A Big Step from a Small Community

A Big Step from a Small Community

By: Erin Lee

November 2023

On December 6, 2022, I attended our annual Montreal massacre vigil in Perth Ontario. That evening I decided to announce to those in attendance that, on December 7, I planned to speak to our County Council’s Committee of the Whole about the need to move the number one recommendation of the Renfrew County Inquest, declaring Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), an epidemic, motion forward.

Lanark County Interval House and Community Support has nurtured and spent many years building a relationship with our County Council and County staff to ensure that we are all working on the same team, and so we all are aware of what’s going on in our community. So, the idea of asking the question and proposing a motion in my mind was quite simple.

On December 7, 2022, I presented to Lanark’s Committee of the Whole, and at the time I had no financial ask. Generally, people expect for those who are presenting to Council to have a financial ask. My ask was simple and direct. Would Lanark County Council take a risk and make a bold move to declare IPV an epidemic. Of course, there were questions based on the statistics of over 3,000 calls to our crisis line from victims of violence, more questions about the statistics of the number of those who are engaged with police, and who engaged our shelter service. At the end of the questions, the final question was, "Erin, do you have the draft motion you’d like us to consider?" 

I don’t know why I was shocked and ill prepared, but I didn’t have the motion. So, I quickly took 10 minutes at the back of the room and borrowed a laptop and wrote the motion. I then submitted the motion to the County’s Community Services Committee of the Whole, and they unanimously voted to pass the motion to declare IPV an epidemic in Lanark County.

As it happens to work in local politics, I knew that the motion needed to come back to County Council the following week for final vote.  

That week, between December 7 and 14, I refused to speak to any media about the declaration. I was not about to participate in any discourse that could change the final outcome.

On December 14, 2022, Lanark County Council unanimously passed the motion, and they made three amendments that improved the motion. They amended the motion to add that they would share the declaration with all 444 municipalities across Ontario, that they would share the declaration they made with AMO and ROMA, and that they would share their declaration with any, and all federal and provincial ministers and ministries that I thought were important. It was the best experience of a friendly amendment I have ever experienced in my career.

I don’t think that our County Council knew that a big move by a small community would create such momentum and impact province wide. 

Today, 67 municipalities across the Province of Ontario, in addition to AMO, have passed the declaration, declaring IPV an epidemic in Ontario.

Lanark County Council continues to discuss how to move forward the rest of the inquest recommendations to continue to affect change in our community and beyond.

Never underestimate the power of a small community using their voice to speak out for meaningful change. 

We will continue to use our small voices loudly in the name of ending violence against women, girls, and gender diverse people. 

Investing in relationships demonstrates the best return. We are grateful for our relationship and our community and the local leadership that believes in change starting local.

About the Author

Erin Lee is the Executive Director at the Lanark County Interval House and Community Support. Erin is an experienced, passionate advocate who has spent decades working to end violence against women. Her work spans anti-violence programs, school board initiatives, provincial associations and numerous boards and committees. Currently Erin is the executive director of Lanark County Interval House and Community Support, Community Safety and Well Being Plan member, co-ordinating Committee member and member of the Victimology Advisory of Algonquin College.

Picture: Erin Lee (centre), pictured with LCIHCS staff, Lanark County staff, OPP Detachment Commander, and Situation Table representative following Lanark County’s declaration of IPV epidemic

Blog categories: Initimate Partner Violence, Lanark County