New Year, new me? That’s the kind of response we’ve been seeing over social media and in the news for the last few weeks, which got us thinking, as a women serving organization what would be three new years resolutions we would want to see in our community and in our province? What can Calgary and Alberta do to better the lives of vulnerable women and children? Well, we pondered those questions and came up with three things we want to see progress from our municipal and provincial governments in 2018:
- Immediate increase to the social assistance rates
- Full implementation of the three specific initiatives stemming from Gender & Diversity motion passed by Calgary City Council last year
- Reducing the number of domestic violence incidents in Calgary
Social Assistance Rates in Alberta
Budget 2017 marked five straight years where the monthly benefit available to individuals who are temporarily not working or unable to work has been stuck at $627. No person can live with health and dignity, nor plan to move forward to more positive destinations when their core benefits are $627/month. The base annual income support benefit of the ‘single employable’ recipient was just under $8,000 in 2016, which comes to 38% of the poverty line which is set at $21,359. Those deemed ‘unable to work’ receive a base benefit of just under $10,000, coming up to 48% of the poverty line. The benefits are not indexed to inflation, so they have been steadily eroding over the years.
Think of the costs for basic needs which have changed since 2012 and how far $600 bucks could go. It’s woefully inadequate and results in people – more than 50,000 in January – being trapped in indignity. basic needs.
In 2018, we would like to see the social assistance rates indexed to inflation to ensure that the most vulnerable among us would be able to meet their most basic needs
Gender & Diversity Motion
In 2017, Calgary was ranked one of the worst Canadian cities for women by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 22 out of 25 metropolitan areas. Part of Calgary’s issue was the lack of representation of women in leadership where our city falls near the bottom of the pack. In 2017, Gian-Carlo Carra put forward a Notice of Motion on Gender Equity and Diversity to city council which was unanimously approved. The Notice of Motion provides a tangible pathway to increase the participation and advancement of women and underrepresented groups in civic and political life. Diverse perspectives and voices are critical to ensuring the best ideas and solutions are at the table when city council is making decisions. We were very supportive and grateful for this motion because it is a way we can make Calgary a better place for women and persons of diversity to live and work.
City council must implement the notice of motion to: 1) Advance the profile and awareness of gender equity and diversity within the community, 2) Advance the profile and awareness of gender equity and diversity for City Boards, Commissions and Councils, 3) Advance the profile and awareness of gender equity and diversity within The City’s workforce.
Violence against Women
As more people continue conversations about #MeToo and #TimesUp, it’s critical to remember that the harassment and bullying of women must be seen through the appropriate lens of violence against women. The fact is, more and more violence against women is being perpetrated in our community. In 2017, domestic violence incidents were six per cent higher than in 2016 and that marks a 34 per cent increase in domestic violence incidents over the five-year average. With the release, the Calgary Police Service sadly confirmed the reality that domestic violence incidents have increased in Calgary.
We know that violence against women is on the rise and approximately 70 per cent of spousal violence is unreported. We know that gender-based violence is reaching staggeringly high levels in Calgary. We know that violence against women is happening in every community, every neighbourhood and at every income level.
Whether she’s walking home from the bus stop at night or going to class on a university class, we need to consider, and take seriously, the safety of women and girls in all areas of our community. It is up to all of us to create a city and a community where violence against women is not tolerated.
The new year brings new opportunity to improve the lives for our community’s most vulnerable. By working together, we can create brighter futures for all.