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Women's shelters unite
Alison McAteer House to be part of a new national network

Erika Sherk
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 18, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - A Yellowknife shelter will soon have the opportunity to learn from its older, more established counterparts in southern Canada.

Alison McAteer House, one of two women's shelters in Yellowknife, will be connecting with shelters across Canada as they band together in a new national network.

Lyda Fuller, executive director of the Yellowknife YWCA, which operates Alison McAteer, was present in Ottawa Dec. 3 for the official announcement.

"I'm really excited about this," she said. Fuller said shelters in the NWT are fairly isolated, "so what I think this will do is hook us up with the groups from the other provinces and hopefully also the other territories."

The network initiative, titled "Uniting to End Violence Against Women – Establishing a National Network of Women's Issues," will tie together all the facilities sheltering women from domestic violence across Canada. The idea is to share information and ideas, Fuller said, and also to create a united front for lobbying the federal government.

The network has been in the works for about two years. The idea was brought forward at an international shelter workers' conference in Edmonton in the fall of 2008, inspired by successful networks in other countries. The desire for a network, however, goes back much further.

"It is something that shelters across the country have tried to achieve for decades," said Jan Reimer, provincial coordinator of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, in a release.

After a series of proposals and revisions, a draft was submitted to Status of Women Canada, the federal government organization overseeing women's issues.

On Dec. 3, Status of Women Minister Helena Guergis announced $1 million funding for the network.

The money will be used in part to fund an executive director position, part-time researcher and half-time administrative assistant, according to Fuller. The $1 million over three years is "seed money," she said. The network will have to work out its own funding after that point.

The new organization is composed of provincial umbrella groups that represent each province's shelters, and Fuller, who is representing the NWT.

The Yukon does not have its own network representative, she said, as the territory works closely with British Columbia and shelter workers in Nunavut are "pretty stretched just doing the front line service delivery," Fuller said.

It doesn't mean the other territories will be left out. "One of the things that we'll work on here from our end is a pan-Northern umbrella group hooking in the three shelters in the Yukon and the shelters in Nunavut so we can have that pan-Northern approach and it's not just the NWT that benefits from this," said Fuller.

She added the Centre for Northern Families, the other women's shelter in Yellowknife, will not be formally involved in the network as it is a homeless shelter and not specifically a shelter for women escaping violence.

"There will be informal sharing, mind you," Fuller said.

Laura Boucher, program director at the Centre for Northern Families said the network can only do good things. "Connecting us nation-wide would be great," said Boucher, "It's always good to have more perspectives."

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