverse cuts that were made in 2002 and provide core funding to community-based sexual assault response organizations, Budget 2022 fails to reverse other damaging services cuts that have undermined survivors of gender-based violence in B.C.
The following important investments were missing from the budget:
Access to Justice and Legal Aid
Budget 2022 fails to make access to justice for survivors of gender-based violence a priority, despite the escalation in family and gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than a decade ago, the province gutted legal aid services, cut by 40% overall and by 60% for family law. Yet again, BC has failed to dedicate funding to access to justice to the family law courts and legal aid services which are critical to supporting survivors of gender-based violence build secure and safe lives.
While we are glad to see ongoing core funding for sexual assault services in Budget 2022, the province has not committed funds to a comprehensive response to gender-based violence. They have also failed to commit resources and act on the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, though nearly three years have passed since the Inquiry.
Over-representation of Indigenous children in child protection
In the past year, the truth of residential schools and the Indigenous children who never returned home has become widely known. Despite this grave moment in our history, Budget 2022 does not reflect the importance of keeping Indigenous families together and does not specifically direct supports to kinship caregivers who are critical to keeping Indigenous children in their communities.
Still no universal prescription contraception
The province has not kept its 2020 election promise to make prescription contraception free in B.C, despite calls from Access BC and other organizations that it fulfill this promise.
But several key developments in Budget 2022 were encouraging:
Sexual assault response
Budget 2022 commits $22 million of incremental funding over 3 years to approximately 50 community-based sexual assault response organizations, undoing cuts made to these services in 2002.
Progress on affordable and accessible childcare
Budget 2022 also includes $284 million dollars in funding for childcare services. The province plans to create 30,000 new licensed spaces in the next five years and cut average fees to approximately $20 dollars a day. This multi-year commitment is an important plan to advance gender equity in B.C.
Non-profit recovery and resiliency fund
The province has committed $30 million to support charitable organizations that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At West Coast LEAF, we’ll continue to fight for access to legal aid for people fleeing family violence. We will continue to advocate for support for survivors of gender-based violence. And we’ll continue to advance child welfare advocacy through our Communities of Practice Project.