December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women, a day inspired by the lives of the 14 young women at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal who were murdered because of their gender. Every year on this day, we reaffirm our commitment to fighting against all forms of violence against women.
To prevent violence against women, we must not only speak out against this violence – we must ensure that there is gender equality in every corner of our society, so that women are protected from this threat. Women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA and gender-diverse individuals across Canada live with a heightened risk of violence. Sadly, this violence is often from people they know.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, another crisis, which the United Nations is calling a “shadow pandemic”, has erupted – an increase in violence against women and girls. Helplines for women have reported dramatic increases since lockdowns and public health measures have taken effect. The result of lockdowns is that victims of this abuse are left more isolated and at risk of danger.
Violence against Indigenous women has been a long-neglected issue even before the pandemic. In 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls published a report calling the violence against Indigenous women genocide. This report made 231 recommendations to resolve this devastating crisis. Since then, a National Action Plan from the government has yet to be seen and the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened this rate of violence against Indigenous women. A survey done by the Native Women’s Association of Canada in the Spring reported that one in five Indigenous women were victims of physical or psychological violence in the past three months.
The government’s direction to stay at home is meant to keep us safe from the virus, but home is not a safe place for all women; in many cases, women are less safe now than ever before.
The end to the crisis of violence against women is long-overdue; we must put a stop to it and work to achieve full gender equality. Let’s work together to ensure that our society has supports in place that empower women – access to affordable housing, education, childcare, and an end to the gender wage gap, to name a few.
When OPSEU/SEFPO fights against these barriers to equality, we are fighting for all women, and we will never stop fighting until all women are safe from this violence.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
Dianne Clarabut, OPSEU/SEFPO Provincial Women’s Committee Chair