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Ontario NDP bring domestic and sexual violence bill to debate

Image: Flickr/United Steelworkers​

Peggy Sattler's Private Member's Bill 26, the Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act, 2016 passed second reading with unanimous support on October 20, 2016. Since then, Bill 26 has been in limbo.

The Bill would provide 10 days of paid leave, workplace accommodations and mandatory workplace training on domestic violence and sexual violence.

Through petitions and emails to the Ontario Premier, Minister of Labour, and Minister of Women's Issues, many of you urged the Wynne government to bring Bill 26 forward for public consultation. The provincial government's standard response has been that they were in the process of finalizing the Changing Workplaces Review, and amendments proposed in Bill 26 were being considered as part of that review.

Unfortunately, the changing workplaces legislation (Bill 148 Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017) fell decidedly short of what Bill 26 would provide.

Bill 148 allows for a mere two days of paid "personal emergency leave," plus an additional eight unpaid days each year. That doesn't come close to meeting the needs of those living with, leaving, or healing from the trauma of domestic violence and sexual violence.

On Thursday, September 28, NDP leader Andrea Horwath will be bringing a bill to address domestic violence and sexual violence for debate.

Building on Sattler's Bill and amendments suggested for Bill 148, Horwath is introducing this bill to continue to push legislation to address domestic violence and sexual violence.

Horwath's bill would include the following further steps to address domestic violence and sexual violence:

  • The Bill amends the Employment Standards Act (ESA) to require employers to provide up to ten days of paid leave, as well as 15 weeks of unpaid leave per calendar year to employees who have experienced domestic violence or sexual violence or whose children have experienced domestic violence or sexual violence.
  • The Bill includes a provision that requires the paid portion of this leave to be covered by the Ontario government.
  • The Ontario Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is also amended to require that employers provide mandatory training on domestic violence and sexual violence to all managers, supervisors and workers.

Survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence need sufficient paid time off to see doctors, attend crisis centres, find safe places to live, find affordable child care, find new schools, liaise with their children's teachers, get counselling for themselves and their children, attend the police, create safety plans, and go to court.

Legislation that includes mandatory training is essential to help employers recognize the warning signs, impacts and risks of domestic violence and sexual violence in order to develop informed, effective and appropriate workplace policies and plans.

According to the Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH), between November 2015 and November 2016, 32 women living in Ontario were killed as a result of domestic violence and sexual violence. The provisions of Horwath's bill will make it easier for women to leave abusive situations because it safeguards their financial independence while providing much needed time to access services needed to help enhance their wellbeing and safety.

The time for Bill 26 to become law is well overdue.

Image: Flickr/United Steelworkers​

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