Alberta’s premier claims the association representing sexual assault support centres across the province “refused” over $4 million in government funding.
Following the release of Alberta’s 2023 budget last week, the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) issued a media release stating “it is extremely disappointing the government did nothing to address the unmet needs” of survivors.
During media availability on Monday regarding the expansion of mental health treatment for Alberta youth, Premier Danielle Smith was asked about the lack of funding for sexual assault support centres.
“I know that we had worked with the shelter association about giving them $17 million to the shelter system,” said Smith.
“We wanted to increase that by (4.2) million. It fell short of what they wanted – they wanted 14 million – so they refused the (4.2) million increase that we offered to them.”
Smith said the government has “a little bit more work to do to work with them to find out what their actual needs are.”
“I always hope that we’re able to 100 per cent fund every need that is out there. But we do know this is a priority. It’s very important to us,” she said.
“If we can meet so we that we can find a number that they think would be more appropriate that’s within our means, then I know the minister would be happy to do that.”
The AASAS, on behalf of 15 sexual assault support centres across the province, submitted a business case for enhanced and ongoing funding to support survivors of sexual violence in Alberta in the spring of 2022.
In a statement last week, the AASAS stated the government offered a one-time investment for about one-quarter of the funding that was requested.
“Despite numerous attempts to continue a dialogue and find a solution together, the government decided to re-allocate their proposed one-time investment without further negotiation with sexual assault centres,” the AASAS stated.
“AASAS and sexual assault centres recognize that the government has many priorities given the numerous challenges that Albertans are facing, but ignoring the needs brought forward in the business case indicates a lack of understanding of how sexual violence is linked to some of our most serious social and health problems – like addictions; chronic and persistent mental illness; homelessness; and unemployment. It raises the question: is sexual violence a priority for this government?”
Funding was asked for in four program areas:
- Decrease the counselling wait lists (which is upwards of a year in some areas of the province);
- Address the increasingly complex needs of survivors;
- Help survivors to access justice;
- Provide school-based and community-based prevention programs so we can keep our communities safe.