Violence against women remains a powerful barrier to women’s equality. Women experience violence in many different ways – it can be physical or sexual abuse, emotional or verbal abuse, financial manipulation or control, spiritual abuse, criminal harassment or stalking. It can occur at work, in the home, or in the community.
How can we make real progress to end violence against women?
- Lobby the government to create a National Action Plan to End Violence Against Women.
- Demand action on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
- Work for better workplace violence legislation at the provincial, territorial and federal levels
- Involve union men in the fight against violence.
- Demand the reinstatement of the federal long-gun registry.
Although violence affects all women, the experience is much more severe the more diverse the woman is. Racialized, indigenous, recent immigrants and refugee women, women living with disabilities, lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender women, aging women and young women all experience higher and more pervasive rates of all forms of violence.
Workplace violence occurs in higher proportion in female-dominated sectors: social services, health care, food/retail, and education.
- Homicide is the #1 killer of women in the workplace.
- Intimate partner violence costs Canada $7.4 billion a year.
- 2/3 of all female victims of sexual assault are under 24.
- Half of Canadian women will experience at least 1 incident of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
- On any given day, over 3000 women (along with their 2500 children) are staying in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence.
- A woman in Canada is killed by her current or former partner at least once a week.
- Employers lose $77.9 million annually as a result of domestic violence.
- 1 in 10 women aged 18 to 24 report having experienced sexual harassment at work within the previous 12 months.
- Young women are killed at nearly 3 times the rate of all victims of domestic homicide.
- 20% of women in Canada live with a disability, and nearly 60% of them will experience violence in their lifetime.
- Indigenous women are 3 times more likely to report being the victim of a violent crime. While Indigenous women make up
What unions are doing
Unions have worked hard to make work safer for women by negotiating anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, better protection and intervention for female workers who are experiencing violence or abuse at home, health and safety protections and improved employee assistance and support programs.
Unions lobby governments for workplace violence legislation that require employers to develop policies and programs to help prevent workplace violence and harassment, as well as take precautions to protect workers from domestic violence in the workplace. While some provinces have strong legislation, we have much work to do to ensure all Canadian workers have the same protection.
On December 6, 1989, fourteen women at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique were murdered solely because they were women. Canada’s gun control provisions, including the long gun registry, were created in response to this tragedy and the activism that followed. Although the registry was abolished by the Conservative government in 2012, unions and activists across Canada fought hard to keep this valuable tool for protecting women’s and workers’ safety, and continue to stand up for effective gun control measures.
Union men have also joined the fight against violence by participating in the White Ribbon Campaign as a response to the December 6 murders. It has become one of the largest men’s anti-violence programs in the world.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has documented over 600 disappearances and murders of First Nations, Inuit and Métis women, and Canada’s failure to act has provoked an inquiry by the United Nations. Sisters In Spirit vigils are held every year on October 4 to call on the Federal government to establish a national public inquiry to examine the deaths and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls. It must involve the full participation of Indigenous women, and act on any recommendations swiftly.
Unions and their allies are currently pushing the federal government to work with women’s and anti-violence organizations to develop and implement a comprehensive National Action Plan to End Violence Against Women.