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County Council approves emergency funding for gender-based violence organizations

CouncilCounty Council approves emergency funding for gender-based violence organizations

County of Brant Council approved a one-time allotment of $266,177 to be split between Intimate Partner and Gender-based Violence organizations during their regular Council meeting on Tuesday, March 26, 2024.

During the meeting, Councillor Lukas Oakley introduced a resolution to help provide emergency funding to four local non-profits who work to supply a variety of wrap-around services to those in the community.

He noted that back in November 2023, the County of Brant declared that Intimate Partner (IP) and Gender-based Violence (GBV) is an epidemic and requested that related community services submit funding requests.

While regular funding for these services and organization have since been deferred to the Joint City-County Shared Services Committee in regards to the 2025 budget and beyond, Oakley noted that there is critical funding that is needed in the meantime.

“On February 22, 2024, council failed to make good on this pledge by denying any funding from our 2024 budget to the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant, Victim Services of Brant, Willowbridge Community Services, or Nova Vita Brant,” said Oakley in his March 22 public announcement. “…While I am hopeful that through this avenue we can recognize that meaningful and permanent action must be taken, all four of these service providers have an immediate acute underfunding crisis. Thus, I am recommending that through reserve and surplus funds, we fund the requests from these four services to carry them through this year as we deliberate permanent funding measures through Joint Services.”

His resolution proposed that one-time allotment be divided for the following services:

Sexual Assault Centre of Brant Funding Request #1: 24-hour Crisis and Support Line worker – $35,000 

Sexual Assault Centre of Brant Funding Request #2: Part-Time Counsellor dedicated to adult County of Brant residents who are survivors of Sexual Violence, at risk of Sexual Violence, or who are a parent, partner, or other intimate support for a survivor – $25,025

Sexual Assault Centre of Brant Funding Request #3: Counsellor dedicated to County of Brant youth who are survivors of Sexual Violence, at risk of Sexual Violence, or who are a parent, partner, or other intimate support for a survivor – $30,165 

Victim Services of Brant Funding Request: The continuation of a Victim Services staff to work from the Brant detachment where they can directly connect and provide immediate support to people who have reported gender-based violence and intimate partner violence – $35,573

Willowbridge Community Services Funding Request: 0.6 FTE Therapist for counselling services. 0.2FTE for women, children, and men affected by Gender-based violence and 0.4FTE for individual, couple, and family psychotherapy for the same populations – $60,415

Nova Vita Funding Request: Staff Position for a dedicated Rural Transitional Outreach Support Worker to address the intimate partner violence and gender-based violence epidemic in the County of Brant – $80,000 

During the meeting, Councillors heard from Michaela Kargus, a board of director for Nova Vita, who noted that violence thrives in the community because of a lack of funds.

“These services rely on provincial funding, government grants and charitable donations. This vital sector is overwhelmingly underfunded, with very little reliable and steady funding that can inform future planning, innovation and respond to increased demand for these services,” she said. “… When these services remain underfunded, the consequences are that the growth cannot meet the demand and that people remain in violent situations, exposing children to further violence and denying victims and abusers the support that they need.”

She said that “provincial funding is actually purposely underfunded with the expectation that charity and fundraising will fill that gap,” and that charity golf tournaments or dinners cannot be relied on to “ensure that safety is available in our County.”

Councillor Steve Howes said he was supportive of Oakley’s resolution, but that $266,177 is a lot of money, and he wondered if there was enough money available between surplus and reserve funds.

“We will be bringing forward in the next couple of months, the year-end surplus report and we do believe that there will be sufficient funds if this is what Council wishes to do,” said Heather Boyd, General Manager of Corporate Services for the County of Brant. “In terms of reserves, the only reserve we would recommend taking from would be contingency, and surplus and contingency feed off each other. So, in approving this, we would put forward in our surplus report that this is the first place that any surplus funds will be directed, but it will impact the amount of contingency at the end of the year.”

It was noted that these were the same funds that the County took $1.5 million to help lower the tax levy.

Councillor Robert Chambers asked that if they approved to supply the one-time allotment in order to create new roles within the above organizations, what would happen to those roles in the future when the funding was used up.

“When this was discussed originally, the question was asked if we should consider whether we want to continue doing this or not because if you hire the people and then the funding is not continued, then you’re in the position as one of these organizations where a service that is being provided, ends up being taken away,” he said. “…So are you contemplating that this is just for one year, that they’re going to hire people for one year and then they’re on their own?”

Oakley confirmed that the idea of the emergency funding is to be used until a permanent and longer-term solution is decided on with the Joint Services Committee

“…In regards to these organizations hiring for one year and not knowing the future of it, it’s my understanding that many of these organizations operate on grant funding. Their entire organization often works on a year-by-year basis because they apply for a grant and one year, they make it, and they may not get it the following year,” he said. “So is it less than ideal that we would provide this one time, and they don’t know whether they’re going to get it again? Because depending on how that conversation goes at the Joint Services Committee, we may not continue. Yes, that’s less than ideal, but it is the norm they’re used to working with, and for now it is an increased service while we deal with longer term solution through that mechanism.”

Chambers said that he had concerns about how future funding would play out as this particular emergency funding request would go towards helping County residents only, and he was unsure of how willing the City would be to help provide future funding for the continuation of the newly created roles.

“We will hopefully have strategic direction for 2025 to come back to these services if we choose to continue to fund them, with something that has a holistic approach between the County and the City,” responded Oakley. “Many of these roles, while directed towards being County specific, many of them can be immediately redirected to serving both communities like the crisis and support line worker, and part time counselors. All these things can be redirected, and once we have a strategic look at it, we’ll be able to work with these organizations to be able to fulfill some of the needs that we’re getting directly to the County here, but also with the City.”

Councillor John Bell brought up that after the Council had declared that IP and GPV were an epidemic it was embarrassing that they had failed to do anything about it.   

“We made it clear that we will be there to support and when the time came to support, we didn’t. I feel that that’s a huge embarrassment to us as a Council. I think it fails to recognize the social challenges that we face in our County, and actually the same social challenges that the City faces,” he said. “It’s not as if we’re on our own here, we are doing our bit and the City will have to do its bit.  …I think we need to use the rest of this year to really work hard to try and find a sustainable funding solution. I don’t know what that is yet, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give funding this year to people that are in great need. If we can’t find a solution at the end of the year and we can’t continue funding, well, at least we’ve helped people in 2024. And I believe that that’s something that we should absolutely do.”


Councillor Jennifer Kyle agreed with Bell, that if there was some sort of surplus funding, she couldn’t think of a better way to spend it and that if the City didn’t want to partner in 2025 like Chambers suggested, there are other municipalities that may want to.

Councillor David Miller said that while, like Chambers, he sees that there is a great need and he is supportive of helping the organizations, there just isn’t the room to be spending at this time, especially after the County’s tax increase.

“I don’t think we need to do it this year, I’m sure there’s a demand but I would rather leave it with Staff to get some more information and put a plan together,” he said. “The one-offs are just the worst, they hire somebody and then the next year the funds aren’t there. Let’s take our time. We’re already into March, we’ve approved the budget and at the very least, we should defer it until we know at least what our surplus could possibly be.”

Councillors Brian Coleman and John MacAlpine said that while they too would love to support the organizations, they just didn’t see how it could be done at this time.

MacAlpine said that these services should be handled by the provincial and federal government, but that it had been down-loaded onto the municipal level when they already spent a lot of money on social services already.

“I agree that the municipal property taxes shouldn’t have to pay for this, but the reality is that it has been down-loaded to us and we have people in our community, or residents who require these services and they’re services that we’re otherwise unable to provide ourselves as a municipality,” responded Kyle. “So, we need to learn to lean on the community partners like the folks in the room tonight who can provide those services on our behalf for the residents. …. I think that if we are successful in providing the funding tonight, that we do have to make that a part of our advocacy as far as government relations goes, because we do need to be advocating to both the province and the federal level that this is something that needs some attention.”

Chambers then moved that the topic be tabled until they get the surplus report, but it was defeated on a vote of five to four with Councillors Oakley, Howes, Kyle and Bell, as well as David Bailey, Mayor for the County of Brant, voting against it. Noting that Councillors John Pierce and Christine Garneau were not present.

Council then voted separately on each of the six funding requests:

$35,000 for the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant funding request, passed on a recorded vote of five to four with Councillors Oakley, Howes, Kyle and Bell, as well as David Bailey, Mayor for the County of Brant, voting in favour.

$25,025 for the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant funding request, passed on a recorded vote of five to four with Councillors Oakley, Howes, Kyle and Bell, as well as David Bailey, Mayor for the County of Brant, voting in favour.

$30,165 for the Sexual Assault Centre of Brant funding request, passed on a recorded vote of five to four with Councillors Oakley, Howes, Kyle and Bell, as well as David Bailey, Mayor for the County of Brant, voting in favour. 

$35,573 for the Victim Services of Brant funding request, noting that if not approved, the service was completely cease, passed unanimously.

$60,415 for the Willowbridge Community Services funding request, passed on a recorded vote of five to four with Councillors Oakley, Howes, Kyle and Bell, as well as David Bailey, Mayor for the County of Brant, voting in favour.

$80,000 for the Nova Vita funding request, passed on a recorded vote of five to four with Councillors Oakley, Howes, Kyle and Bell, as well as David Bailey, Mayor for the County of Brant, voting in favour.

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