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This October, vote for a national action plan to prevent violence against women

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The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women presented its report entitled Promising Practices to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls in the House of Common in June 2015. The Committee heard testimony from 48 witnesses including 38 organizations and four individuals. The report contained 11 recommendations for the Government of Canada to implement in order to effectively address violence against women and girls.

Here's information from the report that provides a perspective of violence against women and girls. 

According to Statistics Canada, rates of violent crime are similar for girls and boys younger than 12 years of age. In 2011, 8,200 girls were the victims of violent crimes. In 2013, almost half of the violent crimes committed against young girls were sexual in nature. Most of these assaults were perpetrated by a family member.

Girls 12 to 17 years of age are more likely to experience violence at the hands of peers or dating partners. In 2011, 27,000 young women were victims of violent crimes. Girls this age were eight times more likely than boys to experience sexual assault or other sexual crimes.

Women between the ages of 15 to 24 experience the highest rates of violence. Women 18 years of age and older experience violent crimes of a sexual nature at a rate of seven per cent. 

Violence against women is an under reported crime. Only 30 per cent of women experiencing spousal violence report to police. Aboriginal women are close to three times more likely to have experienced intimate partner violence than non-Aboriginal women. In 2009, 15 per cent of Aboriginal women reported experiencing spousal abuse compared to six per cent of non-Aboriginal women. 

Every six days a woman is killed by her intimate partner. The Royal Mounted Police found that 92 per cent of murders of non-Aboriginal women and 93 per cent of murders of Aboriginal women are committed by intimate partners or spouses, family members or acquaintances. In cases where partners have committed the murder, 25 per cent of the women had left the relationship. 

Victims of non-spousal violence report 28 per cent of incidents. Only 10 per cent of sexual assaults are routinely reported to police. In 87 per cent of sexual assaults, women are the victims and men the perpetrators 97 per cent of the time.

Canadian women and men experience similar rates of violence including spousal violence. However, the violence women experience is generally more severe and they are seven times more likely to fear for their lives. Women experience sexual offences at rates ten times greater than men. Women are victims of criminal harassment at rates three times greater than men. Eight in 10 women experience violence at the hands of men -- mainly men they know. 

Young women; Aboriginal women; visible minorities; women with disabilities; immigrant, refugee and temporary workers; as well as sex workers are all at greater risk of sexual assault.

Gender inequality remains the root cause of violence against women. The power imbalance between men and women is perpetuated by specific cultural, religious and social norms. While 96 per cent of Canadian boys surveyed by Plan International Canada stated that they believe in gender equality, there is often a disconnect between what boys observe, experience, learn and internalize. The way boys and young men are socialized can normalize the idea that violence against women is acceptable even if the men perpetrating these crimes are the minority.

The Committee had 11 recommendations for the federal government to implement in order to prevent violence against women and girls. The recommendations included:

1. The government work with organizations to utilize proven best practices to prevent violence against women and girls.

2. That Status of Women Canada ensure that preventing violence against women and girls continues to be a priority.

3. That the Government of Canada act on the policies and programs in place that are centred on prevention and education in efforts to prevent violence against women and girls, emphasizing best practices.

4. That the Government of Canada continue to fund projects through Status of Women Canada in efforts to prevent violence against women and girls.

5. That the Minister of Status of Women work toward putting the issue of sexual violence and assault on the next federal/provincial/territorial meeting agenda.

6. The Government of Canada continue to support efforts to engage men and boys in preventing violence against women and girls.

7. The Government of Canada continue to support and focus on maternal, newborn and child health through engagement of stakeholders.

8. The Status of Women Canada continue its practice of issuing Calls for Proposals on preventing violence against women and girls, with a focus on Aboriginal women.

9. The Government of Canada continue to support the implementation of the Action Plan to Address Family Violence and Violent Crime Against Aboriginal Women and Girls.

10. The Government of Canada continue to invest in economic development ventures that nurture the safety and economic well-being of women and girls on and off reserve.

11. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada provide newcomer women with information about settlement services, crisis resources and their rights under Canadian law, through publications such as Discover Canada, Welcome to Canada, as well as the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.

A number of witnesses that appeared before Committee called for a National Action Plan on violence against women and girls in Canada.

Ironically, on May 27, 2015 the Harper government voted down MP Niki Ashton's motion, M-444, A National Action Plan to End Violence against Women. Yukon MP Ryan Leef was the lone conservative to vote in support of the motion.

Motion 444 succinctly summed up the steps needed to end gendered violence in Canada:

"That, in the opinion of the House, the government should develop, in collaboration with the provinces, territories, civil society and First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and their representatives, a coordinated National Action Plan to Address Violence Against Women which would include: (a) initiatives to address socio-economic factors contributing to violence against women; (b) policies to prevent violence against women and policies to respond to survivors of violence; (c) benchmarks for measuring progress based on the collection of data on levels of violence against women over time; (d) independent research on emerging issues that relate to violence against women; (e) a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls; (f) strategies that address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of different communities including specific attention to Aboriginal women, women with disabilities, women from minority groups and young women; (g) participation by community and other civil society organizations, including support for those organizations to participate in the implementation of the national action plan; and (h) human and financial resources earmarked specifically to carry out the program of action set by the plan."

While Ashton's motion embodied the recommendations found in the Committee's Promising Practices to Prevent Violence Against women and Girls, it was resoundingly rejected by the Harper government.

The New Democrats have subsequently proposed four recommendations in response to the Status of Women's Committee's recommendations:

  • That the Government of Canada develop a comprehensive National Action Plan on Violence Against women with adequate human and financial resources, in collaboration with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, civil society, and First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples, with clear goals, measurable targets, and specific timelines as outlined in Motion M-444.

  • That the Government of Canada establish a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and that where possible, Indigenous women are involved in the design, decision-making, process and implementation of this inquiry.

  • That the Government of Canada work with the provinces, territories and Indigenous communities to create a universal early childhood and childcare program delivered with common principles like affordability, availability and quality that costs no more than $15/day per child.

  • That the Government of Canada take steps to address the economic security of women and girls.

Harper voted against ending violence for Canadian women and girls. When casting your vote this October vote for the candidate that supports a violence-free life for all Canadians.

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