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LETTER: Domestic violence the 'shadow pandemic'

The COVID-19 pandemic has left a devastating mark on communities across the province.


The COVID-19 pandemic has left a devastating mark on communities across the province.

We are reminded of the importance to remain vigilant and safe by complying with public health measures. While this is helping fight the spread of COVID-19, this inevitable isolation is leading to increased rates of domestic violence.

The United Nations has deemed this worldwide spike a “shadow pandemic.” In Alberta and around the world, we are facing a tragic wave of increased violence.

Additional provincial funding has been instrumental in helping our community partners to meet these challenges – ensuring vital supports are available, even in the midst of the pandemic. Service providers and community organizations have stepped up, adapted and modified their services to continue helping anyone experiencing domestic violence.

An example is a new app developed by the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, called ShelterLink. It provides real-time access to shelter bed availability in Calgary-area women’s shelters. This technological solution means individuals affected by violence do not have to make multiple calls and shelter staff can coordinate real-time access to beds and other supports.

For those individuals and families fleeing violent situations, the COVID-19 pandemic has created additional barriers. Many people are facing unemployment and cannot afford to move.

Alberta’s Safer Spaces program helps remove a barrier for survivors fleeing domestic violence by enabling them to end a tenant agreement without financial penalty. Over 1,420 Safer Spaces certificates have been issued since 2016.

In Alberta, the Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence (Clare’s Law) Act came into effect on April 1. People who feel they are at risk of domestic violence can apply for a disclosure to find out if their intimate partner has a history of domestic violence or related acts.

It is important to emphasize help is and always will be available. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the Family Violence Information Line at 310-1818. This line is open 24/7 and support is available in more than 170 languages.

The shadow pandemic demands a coordinated, compassionate and long-term response.

Rob Williams, on behalf of Minister Rajan Sawhney, Community and Social Services Press Secretary,