Tuesday, May 19, 2015

CoSA struggles in the face of CSC cuts

by Adina Ilea, PhD Candidate, Criminology, University of Ottawa

After ten years of contributing funding to Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) sites across Canada, five weeks ago the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) stopped funding this program proven to reduce sexual harm, which has been replicated across the world. Since 31 March 2015 CoSA sites have suffered tremendously.

Sites that are still operating have had to dedicate valuable hours – hours that would have otherwise been spent supporting core members, as well as recruiting and training volunteers – towards seeking other funding sources, be it through fundraising or writing grant applications. In Ottawa, the CoSA program coordinator, volunteers and board members organized a Fundraising Gala featuring Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers as the keynote speaker. Through tickets sales, auction items and other donations, CoSA-Ottawa was able to raise $10,000. While this kind of fundraising proved to be fruitful, with tickets selling out almost immediately due to an extensive network of supportive agencies and individuals, it’s extremely time-consuming and doesn't lead to long-term sustainability.  CoSA-Ottawa recently received the news that its application to the United Way for 50% of the funds needed to operate has been approved.  For now, its doors remain open.

Although CoSA-Ottawa has been lucky to be able to survive in the face of drastic cuts, other sites across Canada have had to close down or operate at a reduced capacity. Both the Moncton and the Halifax sites have closed after not only losing CSC funding, but also their community chaplaincy contract, which operated CoSA at those locations. The Kingston site has also closed. While the Salvation Army, under which CoSA operated in that city is still supporting ex-prisoners, without a designated CoSA coordinator whose job was terminated as a result of the cuts, the continuation of circles is tenuous. The Montreal (English) site has had its funding reduced to such an extent that the coordinator is working on an extremely reduced income – which could be better thought of as volunteer work. While his efforts and dedication are commendable, such an arrangement isn't sustainable. In other cities such as Edmonton, the coordinator’s position is only secured to the end of June. Without a dedicated coordinator, new volunteers and core members will most likely not be accepted and the existing circles will have to operate without oversight or support. The Regina site is only able to have part-time staff for two days a week. That amount of time is barely enough to provide support to the current circles, let alone start new ones or seek alternate sources of funding.

Despite the support of numerous other organizations and individuals, along with positivenews coverage, the future of CoSA sites in Canada is dire. Municipal, provincial and federal governments need to step up to help keep this effective program from shutting down.

No comments:

Post a Comment