Today in Question Period, I asked why the Minister of Finance didn’t fund the Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic’s proposal for Budget 2020 so that their work can continue and so that other communities in B.C. can open clinics on their own.
Despite the overwhelming demand for their services, they were on the verge of closing this year. They cannot continue to rely on donations to provide services that should be the government’s fundamental responsibility.
S. Furstenau: The Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic is an integrated medical and police facility built by VSAC in collaboration with the forensic nurse examiners, Island Health, local police and RCMP. It was designed by the people who respond to those crimes for efficiency and effectiveness, and it allows survivors to access both departments at once.
Since opening, their team has diverted hundreds of people from the ER and double the number of people accessing preventative medication, medical care, counselling services and victim service support, and it has increased rates of police reporting. In the process of providing better care, they are saving the government approximately $1,370 each time they treat someone at the clinic instead of that person going to the hospital. It has proven both medically and fiscally to be the best model for responding to sexualized violence. What they are lacking, also because of their integrated model, is stable funding.
My question is to the Minister of Finance. The clinic submitted a funding model proposal for Budget 2020 so that their work can continue and so that other communities in B.C. can open clinics on their own. Despite the overwhelming demand for their services, they were on the verge of closing this year. They cannot continue to rely on donations to provide services that should be the government’s fundamental responsibility. Why did the minister choose not to fund this proposal?
Hon. C. James: Thank you to the member for the question. I think all of us in this House will stand united to deal with the issue of violence against women in our communities.
I have to say the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre has done extraordinary work in their integrated model that they hope will not only provide a model for Victoria but will, in fact, provide a model for the rest of the province. Last year they were provided with a grant for two years — $200,000 over two years. They’re now in the second year of that grant. That helps cover the operating costs for the clinic while they continue to undertake the work to ensure its long-term sustainability. I expect that a proposal will come forward in this coming year.
Mr. Speaker: House Leader, Third Party on a supplemental.
S. Furstenau: Well, I recognize that the minister identifies that we stand united. However, standing united is not the same as providing stable funding, which is what this clinic needs in order to be able to be a model for clinics across this province.
The costs of sexual assault are astronomical. For B.C., short- and long-term medical care is $14.1 million. Lost productivity and opportunities for survivors — $27.1 million. Costs to employers and social services — $8.94 million. We are paying more to provide worse care. As the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services wrote: “Sexual assault rates in our province continue to rise, and proper care immediately following an assault can substantially reduce the long-term costs.”
I want to start with what are the basics of responsibility. My question is to either the Minister of Health or the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. Given the overlap of interaction between Health and Justice in cases of sexualized violence, which one of these ministers is taking responsibility for this file?
Hon. C. James: The funding is distributed through the community safety and crime prevention branch, which is in the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. That’s where the funding comes from.
I appreciate the comments that the member has made about the extraordinary work done by the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre. There’s also prevention funding that comes through that ministry. We provide annual funding to support 400 programs and services to support victims of sexual violence. We increased funding for violence-against-women programs by an additional $5 million a year. In this year’s throne speech, as the member will know, our government also announced plans to provide five days of paid leave for people fleeing domestic violence.
We certainly are going to continue to look, because we know there is more to do. As I said, I certainly expect that we’ll see a proposal come forward from Victoria clinic as well.