Opinion Column

Is Canada any safer for women since Montreal Massacre?

Lynda Muir, Special to the Examiner

(Mark Wanzel File Photo)

(Mark Wanzel File Photo)

Every year on Dec. 6 women’s organizations, supporters of the White Ribbon and the Sisters in Spirit campaigns, and members of the community come together to remember women who have died as a result of gender-based violence.

This year is no different. Vigils and memorials will be held in cities and towns across the country on Thursday to remember all the women who have died in our country as a result of gender based violence.

In the 23 years since the murders of the 14 young women at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, what has changed? Is Canada any safer for women than it was in 1990 after the Canadian government declared Dec. 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women?

Sadly, the answer is no. Every year since Dec. 6 was declared a Nation Day, approximately 20 women are murdered in Ontario alone because of gender-based violence.

This year, 18 women were murdered by their partners or ex-partners and one child was murdered by his father.

Although violence against persons has apparently decreased over the last 20 years, violence against women has remained constant.

The United Nations has recommended that every county in the world and particularly UN member nations develop national Action Plans to end violence against women by 2015.

Shamefully, Canada has not adopted a national strategy for ending gender-based violence even though the Throne Speech in 2011 included a promise to address violence against women and girls in this county.

Canada could demonstrate leadership by playing a pivotal role at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), and work toward an agreement among member states to enhance the rights of girls and women worldwide and to hold governments accountable for their progress in eliminating all forms of violence against women.

Gender-based violence will not be eliminated in Canada without a National Action Plan.

According to Susan Young, executive director of the Ontario Association and Transition Homes, the federal government “needs to adopt a proactive, comprehensive approach to a systemic problem and start the process of creating Canada’s plan now.”

This plan needs to include specific legislation, resources and strategies for those most vulnerable to violence such as aboriginal women, immigrant women, LGBTQ women, women with disabilities, racialized women and young women.

The creation of the plan should include input from survivors of gender-based violence and community-based women’s organizations.

The plan needs to include strategies for addressing women’s poverty and the lack of affordable housing and childcare.

It would be incomplete without a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women in our county. And finally, there has to be provision in the plan for sufficient resources for implementation.

Please join the Women and Children’s Shelter of Barrie on Thursday at the Army Navy and Air Force Club at 7 George St. at 5:30 p.m. as we remember those women who have died and issue a call to action to end violence against women.

For information, visit barrieshelter.com.

Lynda Muir is executive director of the Women and Children’s Shelter of Barrie.

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