Given the rising number of domestic violence incidents in our city, we at the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective (CDVC) are concerned that the City of Calgary does not have an articulated plan to address and eradicate domestic violence and that domestic violence has been absent from the Council’s agenda.
With that in mind, we asked the top questions from our collective of the top five candidates of the Calgary Mayoral Race.
We received the following responses from Jan Damery and Brad Field. Jeromy Farkas, Jyoti Gondek and Jeff Davidson declined to respond.
You can see the responses we received below (the response from Field is at the bottom of this page):
What responsibility does the City of Calgary have to address domestic violence?
Damery: The City of Calgary is the closest level of government to the people of Calgary, and City of Calgary funded or coordinated services are often the first assistance victims of domestic violence interact with. The City is funder, coordinator, and advocate.
In Calgary, approximately one in five people experience poverty, one in three experience domestic violence, and one in two have mental illnesses. While the City of Calgary has strategies to address mental illness and poverty, we don’t have a strategy to address domestic violence. Will you make creating a strategy a priority?
Damery: Yes. I would convene a panel of experts to assess whether a dedicated strategy is required, or whether an update to an existing strategy is best, with advice to return within 90 days. Then I would work to action those experts’ advice.
Throughout the pandemic, we have seen a 30 per cent increase in incidents of domestic violence. What is your plan to support individuals impacted by domestic and sexual violence during your time in office?
Damery: Ensure resources are there at all levels of supports: prevention, intervention, transition, and recovery.
Family Violence Awareness Month (FVAM) in November each year. If you were to become mayor, what would your recognition of FVAM look like in Calgary? How would you recognize violence in our community and help raise awareness?
Damery: I would proclaim Family Violence Awareness Month, and hold a roundtable discussion with service agencies open to the media to spread awareness and learn more about domestic violence prevention and support services. I would highlight the good work of the Domestic Conflict Response Team pilot.
Calgary Police Service members are front-line responders to many domestic and sexual violence reports throughout our city each year. How will you work with CPS going forward to ensure they have the support they need to properly respond to violence in Calgary?
Damery: By ensuring that complementary interventions and services including domestic violence prevention, and bystander intervention are adequately funded, the CPS’s capacity to respond to domestic and sexual violence reports will be retained. We need to ensure the Domestic Conflict Response Team should it prove to improve outcomes is retained as a permanent service.
Though domestic violence-related calls to Calgary police remain within a five-year average, CPS is seeing more citizens call the police before their situation escalates to violence. Would you support increased funding to prevent domestic violence? Why or why not?
Damery: Yes. Earlier intervention means better outcomes. This will enable CPS to focus on what it does best—crisis intervention. Part of this pervention is making funding for the Mental Health and Addiction Strategy permanent and funding mental health work associated with domestic violence prevention like emotional regulation.
In cases where individuals decide to leave a violent relationship, access to affordable housing is a key component of their safety plan. What is your commitment to supporting the ongoing availability of affordable housing in Calgary?
Damery: Every person deserves a home. Often, those without homes are seen as invisible. We need not only for emergency and temporary housing options to support those leaving a violent relationship, but a plan to expand the amount of affordable housing available.
We are 15 years into the 10-year plan to end homelessness. We are building only hundreds of units a year when we need to be building thousands. As is often the case, City Council has done some good work – just not at the scale required to address the enormity of the issue.
I have a plan to scale the amount of units built. We need to support providers (both not-for-profit and for-profit) to undertake larger projects with additional start-up funding and simplify permitting. We need to provide city land to enable projects and free up city capital to support capital by mobilizing our assets like city-owned industrial land. We cannot leave any federal supports on the table.
Not only do we need to significantly scale the number of units, but we need to ensure the wraparound services are available and accessible to those who need them. It’s not just about getting people in a house, it’s about giving access to the supports they require.
As Mayor, I will work with City Council to end homelessness, reduce Calgary’s affordable housing waitlist and:
- Ensure not one cent of federal housing dollars available to Calgary are left ‘on the table’.
- Provide more city land to affordable housing developers, including transit, oriented development sites such as under-utilized park and rides.
- Raise capital to support affordable housing by selling city owned industrial land over time.
Increase start-up funding to providers of affordable housing by scaling grants available under the Housing Incentive Program to the number of units built, doubling the grant for developments of 100 units.
- Streamline Housing Incentive Program Applications and harmonize reporting requirements with federal and provincial housing programs.
Study market failure in Calgary’s market rental housing market, including family sized (3 bedroom) units.
Secure a funding framework agreement with the provincial government to provide supportive housing based on realized savings to the health care system and Alberta Justice due to the provision of supportive housing.
Response from Brad Field:
I think domestic violence is an issue that needs to be addressed and discussed. It cannot be hidden.
We know the city’s economic downturn, compounded by the effects of the pandemic, have led to an increase and severity of domestic violence in Calgary. When people don’t have a job or sense of purpose and there are financial strains, conflicts can start to arise. This is why economic recovery and jobs are the highest priorities right now and the focus of my campaign.
Calgary also needs to address poverty reduction as there are still too many people in our city in need of support.
It is an unhappy fact of life that it is often women who need this assistance most, due to domestic violence, family breakup, or other factors. I have been a volunteer and a donor to many Calgary agencies, including the Women’s Emergency Shelter and the Terminator Foundation, and I can only say that I am highly committed to making sure people in need – women and men – have access to the supports they need.
That’s why I support the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective and the important work you’re doing to address domestic violence. I, as mayor, will support you and your organizations by being open and accessible so that I understand what you need to continue to do your work effectively. That said, I think the City getting out of the way can be helpful too. That can be accomplished in part by ensuring regulations and requirements allow an agency to function and focus on its services rather than worrying about complying with onerous processes and rules. Rules and regulations need to be necessary and uncomplicated.
My role as mayor is to help you do what you do best – assist Calgarians who need it. I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but I am keen to listen to the people in the room who do know what needs to be done.
The City plays a role in overall safety in the community. That’s why safety is a key plank in my platform. Not only does the city have to be safe, it has to feel safe, for everyone everywhere. As a show of my commitment to safety, I intend to implement a program to bring together the City, police, business organizations, residents’ associations, and social service agencies to help tackle violence and crime downtown, and give training to teach all responders how to deal with domestic violence, mental health and addictions issues, as well as cultural sensitivity training.
I want to thank all of the Collective’s agencies for everything you do to help make Calgary a great place. Thank you for what you do. Your work is important.
For additional information about my platform and my plans to make Calgary a world-class city with an excellent quality of life for everyone, and real equality of opportunity for all, please visit: https://www.votebradfield.ca/