Canada: Domestic Violence: Turning Policy into Practice (1995)

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     This document has been made available in electronic format 
          by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
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                         October 1995



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     Domestic Violence : Turning Policy into Practice
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            Excerpt from Co-opservations, May 1994



Five years ago, Jackson's Point Housing Co-operative (Toronto,
Canada) became the first housing co-operative to call itself a
"domestic violence free zone".  A new by-law allowed the board of
directors to evict abusers and to provide subsidies to help
victims of abuse in the co-op.

A year later, Jackson's Point came to the Co-operative Housing
Foundation's (CHF Canada) annual meeting to ask other co-ops to
talk about domestic violence.  The response was overwhelming. 
Over 400 delegates passed a resolution urging CHF Canada's
members to declare their co-ops domestic violence free zones.

What has CHF Canada done?
CHF Canada has passed resolutions and put together information to
encourage more co-ops to get involved in this issue.  In 1992,
members passed a resolution urging co-ops to extend their
domestic violence by-laws to protect children.  Thom Amstrong,
Director of Corporate Affairs at CHF Canada says the resolutions
and policies are a national response to grassroots concerns. "The
efforts of co-ops like Jackson's Point Housing Co-operative have
encouraged us to promote the issue more widely among our
members."

Amstrong believes federations of housing co-ops can play an
important role.  The national federation has produced a domestic
violence kit and training workshops to help give co-operators the
tools they need to understand and deal with domestic violence in
their communities. 

In spite of this support, co-ops are discovering that there are
no easy solutions. "Preventing domestic violence goes far beyond
calling a meeting and creating a policy that allows the co-op to
evict abusers", says Karla Skoutajan, Co-operative Management
Officer at CHF.  "Changing people's attitudes is a very difficult
process. In the meantime, though, we need to put safeguards in
place that are sensitive to the real needs of the victims."

"Leaving brochures and posting phone numbers of emergency
services in a neutral area - like the co-op laundry room - tells
women that support is there", says Judy Oswin, member of the
Jackson's Point Housing Co-operative.

Oswin says co-ops shouldn't get hung up on the eviction question
when talking about domestic violence free zones. "Have it in your
by-laws, but concentrate on raising awareness, on sharing
information and giving support."

Armstrong is encouraged that more co-ops are talking about
domestic violence and taking action. "Of course it would be wrong
to think that there is more violence in co-ops than in the larger
community.  In tackling the issue, housing co-ops are just
showing that the leadership they have always shown on a great
number of important social issues.  

We all know that co-op housing is more than just putting a roof
over our heads," he says.  "Deciding what kind of communities we
want to live in is the very heart of what co-op housing is all
about."