Today, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) calls on Canada’s federal government to commit to ending violence against women by taking action in three concrete ways.
The CLC echoes UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet’s call for “bold action and decisive leadership”, for governments to translate international promises into concrete national action. (embed link:http://saynotoviolence.org/commit
“We hope to see new and improved laws and national action plans that provide for safe houses, free hotline services and free health and legal aid to survivors,” said Bachelet on November 25, 2012. “We count on education programmes that teach human rights, equality and mutual respect, and inspire young people to take leadership on ending violence against women and girls. We need increasing numbers of women in politics, law enforcement, and peacekeeping forces. We need equal economic opportunities and decent jobs for women.”
The CLC urges the government of Canada to commit to ending violence against women by:
1) announcing plans to develop a comprehensive National Action Plan to End Violence against Women in Canada;
2) launching a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls; and
3) making a public commitment to work toward an agreement at the 2013 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) which builds upon and strengthens existing rights for women, and holds governments accountable for their progress toward eliminating and preventing all forms of violence against women and girls.
Violence against women is a powerful barrier to women’s equality and a violation of women’s human rights. It is a complex, systemic problem that requires a comprehensive approach to developing solutions.
The United Nations has called on all countries to have National Action Plans on Violence against Women by 2015. A National Action Plan is a blueprint for change which needs to include action at every level of government, in workplaces, schools and local and cultural communities, and even in individual relationships and behaviours.
Canada’s federal government should initiate a process to develop a plan, involving provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments as well as civil society, service providers and survivors of gender-based violence. Canada’s National Action Plan needs to include legislation as well as specific resources and strategies for those most vulnerable to violence: Aboriginal women, immigrant women, women with disabilities and young women. Canada’s Plan must also provide sufficient resources for the strategies to be implemented, including support for research to measure progress.
A key component of Canada’s plan must also include strategies to end women’s poverty and address the crises in affordable housing and child care. Because we all know that women need options. They need to be able to work, they need safe, affordable housing, and they need economic security. Any public policy that lifts women out of poverty and gives them self-sufficiency and alternatives is a public policy that gives women the tools they need to leave a violent situation.
Aboriginal women are three times more likely to report being the victim of a violent crime. While Aboriginal women make up only 3% of Canada’s female population, they make up 10% of all murdered women. Canada’s failure to act has provoked an inquiry by the United Nations. It’s time the federal government announced a national public inquiry to examine the deaths and disappearances of Aboriginal women. It must involve the full participation of Aboriginal women, and act on any recommendations swiftly.
Next March, Canada will participate in discussions at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, on the topic of ending violence against women and girls. The stakes in these discussions are high, as any agreement will hold member states accountable for taking action to prevent and respond effectively to gender-based violence. The CLC and women’s groups across the country believe that Canada should be a leading voice in calling for any agreement to build upon and strengthen existing rights for women, and to work toward true equality between women and men.