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Today is the last day to help improve the domestic and sexual violence workplace accommodation legislation in Ontario

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The Ontario Legislative Building on a nice sunny day. Image: Wikimedia Commons/Benson Kua

Peggy Sattler's Private Member's Bill 26, the Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act, 2016 provides for up to 10 days paid leave for survivors of domestic and sexual violence as well as additional unpaid leave, workplace accommodations, and training.

Bill 26 passed second reading with unanimous support on October 20, 2016 but has sat in limbo ever since.

Through petitions and emails to the Ontario Premier, Minister of Labour, and Minister of Women's Issues, many of you have urged the government to bring Bill 26 forward for public consultation. The government's standard response has been that they were in the process of finalizing the Changing Workplaces Review, and the 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) falls far short of what Bill 26 provides, and what survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence require to deal with the violence and heal from the trauma.

The Wynne governments Bill 148 only allows for two days of paid "personal emergency leave," which can be accessed for domestic and sexual violence among other things, plus eight additional unpaid days. This is not good enough.

When you're a woman living in an abusive relationship, having a job gives you the opportunity to escape the daily chaos that is your life. Working also provides financial security, a break from isolation, and the opportunity to find services and source help.

This self-sufficiency and independence is a tremendous threat to an abuser who needs to have power and control over their partner. That's why abusers may continuously phone, text, email, and even stalk their partners at work. This behaviour often causes women to lose their jobs making them completely dependent on their abuser. He has regained his power and control.

The Centre for Research and Education on the Violence Against Women and Children and the Canadian Labour Congress conducted an online survey from December 2013 until June 2014 that found 54 per cent of domestic violence victims reported at least one type of abuse happening at, or near, their place of work.

Close to 82 per cent of victims said domestic violence negatively affected their performance. A total of 38 per cent reported that violence had made them late or miss work and 8.5 per cent reported losing their jobs.

In addition, 37 per cent of respondents admitted experiencing stress or concern because they believed a co-worker was experiencing domestic violence. Three-quarters of all respondents thought paid leave and safety policies could reduce the impact of domestic violence on the work lives of all employees.

The cost to employers is financially significant as well. In 2013, The Department of Justice released its estimate that domestic violence costs Canadian employers about $78 million annually. 

Substantial as that number may be, we need to add in the additional costs of policing, the judicial system, correctional services, health care, lost wages, damage to property, moving costs, legal costs, pain and suffering, funeral cost, social services and the impact on children. That brings the total for intimate partner violence to $7.4 billion or $220 per Canadian annually.

Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault need to be accommodated with sufficient paid time off to see doctors, attend crisis centres, find a place to live, find child care, 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 in order to develop informed, effective and appropriate workplace policies and plans.

Every six days a Canadian woman is murdered by a current or former intimate partner. The provisions of Bill 26 make it easier for women to leave an abusive partner and remain out of their control because it gives them the opportunity to safeguard their financial independence.

I encourage you to reach out to the committee reviewing Bill 148 to urge that the legislation be amended to include the provisions of Bill 26.

Send your written comments via email to the Clerk of the Committee at the address below by 5:30 p.m. on Friday, July 21, 2017.

Eric Rennie, Clerk
Room 1405, Whitney Block
Queen's Park, Toronto, ON  M7A 1A2
Telephone: (416) 325-3506
Facsimile: (416) 325-3505
TTY: (416) 325-3538
E-mail: erennie@ola.org

Your voice will improve Bill 148 and save a woman’s life.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Benson Kua​

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