“Unions have a significant role to play in ensuring women's safety at home and in the workplace and in advocating for support for women facing violence every day. On December 6, we take time to remember and to re-commit to the work that needs to be done to end violence against women." — Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer
Ottawa (05 Dec. 2017) — One day, 28 years ago, students were studying to become engineers at L'École Polytechnique. It was a normal winter day until a man with a gun walked into the building, divided the women and the men, and giving the explanation that he was "fighting feminists," opened fire on the female students. In total, he killed 14 women and injured 10 women and 4 men in his rampage. This event, deemed the Montreal massacre, is now etched in Canadian history.
More than a Day of Remembrance needed to combat violence against women and girls
In 1991, December 6 was declared a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. Every year on this day, women and men across the country gather together to remember women and girls we have lost and to commit to action to address the ongoing violence in our communities.
The stark reality is that half of all Canadian women have experienced at least 1 incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. In Canada, a woman is killed by her current or former intimate partner every 6 days. These facts show that 28 years after the Montreal Massacre, we have not made enough head-way in ending violence against women.
Unions at the forefront of confronting violence against women, at home and in the workplace
Unions have been working on the issue of violence against women and girls for decades.
Specifically, in 2015, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), of which the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is an affiliate, partnered with the University of Western Ontario to conduct the first-ever Canadian survey on domestic violence in the workplace. The results provided important data on the realities of women experiencing violence.
The report shows that one-third (33.6%) of respondents reported experiencing domestic violence from an intimate partner. Aboriginal respondents, respondents with disabilities, those indicating a sexual orientation other than heterosexual (e.g., lesbian, gay or bisexual) and transgender respondents were particularly likely to have reported experiencing domestic violence in their lifetime. 35.4% of respondents reported having at least one co-worker who they believe is experiencing, or has previously experienced, domestic violence. 11.8% reported having at least one co-worker who they believe is being abusive, or has previously been abusive, toward his/her partner. For more information on survey results, go to the CLC's Domestic Violence at Work.
The data compiled from this survey provided tools for unions and women's organizations to pressure the federal and provincial governments to take concrete action on the issues. Since the release of the survey results, some provinces have passed laws to provide domestic violence leave and more provinces are considering such legislation.
Unions have been negotiating language in collective agreements to provide dedicated paid leave for members experiencing violence, as well as protection from adverse action or discrimination as a result of disclosing.
Unions continue to call for more investment in public services that will improve the lives of women experiencing violence, especially for those who are living with a disability, who are racialized, or women living in rural communities.
NUPGE recommits to fighting violence against women
Violence against women and girls is not just a women’s issue. Men and women need to realize that violence against women will not end until men are an active part of the solution.
“Unions have a significant role to play in ensuring women's safety at home and in the workplace," says Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer, “and in advocating for support for women facing violence every day. On December 6, we take time to remember and to recommit to the work that needs to be done to end violence against women."