Open letter re: funding cuts to CoSA

Circles of Support and Accountability (C0SA) is an internationally acclaimed program that helps prevent high-risk sex offenders from reoffending. Operating on the strength of 700 volunteers, this Canada-wide program currently supports over 150 sex offenders.

But Public Safety Canada has announced that it will cut close to 20% of CoSA’s funding (a loss of $656,000) as of the end of this month. In September, the program will lose even more of its funding.

Although results of an extensive evaluation won’t be available until September, existing research suggests that sexual recidivism rates for men who participate in CoSA are 80% lower compared to men who do not participate.

The following is an open letter to the Minister of Public Safety, the Hon. Steve Blaney

Honourable Steve Blaney
Minister of Public Safety
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Honourable Blaney,

I am writing to you to express my concern over the termination of funding to the Circles of Support and Accountability (C0SA), a program with a proven track record of helping high-risk sex offenders and lowering recidivism rates.

CoSA is internationally acclaimed for its success. It has projects across Canada and currently supports over 150 sex offenders. Because so much of the work is done by  teams of committed volunteers, this program operates on an annual budget of only $2.2 million.

It is incomprehensible to me why the Department of Public Safety removes funding from such a successful, cost-effective operation. The government claims to want to protect Canadians and keep our streets safe. Yet you are taking away from a program that has been keeping Canadians safer by reducing sexual offences.

Your Department’s National Crime Prevention Centre has invested funds in evaluating the effectiveness of CoSA. The results are expected at the end of this year. Cutting funding to CoSA without waiting for the results of this study is a waste of the tax-payers’ money that funded it.

I respectfully ask that the Department of Public Safety reinstate funding for CoSA immediately and maintain funding until the results of the evaluation from the National Crime Prevention Centre are available. I trust that the evaluation will then demonstrate that CoSA deserves continued funding and support from your Department.

I look forward to your response on this matter.

Respectfully,
Anita Grace

cc: The Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
Don Head, Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada
Anne Kelly, Senior Deputy Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada
Therese Leblanc, Regional Deputy Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada
Johanne Vallee, Regional Deputy Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada
Lori MacDonald, Regional Deputy Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada
Brenda LePage, Regional Deputy Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada
Peter German, Regional Deputy Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada
Randall Garrison, NDP Public Safety Critic
Wayne Easter, Liberal Public Safety Critic
Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party

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The Clothesline Project

Kate RexeKate Rexe is a mother, a writer, an advocate, and a seeker of social justice. She has worked for national non-profit organizations in research and policy development for the last decade and would one day like to change the world.

Clothesline project

 

On Sunday, May 27, I attended Ottawa’s Clothesline Project, a project aimed to break the silence about domestic violence in our communities. It was a gorgeous day to be outside, made even more beautiful by the public display of art, compassion, support, and strength of women and girls.

I saw many women and girls who were courageously displaying their own experiences. There were conversations about who we are as women, our vulnerabilities, but also our strengths. There were stories filled with pride and accomplishment, because we as women, sisters, mothers and daughters are often much stronger than we give ourselves and each other credit for. There were memories shared of loved ones who have been lost to violence, and optimism that tomorrow will be a better day.

I attended in part to support the many women I have worked with and grown to love and admire, but also to share my own story. This was this only the second time I’ve shared my experiences of violence in a public way. The first time was at a workshop sponsored by the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres called Kanawayhitowin, or “taking care of each other’s spirit”.

The workshop was for facilitators and those who work with Aboriginal women affected by violence. At the time I was the director of ‘Sisters In Spirit’, a research, education and policy initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) which worked to raise awareness and give strength to the families of nearly 600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. As the director, I spoke to a lot of families, worked with communities, and tried to be the best leader and advocate I could. I was humbled by the stories I heard and the courage I saw each time a family member came forward to speak about their experiences. At this workshop I realized that I didn’t need to hide my own experiences in order to be a strong advocate; in fact it is my experiences that make me who I am today and help me understand those who are struggling to escape violent experiences of their past. This is the lesson I will always carry with me, and yesterday I had the chance to share my experiences with the world, without fear of judgment, shame or weakness.

It was wonderful to see representatives from Families of Sisters In Spirit, also attending this event. Families of Sisters In Spirit is a grassroots organization that started up because the government of Canada decided they would no longer fund ‘Sisters In Spirit’. The families and women involved are amazing, not only because of all they have overcome, but because they have helped to create a movement for social change. Bridget Tolley and Sue Martin have lost loved ones to tragedy, but they continue to make a difference for other families who have lost a daughter, mother, sister, cousin, or friend. They are passionate advocates and they spend each day fighting for what they believe in and trying to make a difference for other families who have lost someone they love.

In 2010, NWAC released the last statistics related to missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada (the only source of this data was collected through ‘Sisters In Spirit’) and found that violence experienced by Aboriginal women and girls is not limited to domestic violence; in fact, of the data collected, Aboriginal women and girls were as likely to be killed by a stranger or an acquaintance as they were by an intimate partner. Statistics Canada also reports Aboriginal women’s experience of violence are unlike other women in Canada – Aboriginal women are three times more likely to experience violent victimization, both related to domestic violence, as well as by a stranger or an acquaintance.

Some people saw The Clothesline Project as a sad commentary of the way our society is blind to the violence, which is pervasive and runs deep. While I agree it is shameful that so many women, men, children and families are impacted by violence, I was proud to be there. I saw the caring spirit of community coming forward to say “you are not alone”. Too often I’ve felt alone in my experiences of violence. I felt like a victim. Today I am strong. I am a survivor and I will not hide who I am out of fear or shame. And for those who have not yet reached a place where they can speak out, I hope they will be encouraged by those who did yesterday and that they will know that they are not alone.

Homelessness

EMCP, Carleton University

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