Every year on December 6 we commemorate the 14 women who were
singled out for their gender and murdered while at school in 1989 at the Ecole
Polytechnique. But we also commemorate the lives of all girls and women every
year whose lives are damaged or taken from them because of gender based
up half the
It is said that violence against women and children is the world’s most
pervasive human rights violation, one of the most systematic and widespread.
Trouble is, taking action on violence is a difficult task for most of us unless
we are employed in services to women and children through supports, shelters,
crisis services, or perhaps the healthcare sector. What can we do to make a
difference in our small corners of the universe?
A person might ask, What kind of action can I take to make a difference in my
community or my neighbourhood, in my province, in my workplace when it comes to
this? And anyway, why should I get involved and take any kind of action? It’s
not really my problem.
On average, every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.
In 2009, 67 women were murdered by a current or former spouse or boyfriend.
(Homicide in Canada, 2009, Sara Beattie and Adam Cotter, Juristat, Volume 30,
Number 3, Statistics Canada, page 14)
On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500
children) are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence.(Family
Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2009, Canadian Centre for Justice
Statistics, Statistics Canada, page 12.)
The cost of violence against women in Canada for health care, criminal justice,
social services, and lost wages and productivity has been calculated at $4.2
billion per year. (Measuring Violence Against women: Statistical Trends 2006,
Statistics Canada, p.34)
Rates of domestic violence have fallen in recent years. There is indeed
marginally improving social equality and financial freedom for women to leave
abusive relationships sooner rather than later, but still, rates of violence
have now flat lined and are no longer declining. And victims, for some reason,
are now less likely to report an incident to the police. Further, more women
are experiencing violence after leaving their abuser. (Canadian Women’s
This is the point where someone usually brings up the comment that you women’s
groups are just man-bashing. After all, men are victims of violence too. While
it’s true that men and women in this country are equally at risk of violent
victimization, according to police statistics, men are much more likely to be
assaulted by a stranger or someone outside the family while women are much more
likely to be assaulted by someone they know. Most men are not abusive to their
families, however, when family violence occurs, the victims are overwhelmingly
As the Provincial Women’s Committee, our mandate is to speak to women’s issues;
our purpose is NOT to relegate men to the back of the room but rather, to
concentrate, agitate, educate and promote women’s issues to the whole membership
and to have influence where we can in order to create safe spaces and safe
places for everyone.
And that brings me back to what we can each do as individuals or perhaps as
locals in answering the Call to Action that December 6th asks us to consider.
1. The work of ending violence begins with each of us. Visit
www.draw-the-line.ca and be
amazed at how you can draw the line and strike out sexual violence. Share this
website with others, add it to your Twitter feed or Facebook.
2. Find out if your local high school has a teen violence prevention program
(Healthy Relationships project) and if it doesn’t, as the school to start one.
You don’t have to be an expert on anything to ask for something. JUST ASK.
3. Tell your politicians, starting at the municipal level, that you regard
violence against women and children as a serious problem in Canada and ask them
specifically what they are doing to end violence in your community. JUST ASK.
4. If someone is in immediate danger, whether you know them or not, call 911
or the emergency number in your community.
5. If you know someone who is being abused speak to her only if you can do so
safely and ask how you can help. Be careful not to leave materials or
information on abuse that could be found by her abuser (i.e. no emails or
voicemails.) Make sure that you reinforce the message that she does not deserve
to be harmed and that you care about her safety. Don’t do anything that makes
you uncomfortable or that makes you feel unsafe.
6. Financially and materially support the shelters and second stage safe
housing facilities in your community. Find out if they need gently used
clothing for women and children, small appliances (or perhaps big ones too),
fresh food donations or money. If you are involved in community gardens there
are no more worthy community recipients of fresh produce than these safe spaces.
7. Finally, encourage the men in your life to visit the following powerful
and http://www.whiteribbon.ca/ and finally from Western Ontario
We can make a difference, one person, and one gesture at a time in the
neighbourhoods and communities where we live. We can support the work of those
who help women and their children move out of abusive relationships and violent
situations in tangible ways including answering the call for volunteers.
Our communities are places full of need and our social programs are diminishing
and operating on shrinking budgets. But as social justice leaders, we can be
partners in our communities to make a real difference right where we live.
After all, women hold up half the sky. We are able.
Dora Robinson, Chair PWC
On behalf of the OPSEU Provincial Women’s Committee