As we celebrate the 2019 International Day of Women and Girls in Science, it’s important to take stalk of the recent progress we’ve made in Canada on promoting equality in the sciences but also the work that remains ahead of us. I am very proud to serve as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science and Sport, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, and to serve my constituents in London West and all Canadians on this important file.
Domestic violence is not just a personal issue. We know it reaches far beyond the home and into the workplace, which is why paid domestic violence leave and support for people experiencing violence can help save lives. This is why the Canadian federal government has instituted amendments to the Canada Labour Code to include five days of paid domestic violence leave for workers in federally-regulated workplaces. This is an expansion of the already ten days of unpaid leave for workers experiencing domestic violence.
The #MeToo movement has put sexual harassment and violence in the workplace front and center. But what about violence that occurs in the personal lives of employees, such as domestic abuse and sexual violence?
Is this something that employers should be thinking about and create policies to help support employees who have experienced this type of abuse? The answer is yes.
On December 6, 1989, 13 female students and a female administrator at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal were murdered because they were women. The shocking impact of their deaths led Parliament to designate December 6 as a national day of remembrance in Canada. Nearly 30 years later, the effects of this tragedy continue to be felt and women remain targets because of their gender. According to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (COJFA), by the end of September this year, 106 women and girls have been killed by gender-based violence. Approximately half of them were killed in Ontario. Over 100 women have been killed this year and that has not caused a public outcry or become a pressing national news story. The lack of attention and national outrage explains why we haven’t made greater progress in ending violence against women since 1989. The killing of women by intimate partners continues to remain invisible as a far-reaching public health issue.
What is Person’s Day? It’s the day when the Supreme Court of Canada officially declared females as “persons.” Yes, today we might think the idea that women not being viewed as persons is a wild and backward ideal, but this was the reality a mere 90 years ago. And in many parts of the world, women today are still fighting for the chance to be heard and viewed as equals.
It has only been a year since the flood of #metoo sexual assault and harassment reports surfaced to sink the careers of powerful men with long histories of abusive behaviour. It took a tidal wave of voices to support the women who called Harvey Weinstein to account for his behaviour. Many others in the U.S. and Canada were caught in the same current and followed Weinstein out of sight. The door closed behind them. For most, it is unclear where they ended up or how they are processing what happened. Do the banished actually consider their actions and make changes toward redemption in their lives? Or, are they brooding and resentful for having been caught and humiliated in the public square, waiting it out now to make a come-back?
In July, New Zealand became the second country in the world to pass a national law granting victims of domestic violence 10 days paid leave to allow them to leave their partners, find new homes and protect themselves and their children. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developed world, with police responding to a family violence incident every four minutes.
Professional sports organizations have a particular social responsibility to act as role models and good citizens for the legions of young fans who follow them faithfully. Zero tolerance policies can allow leaders to wash their hands of what they see as the ‘problem’ individual, without appreciating or exploring how problematic individual behaviour is rooted in attitudes and beliefs that also exist in our workplaces, our teams and our leagues. When the ‘problem’ person is traded or fired, the organization hasn’t done anything to address abusive behaviour in intimate relationships because this is not a problem that can just be traded away. The “one bad apple” approach to domestic violence obscures the social context in which these behaviours thrive.
Sport plays an important role in society and is often highlighted for the positive impact it can have within communities. For example, we enroll our children in sport to encourage them to be healthy and active, but also to teach them life lessons, such as the importance of teamwork, perseverance, a strong work ethic, commitment, integrity, trust, accountability, etc. Many believe sport is a vehicle for achieving great social change. Unfortunately, negative stories also emerge from sport. Too often we hear of corruption, drug doping, and domestic abuse from the athletes who should be the ones teaching these important life lessons. Former baseball pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays, Roberto Osuna, is a recent case (of many) where a celebrity athlete has been charged with domestic assault of his girlfriend.
Early days, no one including Indigenous people believed there was a crisis happening within the borders of our country called Canada within your very own community. The first memorial march was held over 25 years ago in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside also known at DTES. Indigenous women have continued to bring people together to remember lost loved ones and have mobilized to stop the violence or to slow it down. However, for a long time, the general population ignored their voices and the yearly marches. It wasn’t until 2004 that mass attention was brought to the issue when Amnesty International partnered with the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) to produce the report, Stolen Sisters.