Workplace Health and Safety

Canada’s unions: We all have an important role to play in ending gender-based violence

December 6, 2021

On December 6th 1989, 14 women were murdered in a horrific act of gender-based violence at Montreal’s École Polytechnique. This tragic event exposed a reality that many already knew and experienced: that gender-based violence is a constant threat to women and gender-diverse people in Canada, fueled by sexism and misogyny.

“Here in Canada, we’ve made progress on recognizing gender-based harassment and violence as an issue in the world of work,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). “But there is more work to be done. Our previous groundbreaking survey on domestic violence at work helped shape important change for survivors. We’ve once again partnered on a national survey, this time to study harassment and violence in the workplace.”

32 years after the École Polytechnique attack, gender-based harassment and violence remains a daily reality for too many workers. Today, in Canada:

• Homicide is the #1 killer of women in the workplace.
• 1 in 3 workers experience domestic violence, and over half report experiencing this violence at or near their workplace.
• 90% of transgender workers report feeling unsafe at work due to their gender identity or expression.
• 1 in 3 migrant care workers reported having their movement restricted by their employer during the pandemic.
• Gender-based violence and harassment from patients, co-workers, and the public “is endemic within the healthcare sector.
70% of education workers experienced physical violence on the job, and women and gender-diverse workers experience this violence at a higher prevalence than men.
• Racialized women face higher levels of harassment and violence than non-racialized women and experience barriers to reporting, support and access to justice.
• Indigenous women are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of violence and six times more likely to be killed than non-Indigenous women.
• Over 60% of women and girls with disabilities experience gender-based violence.

The CLC’s national survey on domestic violence at work helped governments, employers and unions understand that domestic violence has significant impacts on workers and workplaces, putting jobs and safety at risk. It led to new policies and supports, including legislation that recognizes domestic violence as a hazard and gives workers access to paid leave so they don’t have to choose between their job and a paycheque.

Last year, the CLC partnered with the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women to conduct the first ever National Study on Harassment and Violence in Canadian Workplace. The results will be revealed in January 2022, and will help determine the actions we need to take together, in order to reduce risk and prevent violence and harassment, to respond appropriately, and to support survivors.

“For too long, women and gender-diverse workers have been subject to unrelenting workplace harassment and violence. It’s unacceptable,” said Siobhán Vipond, CLC Executive Vice-President. “Canada’s unions have an important role to play, starting with urging the federal government to finally ratify and implement ILO Convention C-190. Everyone deserves safe homes, safe communities, and safety in the world of work. Together, we can build a safer world.”

To arrange an interview, please contact:
CLC Media Relations


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