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Scan of GBV Strategies

Our repository includes 20 examples of GBV strategy publications. Most of these are strategies developed by provincial governments. There is one national government strategy published by WAGE (formerly Status of Women Canada). Among NGOs, there are fewer GBV strategy documents, but they do exist and can be useful for our project. In 2018, OCASI published a call to action document that called for a paradigm shift in how we approach GBV against migrant and racialized women - while provincial in scope, this report can be used as a foundational document for our project. In 2015, the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transitional Housing (CNWSTH) published a blueprint for a national action plan on GBV that was co-developed by a network of NGOs across Canada. 

These are the selected resources found in the Environmental Scan that may be useful to service providers, refugee sponsors and other community members. 

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We can confirm that a national GBV strategy for the settlement sector has NOT been developed to date. Moreover, we have not found strategic documents focusing on improving national cross-sectoral collaboration between settlement and anti-violence sector organizations. There is a real opportunity here to contribute to a national conversation.

● There are other GBV strategies available on-line. This includes a national GBV strategy developed by the federal government’s Department for Women and Gender Equality (WAGE) in 2017. Various provinces have also developed GBV strategies (2014-2019) or provincial/territorial frameworks, although these will sometimes use different terminology and/or focus on a specific form of GBV e.g. family violence, sexual violence, domestic violence. Other sectors have also produced GBV strategies e.g. post-secondary education strategy on campus sexual violence.


● There are different ways of framing “strategy” documents: In some cases, groups have produced blueprints or frameworks for action, rather than formal strategies. This type of approach might be useful for our project, since we are not a government body.


● Lengths of GBV strategy documents vary widely, anywhere from 10 pages to 150 pages long.


● Components that are typically included in a GBV strategy document:

- An opening message or letter from the premier

- Definition of GBV (or related term) and data on the prevalence of GBV. In many cases “vulnerable groups” are identified and immigrant women is often one of the groups. Sometimes visible minority and immigrant women are grouped together. There is usually a model of GBV included e.g. social-ecological model or social determinants of health model.


- What actions have been taken by different stakeholders to address GBV i.e. “what we have done/ what we do now”


- A plan - usually for a coordinated and systemic response i.e. “what we will do”. Usually includes a clear purpose or strategic direction, a vision (e.g. “violence-free B.C.”) and guiding principles. Usually a 3-year plan with a list of strategic priorities and some kind of accountability or evaluation mechanism e.g. annual reporting.

- There is usually a section outlining the consultation process that took place to develop the strategy i.e. “what we heard”. In some cases specific quotes from the consultations are included.


- There are usually case examples and links to major reports. Lots of images. Graphically designed documents.

- Some strategies include a glossary.

- Prevention strategies: e.g. educational campaigns or initiatives for changing attitudes, behaviours, victim-blaming or myths about GBV. In some cases, funding/action is put towards systemic barriers as a prevention strategy e.g. improving women’s financial empowerment, addressing poverty and homelessness, taking action on mental health. There is very little in existing strategies about efforts to reduce “migration stress” through policy change or supports for newcomer and refugee families and communities. But this is certainly something that would fit under the category of systemic prevention. Prevention is used in different ways by different groups. Some use a more clinical definition (e.g. primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention). Others use prevention to mean cultural change/ changing attitudes and behaviours. Others use a systemic approach. Alberta cites a 6-level prevention spectrum in their appendix (no source) that seems to me to be the most comprehensive. 

- Improved responses to GBV: this is where the bulk of the strategies are situated. Usually focused on increasing services, enhancing existing supports, and/or improving coordination across sectors. A key theme that is usually separated out involves improved justice response (i.e. focus on policing, courts, laws).

- Support for vulnerable groups: many of the documents include strategies that are specific to vulnerable populations, including immigrant and newcomer women. The categories used differ - some group visible minority and immigrant women together, which is problematic. Some specifically mention refugee and newcomer women, but the diverse needs of these different groups are rarely specified. Likewise, the intersectional needs of newcomers and refugees are rarely included within this category (i.e. reports will cite “women with disabilities” and “immigrant women” as two distinct sub-groups without enough  attention to the intersections). The language is usually focused on high-level support e.g. culturally-responsive or culturally-safe  tools for responding, supports offered in multiple languages.

- Accountability/ Evaluation Framework: some strategies include evaluation as itself constituting a GBV strategy.

Case Example: Blueprint for a National Action Plan

This is a 10-page report published by the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses (CNWSTH 2015). The main audience for the report appears to be the federal government i.e. this is about NGOs coming together to call on the federal government to create and implement a national action plan on Violence Against Women. The report defines VAW, provides recent statistics on the issue, and provides strategic direction on what the plan should look like as well as a suggested collaborative process for implementing it. As a member of our project team pointed out, however, sexual violence is not included as fully as it could be in this report: “we need a national action plan on sexual violence”.

Source: Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses

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