It’s that time of year when we reflect on what we have accomplished in 2017. Because of your support, we have a lot to be proud of. While it has been a year of shocking revelations for some, for us, it’s been a year of accelerated work and new openings for progress on the issues we have always been at the forefront of. 

We were born from the social justice ambitions of Barbra Schlifer 30 years ago, and “justice”, in its many definitions, remains core to our mission. This year found our leadership, knowledge, compassion and legal acumen in great demand as the world grappled with the extent and reach of violence against women. In the last year, we have seen the impact of and been part of:
  • The “unfounded” investigations into the practices of police services in sexual assault,
  • The roll-out of the provincial action plan on sexual violence and harassment,
  • The federal plan on gender-based violence,
  • The controversies surrounding campus sexual assaults,
  • The explosion of revelations in the North American entertainment industry on the culture of sexual harassment and assault.
These are matters that professional associations, industry leaders, individuals, judicial bodies, the media, governments and the United Nations sought our assistance on to understand and change. 

Daily, we work with women whose experience of violence intersects with many systems that limit and control how they can protect themselves and their children. We work with women society would rather forget – those who can’t meet the admission criteria of mainstream services, those who speak neither English nor French, those who have complex problems that engage multiple areas of law, and those who have precarious immigration status because of gender-based violence.

The women who cross our threshold seeking legal advice, who attend our individual and group counselling sessions or have their experience of violence understood on account of their access to a Schlifer-trained interpreter, leave empowered. It takes time, but side-by-side, we persevere until their safety, dignity, and equality can be advanced.

Last year, the Clinic saw a 24 percent increase in the number of women seeking legal, counselling and interpretation assistance. Together with you —our donors, volunteers, supporters, and partners— we worked to change the conditions that threaten women’s lives by: 
  • Partnering with Osgoode Hall Law School to create a “feminist advocacy’ Clinical Program that responds to the need for high-quality, gender-based legal representation of women who have experienced violence, while training the next generation of lawyers in feminist approaches to the law;
  • Launching two federally-funded projects to assist women survivors of sexual assault:
    • Our Not Okay project assists women who have been sexually assaulted by making legal information easier to access, and in locations such as the Sexual Assault Care Centre at Women’s College Hospital (with funding from the Department of Justice); 
    • Our Criminalization of Women project researches the reasons that women who are seeking state protection from violence are themselves criminalized so that we can end this alarming trend (funded by Status of Women);
  • Working with agencies and organizations that interact directly with migrant women, to support them with legal and social support where they have become ensnared in economic coercion and “trafficking”; 
  • Preparing background papers, policy briefs and expert opinions for a variety of provincial, national and United Nations processes aimed at advancing public policy, law and international protections for women;
  • Intervening at the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer and C-R.B. and J.P.B. to present our perspective on the relevance of The Hague Convention for women who experience domestic violence; 
  • Entering into a partnership with York University to provide sexual assault services for students and faculty;
  • Joining as Co-Plaintiff in Ava Williams’ claim against the London Police Services regarding the high rates of “unfounded” sexual assault cases, with the purpose of ensuring systemic change for all women;
  • Collaborating with Sistering to provide access to trauma-informed counselling for homeless and under-housed women;
  • Providing training to more than 300 community workers along with a toolkit on how to assist women with precarious immigration status who have experienced violence through our Legal Director, Deepa Mattoo’s Fellowship from the Law Foundation of Ontario.

Nearly two years ago, the Clinic became the only community-based location for the Ministry of the Attorney General’s independent legal advice to sexual assault survivors pilot project. Since its launch in June 2016, we have provided more than 340 women with independent legal advice, an average of 56 clients per quarter over 18 months. During this same period, the requests for our sexual assault counselling services have increased by 100 percent. 

Our single largest fundraiser, the Annual Tribute, raised a record $215,000 last June, not only making it the most successful fundraiser to date but signaling the growing community support for the women we serve. (Please stay tuned for information on our 2018 Annual Tribute.) As well, our Ambassador Circle members grew their support with the 3rd Filling the Gap symposium for young women in the tech industry, which, in total raised more than $7,500 for the Clinic. 

We cannot thank you enough for your support throughout the year. Because of your backing, we will remain relentless in our efforts to ensure solutions to gender-based violence go beyond words and promises, and make a real difference in the lives of the women who seek our assistance. Together, we will challenge the social acceptance of violence against women, and make good on our mission to create the conditions for safety, dignity, and equality.

Thank you for being there for a challenging and exciting 2017, and we look forward to your continued support in the New Year. 

Warmest regards for the holidays,

PS. If you want to learn more or become more involved with the Clinic, we encourage you to follow us on our social media channels, to become involved as a volunteer, or – if you can, make a donation, whatever you can afford. 

Copyright © 2017 Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, All rights reserved.

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