November 25 is the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women, and the beginning of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
The campaign is an opportunity to reflect on the impact of gender-based violence on our lives, work and communities, and to take action to eliminate it. In Canada, unions and many other organizations hold events and actions on December 6, the day set aside to remember the women murdered at Montréal’s École Polytechnique in 1989.
This year, in the wake of #MeToo and in recognition that too many women experience sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence at work, the Canadian Labour Congress is issuing a challenge to governments, to unions, and to men in the labour movement.
It’s time to up our game.
“If we are truly going to eliminate violence against women, men need to step up,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff. “We need to acknowledge our complicity in perpetuating a culture that tolerates toxic masculinity. Men need to own up to our own behaviour and hold ourselves and each other accountable. And we need to make a commitment to change – in our workplaces, but also in our own organizations.”
The CLC has developed a partnership with the producers of the documentary film A Better Man. The film portrays a series of conversations between a survivor of domestic violence and her former abuser. It is a powerful film, intended to provoke conversations about accountability, healing, and the possibility of restorative justice.
On November 24, the CLC will launch a discussion guide for unions, using the film as a launching point for a broader conversation about domestic violence and how individuals, unions, and workplaces can act to break the silence and end the cycle of violence.
“We are encouraging union members – and especially men – to watch the film, and to talk about their reactions, whether it’s on social media, at a union event or around the kitchen table with friends and neighbours,” said Yussuff. “We also want to make sure that talk leads to action, to change in behaviour and to change in legislation.”
Following on our groundbreaking survey on Domestic Violence at Work, the CLC has taken action by:
- Launching an education program to empower union representatives to recognize and respond to domestic violence at work, to promote awareness of the issue in workplaces, and to help keep members safe and supported at work.
- Developing collective bargaining language to assist unions in negotiating workplace supports, including paid domestic violence leave and women’s advocates.
- Lobbying governments in all jurisdictions to amend health and safety legislation to recognize domestic violence as a form of workplace violence (as is the case in Ontario), and to follow Manitoba’s example and amend employment standards to give all workers paid domestic violence leave.
- Working with the global labour movement to press for an international labour standard on violence and harassment in the world of work.
The work of union members, unions, and federations of labour has seen results. Ontario will join Manitoba in establishing five paid days of domestic violence leave, and discussions are underway in a number of other jurisdictions. Legislation on harassment and violence in the federal sector was recently tabled, and the latest Budget Implementation Act establishes unpaid family violence leave. Canada’s unions will continue to push for this leave to be paid, and for harassment and violence legislation to clearly define and establish processes to address harassment and violence at work.
On November 25, watch A Better Man on TVO or stream it on TVO.org. Visit our online resource centre to download the discussion guide. Throughout the 16 Days of Action, follow @CanadianLabour for tips and tools, and participate in the conversation using hashtags #16Days and #DVatWork.