B.C. municipalities back Saanich motion, urge funding for sexual assault clinics

VANCOUVER — Sexual assault clinics in B.C. need assured provincial funding to provide immediate assistance to both men and women and to allow forensic evidence-gathering, delegates have decided at Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention.

A resolution from Saanich council said sexual assault rates have continued to rise and that Indigenous women and girls are between 12 and 16 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women.

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Saanich Coun. Zac de Vries said such services need to be offered in a “humane and compassionate way” at “one of the most critical moments in a survivor’s life.”

Conference delegates heard that sexual-assault victims can be traumatized through having to go to hospitals when clinics can provide quick access to treatment and counselling as well as expedite any evidence gathering that needs to be done.

Funding for such services, though, has not been easy, said Saanich Coun. Ned Taylor. “They have to rely on grants from municipalities. They have to rely on fundraising.”

And that, he said, means valuable time is taken away from dealing with people in crisis.

Moreover, he said, “it is unrealistic to expect municipalities to fund health-care services. Health-care services are the responsibility of the provincial government.”

The UBCM resolutions committee noted members in 2017 endorsed a resolution calling for funding and 24/7 access to services and staffing needs such as sexual assault nurse examiners and to provide sexual assault evidence collection kits in communities lacking forensic services.

“In response, the province indicated that all patients in need have access to sexual assault forensic evaluation services but because they can only be performed by trained people, the option is not available in all hospitals.”

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