Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

The Barbra Schlifer Clinic offers legal representation, professional counselling and multilingual interpretation to women who have experienced violence.

Strong Women Overcoming ViolenceOur Impact Why We Exist

We provide legal help, counselling support and multilingal language interpretation to women who experience violence.

Our diverse, skilled and compassionate staff accompany women through personal and practical transformation, helping them to build lives free from violence.

We are a centre by, for and about women. We amplify women’s voices, and cultivate their skills and resilience. Together with our donors and volunteers, we are active in changing the conditions that threaten women’s safety, dignity and equality.

After using any of our services, women from underserved communities who are experiencing violence or its aftermath will feel less isolation, increased stability and personal agency within relationships, while improving their knowledge of and access to rights and remedies.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic was opened in memory of Barbra Teena Schlifer, a young lawyer who was brutally sexually assaulted and murdered in Toronto on the day of her call to the Bar of Ontario on April 11, 1980. In September 1985, her intended law partners and friends opened the Clinic in her memory. Since it started, the Schlifer Clinic has grown in size and in significance, with a staff of more than 20 people and a budget close to $3 million. The Clinic currently receives referrals from countless community-based agencies, as well as medical, legal and criminal justice professionals, religious organizations and individuals concerned about violence against women, and more than 4,000 women were helped last year.

The Clinic provides consultation and legal services (family, immigration,and criminal law) under one roof, addressing the housing, legal, financial, health, immigration, children’s services, education, and employment needs of its clients. Extending the reach of its mission, the Clinic actively fosters positive systemic reform through public education, professional training, and advocacy.

Accolades and Accomplishments

A Top Pick of Charity Intelligence for being a top preforming charity in service to Canadians three years in a row (2009-11), the Schlifer Clinic was also the recipient of the 2009 Guthrie Award for ‘outstanding public service’, and ‘making significant contributions to access to justice’. 

Accolades from our clients include numerous testimonials, such as the following: "Your staff was amazing during my time of need. They were extremely supportive, passionate, and diligent. Their deep compassion and impeccable administrative skills were vital in my quest for justice in a demanding system" Miriam (Schlifer Clinic client, name changed).

Our Programs How We Do It

The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic (BSCC) specializes in serving women who are survivors of partner assault, sexual assault and childhood sexual/incest abuse. Access to effective and integrated professional justice and community services for women to whom accessibility is most often denied (non-English speaking immigrant and refugee women) is the Barbra Schlifer Clinic’s primary focus.

The Clinic offered counselling (individual, group and transitional housing support) to 1,571 women in 2010 (2,052 in 2011). 60% of these women are survivors of partner abuse, 20% are survivors of adult sexual assault and 20% are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The Clinic provides consultation and legal services (family, immigration, and criminal law) under one roof, addressing the housing, legal, financial, health, immigration, children’s services, education, and employment needs of its clients. Additionally, the Clinic is the lead language interpretation service for women experiencing domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual assault working in more than 85 languages in shelters, court houses, sexual assault centres, health care facilities and community agencies.

Extending the reach of its mission, the Clinic actively fosters positive systemic reform through public education, professional training, and advocacy.

 

Counselling

The Barbra Schlifer Clinic is known for responsive, creative and compassionate individual and group supportive counselling for women experiencing violence (childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, partner abuse). Each year we collaborate with community agencies such as YWCA and Regent Park Community Centre to expand access in underserved neighbourhoods. We run several innovative group programs for women i.e. The Expressive Arts Project at the Gardiner Museum, the Arpillera (quilting) group for Spanish speaking women, our Open Group for trauma survivors, the Partner Assault Group and the Mindfulness Awareness group. In all 1571 women came through our doors to receive individual support, advocacy and group counselling from our skilled team of counsellors.

Through community partnerships, BSCC expanded group counselling, serving 1,571 women. 91% achieved their personal goals of resolving long-standing issues of childhood sexual abuse, adult sexual assault and/or partner abuse, freeing them from self-blame and enabling them to lead lives free from the symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Funding and Program Partners

Funding Partners Include:

  • Canadian Women's Foundation
  • City of Toronto
  • Ministry of Community and Social Services
  • Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
  • Pacifica Fund at the Toronto Community Foundation
  • United Way Toronto

Program Delivery Partners

  • Childhood Sexual Abuse Network and Working Group
  • Children's Aid Soceity
  • Ernestine's Women's Shelter
  • Gardiner Museum
  • New Mennonite Centre
  • Ontario Coalition of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
  • Regent Park Community Health Centre
  • Sistering
  • South Asian Legal Clinic
  • Supporting Our Youth
  • Working for Change

Program Impact

Annually, we cultivate over 1500 women's skills and resilience to build lives free from violence.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

 More than one-third (38.2%) of female street youth in the study had been victims of sexual assault.  Almost half of young black women on the street (47%) were likely to have experienced sexual assault. o More than half (55%) of young homeless women experience violent abuse at the hands of their intimate partners

"More than one-third (38.2%) of female street youth in the study had been victims of sexual assault.  Almost half of young black women on the street (47%) were likely to have experienced sexual assault. More than half (55%) of young homeless women experience violent abuse at the hands of their intimate partners."

(Toronto’s Vital Signs® 2011)

In 2010 the Barbra Schlifer Clinic supported 267 women to recieve transitional support, including housing and income support leading to violence-free lives and safe affordable housing. 

Participant Vignette

Dear Executive Director

I am truly grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in the 12 week Violence against Women programme at the Barbra Schlifer Clinic. The group members came from diverse backgrounds in terms of culture, economics, religion, and age. We faced different challenges in our lives, but we came together because we all shared one important part of our life story: each of us had experienced partner abuse of some form.

The group provided many things. It was a much-needed safe place for a group of women who had come to feel very unsafe. To be able to speak about our complex feelings and our abusive relationships without being judged and to be treated with respect, compassion and understanding was a HUGE relief. … We felt validated. We learned some tools to help us take care of ourselves. We felt our own value.

Being in the group gave me the support I desperately needed at the time when I needed it. What a wonderful revelation it was when it finally sunk in that his abuse of me really was not my fault, but instead stemmed from his own need for power and control. I am regaining my self-respect.

I feel very fortunate to have participated in the group. It really helped me in turning the tide, and propelling me forward to begin what truly is my new life.

Providing food and transit fare made this a practical option when finances were so tight that choosing to heal myself might have meant going short of food.

Thank you so much, for providing so much."

Fatima (name changed to protect her privacy)

 

Legal

The Clinic's legal staff provide comprehensive family, immigration/refugee, and criminal law services to over 1,000 women building lives free from violence. Uniquely positioned at the intersection of three areas of law, our legal department provides summary legal advice, legal information, representation and litigation on behalf of the most marginalized women seeking freedom from violence. Linking local, national and international factors affections women's access to justice, the Legal Services at Barbra Schlifer Clinic make rights come alive to support daily needs and human dignity. 

Funding and Program Partners

Funding Partners include:

  • Law Foundation of Ontario 
  • Ministry of Attorney General
  • Ontario Women's Directorate
  • United Way Toronto
  • Numerous law firms and individuals

Program Delivery Partners include:

  • Canadian Council for Refugees
  • Domestic Violence Court
  • Legal Aid Ontario/Area Committee and Family Law Advisory Committee
  • Luke's Place
  • National Judicial Institute - Domestic Violence Advisory Committee
  • Refugee Lawyer Association
  • Springtide Resources
  • South Asian Legal Clinic
  • University of Toronto Law School
  • Woman Abuse Council

Program Impact

We help over a thousand women annually gain access to justice and navigate complex legal systems to change the conditions that threaten women’s safety, dignity and equality.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“Almost 70% of victims think a crime is too unimportant to report, and close to 60% believe that police would not do anything about it.”

(Toronto’s Vital Signs® 2011)

In 2010, BSCC supported 1,050 legal cases with high success rates and all legal remedies. Nearly 100% of family law cases and protection orders for women were successful. Immigration/refugee protection law had a success rate of 75%.

Participant Vignette

Dear Executive Director

I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude for the wonderful support and care given by the Barbra Schlifer Clinic. Your staff was amazing during my time of need. They were extremely supportive, passionate, and diligent. Their deep compassion and impeccable administrative skills were vital in my quest for justice in a demanding system. It's not very often that I find people that are as passionate about helping others with the challenges they face, but without the Clinic's intervention I would have been lost and misrepresented in court. They provided me with legal guidelines and carefully reviewed my case. This led to amazing legal representation, and accompanying counseling support. Together my counsellor and legal worker provided me with accurate details of the Child Support Guidelines, as well as the encouragement and strength to face the unknown of court proceedings.

And most importantly, they knew when to ask if I had enough for my children and me.

They made sure I had the TTC tokens that get me to my next appointment and court date. They offered food vouchers when I was afraid my family would go hungry.

Without this practical support, I would have remained locked in my apartment, in fear for my life.

In closing, please tell your donors of this postiive life altering expereince during this difficult time in my life .

Miram (name changed to protect her privacy)

Interpreter Services and Social Purpose Enterprise

In 2011, the Barbra Schlifer Clinic interpreted for 1,248 women survivors of violence who otherwise could not understand the help that was being offered to them at shelters, court or by support workers and counselors. We were asked by our funder to provide interpreter sites across Ontario with the training that is a signature of our services - understanding the complex nature and impact of women's abuse in a multi-cultural context: a vote of confidence of which we are proud. 

In 2009 we branched out to provide interpretation where domestic violence was not the primary reason for seeking service. We secured start-up funding to operate a fee-for-service business that integrates social purpose to its outcomes and in its effects. By charging a fee, we can support the programs we run for which full funding is not available, as well as asist newcomer women to gain skills in Canada through meaningful work. 

Funding and Program Partners

Funding Partners include:

  • Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Ontario Women's Directorate
  • Toronto Enterprise Fund
  • United Way Toronto

Program Delivery Partners

  • Birkdale Residence
  • Community MicroSkills Development Centre
  • Domestic Violence Court
  • Ontario Coalition of Agencies Serving Immigrants
  • Springtide Resources

Program Impact

The Interpreter Services and Social Purpose Enterprise amplifies women’s voices to live free from violence, allows new immigrant women to use their skills and develop leadership, and assists over 5,000 interpretations to take place where language is a barrier to service.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“Diverse leadership strengthens institutions by increasing access to domestic and international markets, attracting talented labour, creating social cohesion and building social capital.”

(Toronto’s Vital Signs® 2011)

The Language Interpreters Service has created a social enterprise in which immigrant women are trained to operate interpretation businesses of their own thus building their leadership, autonomy and integration into Toronto. 

Participant Vignette

"BSCC interpreters display high standards of conduct which is vitally important not only in the administration of justice but in promoting confidences among our clients."  - Court Support Worker

"Before I became an interpreter with Barbra Schlifer I had nowhere to use the many skills I brought with me to Canada, now I run my own business and I have something to wake up for everyday."   - Barbra Schlifer Clinic Language Interpreter

What You Can Do

 

Counselling

Activities a donation will support

Financial supports will provide women survivors of violence to:$100 K would provide funding for two additional counselors

  • $1,000 will allow the clinic to support two women for all their service needs for one year
  • $312 will help her with short-term access to food and TTC for half a year
  • $72 will help a woman come to her weekly group counseling appointment for three months
  • $30 will give a woman enough transit money for 5 appointments at the Clinic

Donation impact

With additional financial support, the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic will be able to extend our reach into underserved and vulnerable communities through innovative group support and partnership.

Legal

Activities a donation will support

Financial supports will provide women victims of violence with:

  • $150 K would provide funding for two additional lawyers
  • $1,000 will allow the clinic to support two women for all their service needs for one year
  • $312 will help her with short-term access to food and TTC for half a year
  • $72 will help a woman come to her legal appointment for three months
  • $30 will give a woman enough transit money for 5 appointments at the Clinic

Donation impact

Access to justice for women, leading to lives lived free from violence.

 

Interpreter Services and Social Purpose Enterprise

Activities a donation will support

  • $100,000 would allow us to provide American Sign Language training to 60 new interpreters
  • $90,000 would allow us to train new language interpreters from 30 language communities
  • $65 would purchase interpretation for two hours overnight during an emergency
  • $50 would purchase interpretation for two hours during regular business hours

Donation impact

With the support of donors, the Barbra Schlifer Clinic's Language Interpreter Program (Social Purpose Enterprise) will be able to provide exceptional interpreter services to Toronto's buiness community while providing employment opportunities, skills development and income enhancement to newcomer women and their families.

Contact

Amanda Dale
416.323.9149 x244
Charitable Number: 118799162RR0001

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