As the country mourns the loss of twenty-two lives in last week’s horrific mass shooting in Nova Scotia, Canada’s unions are once again calling for a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Girls.
Although there is still much we do not know about this tragedy, now the deadliest massacre in Canadian history, it has come to light that the killer began his shooting spree by assaulting his intimate partner.
“We must acknowledge that these murders were rooted in misogyny,” said Marie Clarke Walker, Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress. “They are not ‘senseless,’ ‘random’ or ‘isolated’. They are part of the nationwide crisis of violence against women. It is the same crisis that sees a woman or girl killed every three days in this country.”
Research shows that in the majority of mass shootings there is a history of domestic violence. Misogyny was also at the root of Canada’s other deadliest killings: the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal and the 2018 Toronto van attack.
While misogynist violence can touch any woman, some groups of women are impacted disproportionately: Indigenous women, young women, women with disabilities, and trans women and non-binary folk all experience higher rates of domestic violence.
Other groups of women face barriers to support and to accessing justice. Black and Indigenous women, refugees and migrant women, and trans women may be reluctant to seek the support of police or social services because these systems may expose them to other forms of structural violence and discrimination. Accessible services are difficult to find for deaf women and women with disabilities. Few such services exist in rural and remote communities.
“This pandemic, along with the public health recommendation to stay at home has put women further at risk,” said Clarke Walker. “Canada’s unions applaud governments’ efforts to ensure that shelters and other support providers have the resources they need to manage an increase in demand and to assist women whose homes are not safe.”
Over the last five years, the Canadian labour movement successfully fought for and won paid domestic violence leave both federally and in the vast majority of provinces and territories. Now, we must go further.
Canada needs a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Girls. A Plan would help plug the gaps in anti-violence services while establishing clear targets for progress and ensuring consistency across and within jurisdictions. Although the federal government has signaled its intent to develop a Plan, it needs to establish the funding and the process to see it through.
The federal government needs to step up and accelerate these efforts. Women and non-binary people – especially those who are marginalized – are literally dying while we wait.