Canada Court Watch - Family Justice Review Committee
Policy and Position Statements

Women's Shelters

Discussion

Currently in Canada, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on women's shelters across Canada.  The Family Justice Review Committee acknowledges that there are indeed a number of women (and men) who are abused by their partners and in need of a place of temporary shelter during these times of family conflict.

However, information gathered by Canada Court Watch from a number of credible sources including information and testimony from former women residents, children who were residents and former shelter managers, clearly indicate that there is another side to the women's shelter system which the public is largely unaware of.  Canada Court Watch has obtained video testimony from both children and former women residents  which would indicate that a number of women and children are being abused, threatened, brainwashed, intimated and assaulted while inside some of the government funded women's shelters and which is going unreported. There would appear to be widespread abuse of tax dollars.

Some of the disturbing information that has been reported to Canada Court Watch by various  sources include:

  • That many of the women who work in women’s shelters hate men and that one of their goals is to spread their hate to the other women who come to the shelter.  Women in shelters are put under pressure to take their husbands to court and to keep the children from seeing their fathers.  Some of the women's shelters are operated like anti-male bunkers which spread hate while putting up a facade to the community that they are helping women and children.

  • That very violent women with criminal records of abuse against their spouses and even their children are being allowed to stay at shelters in the presence of children.  Some women who are known to have abused their children are given refused without question.

  • That some shelter workers have fraudulently taken money given to shelters by taxpayers and through donations and have used the money and donations for personal gain.  Women who have stayed in shelters have reported shelter workers taking donations of food and clothing for themselves.

  • That women who are fleeing from authorities, sometimes with children they have abducted, have used women's shelters to hide out and have never been asked as the the circumstances as to why they are at the shelter with their children.  Police are barred from entering many of the shelters, even if looking for women who may have arrest warrants against them and who police suspect may be hiding in a shelter.

  • That some children in the shelters cry and want to see their fathers but are denied meaningful contact with the fathers even when there is no issue of abuse of the children and no ethical or moral reason for denying contact.  In some cases, workers at women's shelters assist some mothers to violate court orders in relating to a father's access to his children as part of a plan to unlawfully keep children from seeing their fathers.  The rights and freedoms of the children are often violated by forcefully detaining the children in the shelter against the child's wises  and preferences and in many cases denying the children even phone contact with their fathers.

  • That workers spy on women residents and sometimes listen in on private phone calls.

  • That many of the shelters have no formal accounting system for keeping track of money and donations and that there are few, if any, audits on shelters.  Yet, millions of tax dollars flow to these facilities.

  • That some of the women working in shelters are lesbians who deplore men and many of the other women hate men partly because they can’t find a man themselves or because they have been the victim of abuse themselves. 

  • That some women's shelter staff have made sexual advances towards the new women who come into the shelter and attempt to coerce new women into lesbian relationships at a time when these new women are vulnerable. Some women have reported being told that if they enter into sexual relationships with shelter workers they will receive preferential treatment by the shelter workers and can obtain special access to donations which come into the shelter.

  • That many of these women who work at shelters don’t want to see other women happy and married, so one of their main objectives appears to be to to destroy and break up families.

  • That many of the women who are in the the shelters, including some workers, have emotional and psychological problems themselves and in many cases are more violent than the partners they left.

  • That many staff members are former abused women themselves with emotional problems and have a hatred against all men.

  • That children are being shown videotapes of men beating up women and then being brainwashed into believing that only fathers are the ones who are violent towards their partners and children.  Yet published research clearly shows that children are safest in the care of their biological father.

  • That women assault each other in the shelters but the shelters hush this up using threats to residents to keep silent, so that the police and the public will not become aware of the violence in the shelters.

  • That women who come into many of the women's shelter are told they must sign an intake form agreeing that they will not report about anything they witness in the shelter and to waive their legal rights to sue the shelter. It has been reported that the women are being told that they cannot even take the agreement they signed out of the women's shelter so that others might be able to see what it is they have signed.

  • Some shelters tell new residents they are not allowed to call police in regards to any illegal activities or incidents of abuse or violence at the shelter without the permission of the shelter.  They are told that this is for "security and privacy" reasons.  The real reason why this is done is to conceal illegal activities and violence in the shelter so that members of the public will not become aware.

  • That there is a a lot of swearing used in the facility and that young children are exposed to swearing and foul language while in the shelter.

  • That new women who come into the shelter are expected to never go back to their husbands and partners and are expected to destroy their marriages.  Even if a woman want to attempt to make her relationship with her partner another chance, she is forced into silence often under threat that she will get kicked out of the shelter is she says anything about wanting to see her former partner.

  • That donations made by corporate sponsors are being squandered and in some cases, removed from the shelters for the profit of staff members.

  • That there is a pecking order in the shelters.  Women who do what they are told by staff or become lesbian partners are granted extra privileges by shelter staff.  Some women have reported that they feel more abused in a shelter then they did when they were with their partners.

  • That workers at shelters routinely provide family courts judges testimonial letters saying that new residents are excellent mothers without doing any check into the past history of the mother.  This is done as part of a strategy to misled the court and to help the mother destroy her children's relationship with their father.  In some cases violent mothers who have seriously abused their children are willingly been accepted into a shelter and provided a most praising letter to the court.

  • That some women with significant financial assets have stayed at women's shelters at the expense of taxpayers without having to disclose their financial status.  In some cases women have owned houses and had properties where they could have stayed instead of using the facilities of taxpayer funded facilities.

  • That some shelters are referring new women residents to certain lawyers who are lesbian and radical feminist or who have been reported as being unethical and anti-male.  Often these types of lawyers will resort to any dirty and unethical trick to help women destroy their marriages and destroy their children's relationship with their fathers.

  • That women's shelters have been known to harbour women who are fugitives from the law. It has been reported that some women have kidnapped children and have used women's shelters in various communities and provinces to hide themselves and their children from apprehension from the law.

  • That many women who felt that they or their children have been mistreated by the women's shelter feel that there is no place that they can file a complaint about their experience without fear of retribution by those who operate the shelter.

  • That some women make it a business of going to different shelters on a regular basis to gather free furniture, food and clothing.  Some women even do this while they are still married and still living secretly with their husbands or partners.

Women’s shelters have been referred to as “One stop divorce shops” by journalists who have written stories about them.  Canada Court Watch believes that any women's shelter, especially those that receive any government or community funding should maintain the highest standards of accountability and professionalism.

In the matter of women's shelters it is the position of Canada Court Watch:

Intake application and verification process

  • That all women who apply to stay in a shelter be required to provide proper identification and to fill in an application form which clearly indicates all relevant circumstances to their case such as why they they need services, details of the circumstances requiring them to apply at a shelter, custody of the children, status of any court action (if applicable), disclosure of criminal record or warrants for arrest and a financial statement.

  • That all women who apply for accommodation at any government women's shelter be required to fill in and sign a financial statement similar to the one used in family court and their financial means assessed for the purposes of determining a fee for services if they have the financial means to pay for services. The taxpayers should not be carrying the cost of services for those who clearly have the financial assets or means to pay.

  • That intake application forms be kept on file for no less than 10 years by the shelter and be made available to any government department conducting an audit on the shelter.

  • That all women's shelters use standardized intake application for service forms and that a copy of a blank form be readily available for viewing by the public on a publicly accessible or government website.

  • That an information package be given to each person seeking residency which would include a complaint form and details as to how to make complaints about the shelter and the code of conduct for residents and workers.

  • That all women's shelters be linked to a government database which will track the use of services by individuals to ensure that services are not being abused.

Protection of children's rights

  • That shelter worker shall not engage in any activities or provide any advice that could be seen as interfering with a child's rights to his/her relationship with other family members, including the other parent. If anything, shelter workers should be helping to protect children's rights.  Shelter workers should not be taking on the position of judge and jury in such matters.

  • That the issue of the children's access to the other parent and extended family members should be investigated ASAP and unless there is compelling evidence (not just allegations from one parent) that the child is at risk, then steps should be taken ASAP to ensure that the child's contact with the other parent is maintained and/or encouraged.  Women's shelters should not be used as a tool by one parent to violate the the rights of children to have meaningful contact with their other parent.

Fee for services based on financial ability to pay

  • That based-on-income user fees on a per night basis be charged to all women whose financial statement would indicate that they have the financial means to pay for such services.  The taxpayers should not be funding free services to those who clearly have the financial ability and means to pay. (This would be considered financially prudent and help to reduce abuse

  • That the daily user fee and the formulas to calculate the daily user fee should be readily available to the public or posted on the government's internet site.

Restrictions to use of services

  • That residency at a shelter be denied to any woman who would be considered a fugitive from the law.  Should it be discovered that any resident is being sought by the authorities, then shelter workers must immediately report any woman who they know is fleeing from authorities. Not only does housing known criminals set a bad example for other women and children by saying that it is OK to help someone break the law, but it also puts children at risk by housing criminals in the same facility as young vulnerable children.

  • That women who apply for residence in a shelter with children from outside of the community in which the children have been normally living, should be considered for acceptance only after they have shown that they have attempted to obtain  accommodation at a women's shelter within their community first. (This to help prevent parents from taking children from their community as part of a plan to  to prevent access by other family members)

  • That any women with a history of violence against another person or abuse against children be refused admittance to a shelter.  (This to prevent children who are already residing in the shelter from being exposed to known violent persons)

  • That residency in any women's shelter be limited to a maximum period of three months in any one calendar year unless there are reasonable circumstances which may justify otherwise. (This to help reduce abuse of the system and to help reduce dependency on women's shelters.  Women's shelters should be for emergency short term housing only.)

  • That residency at a shelter be strictly restricted to those women who are fleeing physical or emotional abuse by a partner. Women's shelters should not be used as temporary housing for immigrants or to house those women who are only in need of accommodation for financial reasons.  Women who are not fleeing abuse should attend facilities intended for temporary housing such as local churches, the YWCA, the Salvation Army, welfare, etc.

Code of Conduct for Residents

  • That shelters have a written code of conduct that all residents must abide by and that this code of conduct be signed by each new resident upon arrival to the shelter. Copies of this Code of Conduct to be given to each resident immediately after they have arrived.

  • That the use of foul language by shelter workers and/or residents in front of children be prohibited and that any resident or shelter worker who refuses to abide by this simple rule of conduct after being warned, be expelled from the shelter. (Children should not be exposed to foul language as this is a form of child abuse.)

  • That there should be no restriction or code of silence placed on residents which would prevent them from reporting illegal activities such as drug use or violence in the shelter to police, Children's Aid Society or to any other authority.

  • That there should be clear written guidelines provided to each resident informing them what they should do in the even that they see illegal activity at the shelter or see workers or residents violating the shelter's published code of conduct.

  • That the general rules that residents and their children must follow while residing in a shelter, must be in writing and acknowledged in writing by each new resident before they are granted residency in the facility.  Part of the introductory package to each new member should include how to file a complaint against the shelter should they not be satisfied with the services provided.  Such rules to be published and made available to members of the public upon request.  Ideally such rules should be posted on a website for the shelter.

Advocacy services, legal advice and counselling

  • That shelters should not engage in the business of providing heath care services such as counselling.

  • That women's shelter workers not be allowed to have contact with the police, Crown Attorney or others involved with a resident's legal matters. Women's shelter staff should be providing shelter for women, not engaging in the area of providing legal advocacy services.  Other groups and organizations outside of the shelter should be providing advocacy services and women residents should be referred to these outside, arms-length services.

  • That shelter staff should not be providing legal advice. The taxpayers are already funding the Legal Aid plan which will provide legal services for the women so taxpayers should not be paying for this service twice by subsidizing workers from the shelter as well.

  • Counseling should not be provided for children by women's shelter staff.  All counselling should be provided by trained persons who are independent of the shelters and who are not in conflict of interest.

  • That women's shelters, being largely publicly funded, should not refer residents to any particular legal firm or lawyer.  Residents should be advised to obtains the names of specific lawyers from the applicable lawyer referral service of the law society having jurisdiction in the province.

Financial records and general business records

  • That all shelters be required to maintain proper financial and services provided records and to have these records available to the public under the same criteria as the Freedom of Information legislation.

  • That shelters share a government operated database with all women's shelter across Canada which will be used to keep track of residents who come to the shelters to ensure that services are not being abused by some resident who may abuse the system by moving from one women's shelter to another. This will also help shelters to be made aware of applicants who have abused services or violated a residents code of conduct at another women's shelter. (This to help reduce abuse of the system and to help reduce dependency on women's shelters.  Women's shelters should be for emergency short term housing only.)

Complaints process

  • That an Ombudsman with the provincial government or an independent body be appointed and given the authority under legislation to investigate complaints about women's shelters in each Province.

  • That all residents be provided with written details of how to file a complaint about a women's shelter at the time they are admitted into the facility.

Code of Conduct for shelter workers

  • That any staff member caught making sexual advances towards any resident shall have their employment or volunteer activities at the shelter immediately terminated.  Workers and volunteer must be made aware that they hold a position of trust over the women residents and should not be allowed to abuse this power over women who are most vulnerable.

  • That residents of shelters be allowed to retain copies of any documents they must sign to gain entrance to a woman's shelter, just as they have the right to retain a copy of any other legal document they sign.

Management of women's shelters

  • That all women's shelters be overseen by an elected Board of Directors with general membership being open to any member of the public in the community from the region in which the shelter provides services.

Equal services

  • That every community in which there is a publicly funded women's shelter, the government must ensure that there is also at least one facility for men and children seeking shelter from family violence.