December 5, 2014
December 5, 2014
Shining a Light on Violence Against Women:
OFL Statement for December 6, 2014, National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
December 6, 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre in which 14 women were murdered because they were women. The École Polytechnique was not only a college but also a workplace. Two of the women murdered that day were members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). This senseless act of violence against women shocked our nation and became the catalyst for collective action to end violence against women.
There can be no doubt that this year, December 6 reflections will focus on the “dark figure” of violence against women – that vast number of incidents that go unreported, unnoticed and ignored every year. This issue has received incredible exposure in recent weeks because of the explosive social media traffic on the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported, which responded to high profile cases of sexual assault that have dominated the news. As a result, new spaces have been opened up for women to share their experiences and be heard. Unprecedented attention has also been given to the reasons why women may choose not to come forward. This constellation of circumstances represents a unique opportunity for action.
Today, in Canada, violence against women is very much a serious and pervasive problem that crosses every social boundary and affects communities from coast to coast to coast. According to recent Statistics Canada research, on average, every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her partner and, on any given day, there are more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) living in emergency shelters to flee domestic violence. Many more women suffer in silence due to lack of adequate resources to support women shelters – often in rural and remote communities across Canada. Violence remains a significant barrier to women’s equality and we know it has devastating consequences in the lives of women, children, families and Canadian society.
The Canadian Labour Congress partnered with researchers at the University of Western Ontario and conducted the first-ever Canadian survey on domestic violence in the workplace. This unprecedented pan-Canadian survey provides us with made-in-Canada research that will help unions, employers, advocates and governments develop good public policy as well as negotiate workplace supports. The survey asked 8,429 workers if they had experienced domestic violence. One third said “yes”. Of those, 82 percent said the violence negatively affected their work performance. Almost 40 percent said it kept them from getting to work and for almost 10 percent it meant losing their job. More than half said the violence continued at or near the workplace in the form of harassing emails, calls and texts, stalking and/or physical violence.
When workers experience domestic violence at home, the impacts are felt in the workplace. A recent study by Justice Canada highlighted this fact by estimating that employers lose $77.9 million annually as a result of domestic violence. But the community costs, both financial and personal, go far beyond that.
“The shocking prevalence of violence, abuse and sexual assault of Canadian women reveals the shameful persistence of individual and systemic sexism and misogyny in our society. However, the dangerous consequences of these prejudices are even more acutely experienced by Aboriginal women, racialized women, trans women, women with disabilities and so many others who are marginalized or vulnerable in our society,” said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison.
“Despite the shocking and violent stories that continue to dominate news broadcasts and the evidence that many more incidents continue to go unreported, uninvestigated and unnoticed, Canadian authorities continue to fail to act on violence against women,” said OFL President Sid Ryan. “This OFL will work with our affiliated unions to support and promote an action plan to create safe homes, workplaces and communities for women and girls.”
December 6 is an opportunity to reflect on the tragedy of the Montréal Massacre and to reach out to all families of female victims whose lives have been forever altered by acts of violence. The OFL is calling for support for the petition of the Native Women’s Association of Canada to demand a national inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women (www.NWAC.ca).
The OFL is also encouraging its affiliated unions to support two similar community based campaigns: Shine the Light on Woman Abuse and Light the Night Against Violence. Both campaigns call for the lighting of buildings and communities across Canada with the aim of raising awareness around gender-based violence.
“Shine the Light on Woman Abuse” (http://lawc.on.ca/shinethelight/) calls on communities to be lit up in purple for the month of November. Similarly, on December 6, 2014, the YWCA initiative “Light the Night Against Violence” (www.rosecampaign.ca) calls for communities to be lit up in red.
“One day of action is not enough to end violence against women and girls. We must use the act of remembering to fuel the collaborative efforts across our country to build a better, safer and more inclusive Canada,” said Sister Hutchison. “As Canadians, we must be firm and principled in our commitment to the fair, equitable and respectful treatment of all people and speak out and act against the intolerable acts of violence against women and girls.”
For further information:
Joel Duff, OFL Communications Director: 416.707.0349 or JDuff@ofl.ca *ENG/FRE*
- Women Workers
- Canadian Labour Congress
- Domestic Violence
- École Polytechnique
- Montréal Massacre
- Nancy Hutchison
- Native Women’s Association of Canada
- Sid Ryan
- University of Western Ontario