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431-00006 (Social affairs and equality)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English

PETITION TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED

We, the undersigned citizens of Canada, draw the attention of the House to the following:

THAT, WHEREAS half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16,

WHEREAS in a 2009 Canadian national survey, women reported 460,000 incidents of sexual assault in just one year, yet only about 10% of all sexual assaults are reported to police,

WHEREAS each year, over 40,000 arrests result from domestic violence - that's about 12% of all violent crime in Canada - and since only 22% of all incidents are reported to the police, the real number is much higher,

WHEREAS as of 2010, there were 582 known cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, both Amnesty International and the United Nations have called upon the Canadian government to take action on this issue, without success, and according to the Native Women's Association of Canada, "if this figure were applied proportionately to the rest of the female population there would be over 18,000 missing Canadian women and girls",

WHEREAS the cost of violence against women in Canada for health care, criminal justice, social services, and lost wages and productivity has been calculated at $4.8 billion per year,

WHEREAS gender inequality is visible in many areas of our society, including politics, religion, media, cultural norms, and our workplaces, and processes of socialization perpetuate these destructive practices, creating rationale for humiliation, intimidation, control, abuse, and even murder, and

WHEREAS violence against women is rooted in the belief that women deserve less social power and it is therefore acceptable to exert power over them, a mindset that also drives many other forms of violence, such as racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, and religious persecution,

THEREFORE, YOUR PETITIONERS call on the House of Commons to recognize that violence against women remains a critical problem in Canada, and disproportionately impacts indigenous women, as reflected in the crisis of missing and murdered Aboriginal women; that striving for pay equity and equal participation for women in leadership roles must be political priorities for all Members of Parliament; and that shifting cultural attitudes towards women and gender minorities in our society requires structural changes to our processes of education and socialization.

Response by the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Maryam Monsef

INTRODUCTION

The Government of Canada would like to thank the petitioners for expressing their concerns on violence against women, especially as it impacts Indigenous women. The Government is deeply committed to advancing gender equality, including through preventing and addressing gender-based violence, promoting women’s leadership and democratic participation, improving women’s economic security and prosperity, and challenging negative attitudes towards women and gender diversity.

After 42 years of serving Canadian women, Status of Women Canada became the Department for Women and Gender Equality (WAGE) in December 2018. WAGE continues the work of advancing more equitable economic, political, and social outcomes for Canadian women, and, working with the Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Youth and the LGBTQ2 Secretariat, has an expanded mandate for gender equality that includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. WAGE is also maintaining and forging new connections to grassroots organizations advancing equality in Canada, while coordinating gender equality issues within the federal government.

CANADA’S STRATEGY TO PREVENT AND ADDRESS GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE

The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, as well as the global Women’s Marches, have brought issues of sexism, misogyny, and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) to the forefront. The Government of Canada is committed to preventing and addressing GBV against women, girls, LGBTQ2 and two-spirit people.

Launched in 2017, It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence (the Strategy) advances efforts in three areas: preventing GBV; supporting survivors and their families; and promoting responsive legal and justice systems. The Strategy helps to address gaps in support for diverse populations, including Indigenous women and girls, women living in northern, rural, and remote communities, women living with disabilities, newcomers, children and youth, seniors, LGBTQ2 and gender non-binary people.

The Strategy is a whole-of-government approach that brings together GBV-related efforts of all federal departments and agencies, builds on existing federal initiatives and programs, and lays the foundation for greater action on GBV. The Strategy also provides funding for six departments/agencies: WAGE; Public Health Agency of Canada; Public Safety Canada; the Department of National Defence; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

GBV Knowledge Centre

The GBV Knowledge Centre (KC) is the focal point of the Strategy and is responsible for governance and coordination, reporting and evaluation, data and research, and knowledge mobilization. The KC aligns existing resources across government and supports the development and sharing of research and data to enable more coordinated, evidence-based action on GBV. In December 2018, the KC launched an online platform, with a searchable database, which compiles existing information, data, and evidence on GBV.

GBV Program

Launched through the Strategy, WAGE’s GBV Program, which is population-specific, aims to support organizations working in the sector in developing and implementing promising practices to address gaps in supports for Indigenous women and their communities, and other underserved groups of survivors in Canada.

As part of the GBV Program, WAGE is co-funding a project with the Nova Scotia Government to develop effective and culturally-sensitive supports to the cycles of violence that affect women and children in Indigenous and African Nova Scotian communities. This important co-investment between Nova Scotia and Canada will be a signal initiative under Standing Together, Nova Scotia’s plan to prevent domestic violence, and aligns with Canada’s GBV Strategy.

Some of the expected outcomes of the GBV program overall include developing or adapting a service model to better support sexual violence survivors, a community-healing approach for Indigenous women and their families, and a peer support model for women with disabilities and deaf survivors of gender-based violence.

GBV at Post-Secondary Institutions (PSIs)

Also through the Strategy, WAGE is engaging provinces, territories, and stakeholders to develop a Framework to Prevent and Address GBV at Post-Secondary Institutions (the Framework) in order to ensure federal actions complement existing efforts. An Advisory Committee on the Framework and over 300 key stakeholders were engaged by a WAGE-funded organization to develop Courage to Act: Developing a National Framework to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence at Post-Secondary Institutions. Funds have been committed to address resource gaps for PSIs in Canada. 

VIOLENCE AGAINST INDIGENOUS WOMEN

The Government of Canada is committed to ending the ongoing national tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Indigenous women and girls are overrepresented among Canada’s missing and murdered; in 2018, police-reported data show that the homicide rate for Indigenous women and girls was nearly seven times higher than that of their non-Indigenous counterparts.

In response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ (the National Inquiry) interim report, WAGE established a Commemoration Fund to support Indigenous organizations, governments, and communities to commemorate and honour the lives and legacies of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2 people.

Following the release of the National Inquiry’s Final Report in June 2019, the Government is working with Indigenous partners, and provinces and territories to develop and implement a National Action Plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and two-spirit people.

CULTURAL SHIFTS IN ATTITUDES TOWARDS WOMEN AND GENDER DIVERSITY

Challenging and changing harmful gender norms and attitudes is essential to achieve equality for people of all genders. Everyone has a role to play in addressing the attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate exclusion, inequity and violence.

The Government of Canada has also been engaging men and boys as allies and advocates in the women's and gender equality movements. Eleven roundtables were hosted across the country in 2018, including regional and thematic tables (Indigenous people, LGBTQ2 people, racialized communities, youth, and corporate). Additional engagement included religious leaders. Some key issues that emerged include recognizing that men and boys are not a homogenous group, and that efforts to engage men and boys must be accountable to the efforts of the women's and LGBTQ2 movements.

In summer 2019, a What We Heard Report was released and four new projects were announced to address key gaps identified throughout the 2018 roundtable discussions. For example, the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters will receive funding to increase awareness of gender-based violence and healthy masculinity; and FOXY will engage Indigenous youth, particularly young men and boys, on gender equality in the North.

WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP AND DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION

The Government is committed to increasing the representation of women in positions of leadership in both the public and private sectors and is taking various measures to achieve this.

In February 2016, the Government established an open and transparent process for selecting Governor in Council appointees. This has led to an increase of 15 percentage points in the representation of women serving as Governor in Council appointees, which is now at 49%.

As well, measures have been taken to change the culture of politics in order to attract and retain women as Parliamentarians. Some of these include:

  • The Government has passed legislation that enables the House of Commons and the Senate to provide maternity and parental leave for Parliamentarians;
  • The Canada Labour Code was amended to help prevent and respond to violence and harassment in the federally-regulated sector and to offer support to affected employees, including those in federally-regulated workplaces, the federal public service, parliamentary workplaces, and political staff; and,
  • Following on this, the House of Commons introduced a code of conduct on sexual harassment that includes an official complaint resolution process to prevent and deal with cases of sexual harassment.

To encourage corporate transparency and advance gender equality and diversity in Canada's boardrooms, changes to the Canada Business Corporations Act now require federally-regulated, publicly-traded corporations to have and disclose a diversity policy, highlighting their approach to improving overall diversity amongst board directors and members of senior management.

Finally, WAGE, through its Women's Program, supports projects to promote and enhance women's participation in civic and political life by addressing barriers; strengthening the voices of Indigenous women in their communities; empowering the next generation of women leaders; and increasing women's participation in politics with a view to creating more gender-balanced governments.

WOMEN’S ECONOMIC SECURITY AND PROSPERITY

Women continue to experience challenges to their full and equal participation in the economy and are still less likely than men to participate in the labour force.

The Government is also supporting efforts to advance economic security and prosperity for women. For example, the Government recently launched the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, a comprehensive, whole-of-government plan to help women grow their businesses through access to financing, talent, networks and expertise. As well, WAGE is supporting the Association Nikawi Inc. to mobilize local Indigenous women to foster partnerships and develop a local strategy on the use, marketing, and distribution of available non-timber forest resources through a professional farm supply network. The project will expand community understanding by ensuring band councils recognize the importance of harvest and traditional practices for Indigenous women’s economic empowerment and land management.

CONCLUSION

Canada has a long history of advancing gender equality. From the early suffragettes who fought for women to receive the right to vote to the activists of the #MeToo movement, feminist action has played— and continues to play—a pivotal role in shaping our history and our future.

The Government of Canada will continue to take action to increase women’s economic security and prosperity; advance women’s leadership and democratic participation; end violence against women; and counter discriminatory attitudes towards women and gender-diverse people.

Response by the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): GARY ANANDASANGAREE

The Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations would like to thank the petitioners for drawing attention to the critical issues of gender discrimination and violence against women, specifically Indigenous women. Striving for pay equity and equal participation for women in leadership roles is crucial to shifting cultural attitudes in Canada.

Violence against women and girls has devastating health and social impacts on the lives of individuals, families, communities and Canadian society as a whole. We are addressing this tragic violence through a whole-of-government approach involving multiple jurisdictions. Through the National Strategy to Address Gender-Based Violence, we will ensure that all Canadians have the opportunity to live in safe, supportive and inclusive communities.

As noted in your petition, Indigenous women and girls are disproportionately impacted by violence. This is why we are working in partnership with Indigenous partners, provinces and territories to bring an end to the national tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ and Two-Spirit people. 

Since September 2016, the Government invested $92 million to launch the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and to further reconciliation with Indigenous peoples by responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #41.

The Inquiry conducted an in-depth study and analysis on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls between September 2016 and December 2018 by collecting information from community and institutional hearings; reviewing past and current research; collaborating with Elders and Knowledge Keepers; and, examining forensic analysis of police records. The Inquiry also gathered evidence from over 1,400 witnesses, including survivors of violence, the families of victims, and subject-matter experts.

To date, the Government of Canada has taken a family-first approach to proactively address the National Inquiry’s interim recommendations, recognizing the significant strength and courage of the family members of murdered or missing Indigenous women and girls that contributed to the Inquiry. This included allocating $50 million in funding to:

  • provide health and support services to survivors and their families;
  • support a national investigative body at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police;
  • support a review of police policies and practices; and,
  • commemorate the lives and legacies of Indigenous women and girls.

On June 3, 2019, the National Inquiry released its Final Report, Reclaiming Power and Place, during a special closing ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec. The Inquiry’s Final Report is far-reaching and complex and deals with several underlying systemic issues, which will require thorough review and analysis. The Inquiry’s recommendations are directed towards multiple levels of government and various stakeholders. The recommendations outlined within the Final Report will help identify next steps in preventing the systemic violence that has resulted in this national tragedy.

Following the release of the final report, our Government reiterated its commitment to ending the ongoing national tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and to help prevent and eliminate violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and Two-Spirit People in future generations.

Our Government is currently working with Indigenous partners and provincial and territorial governments to develop a National Action Plan to respond to the Final Report’s Calls for Justice. By mobilizing Canada as a whole, we will foster the progressive change necessary to empower Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and Two-Spirit people, putting an end to the systemic violence that has victimized them for so long.

Response by the Minister of Labour

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Anthony Housefather

Our government is unequivocal that harassment and violence of any kind is completely unacceptable and recognizes that violence against women is a critical problem in our country. That is why our government tabled legislation to modernize the Canada Labour Code, including a new Leave for Victims of Family Violence. This new leave, which came into force on September 1, 2019, offers important support to employees who are themselves victims of family violence, or who are the parents of a minor child who is a victim of such violence.  The new leave of up to ten days per calendar year, with the first five days of leave paid, will allow those who take it to engage in activities such as seeking medical attention for themselves or their child in respect of a physical or psychological injury or disability; obtaining services from an organization which provides services to victims of family violence; obtaining psychological or other professional counselling; relocating temporarily or permanently; seeking legal or law enforcement assistance or preparing for or participating in any civil or criminal legal proceeding; or taking any measures prescribed by regulation. This new leave, as well as a new Personal Leave of up to five days per calendar year, with the first three days of leave paid, are among a range of measures that came into force on September 1, 2019 to provide federally regulated employees with more flexibility to balance the demands of paid work and their personal and family responsibilities. To this end, employees may take the new Personal Leave to, among other things, treat their illness or injury, carry out responsibilities related to the health or care of any of their family members, and address any urgent matter concerning themselves or their family members.

 

Furthermore, our government is committed to addressing workplace violence and harassment. On October 25, 2018, Bill C-65, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, received Royal Assent. This historic piece of legislation demonstrates to Canadians that their government will not tolerate harassment and violence in federally regulated workplaces by creating a more robust and integrated regime to better protect employees.  Under this regime, employers are required to take steps to prevent, protect against, and respond to occurrences of harassment and violence in the workplace, which includes a spectrum of behaviours, ranging from teasing/bullying to sexual harassment and physical violence. Regulations are currently being developed to support the implementation of the Bill. These regulations are targeted to come into force in 2020.

On the issue of pay equity, our government supports equal pay for work of equal value and the fair treatment of all workers in the workplace, regardless of gender. Pay equity isn’t just to right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do. When Canadian women can count on equal pay for work of equal value, our economy grows stronger. To achieve this our government is committed to move beyond the current complaints-based approach to pay equity. On October 29, 2018, new proactive pay equity legislation was tabled in Parliament, as part of Bill C-86 – Budget Implementation Act, 2018 No. 2. It received Royal Assent on December 13, 2018 and is expected to come into force in 2020. The new legislation will bring about a dramatic shift in how the right to pay equity is protected in federally regulated workplaces. It will direct employers to take proactive steps to ensure that they are providing equal pay for work of equal value because we know that a strong middle class depends on a job market where both women and men have a real and fair chance at success. Proactive pay equity is particularly likely to benefit women who are also part of other vulnerable groups.

Proactive pay equity legislation is an important tool among a broad array of policy tools aimed at reducing the gender wage gap. Our government is also maintaining its commitment to addressing wage gaps through the introduction of pay transparency measures. Budget 2019 introduced changes to the way salary information can be collected and reported through a technical amendment to the Employment Equity Act; and, proposed amendments to the Employment Equity Regulations were published in Canada Gazette Part 1, in August 2019. Recognized internationally as a key step towards reducing wage gaps, pay transparency will provide Canadians with accessible, comparable online information on the wage gaps of these employers, raising awareness of wage gaps that affect women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities. This transparency will prompt employers to take action to examine their practices and show leadership in reducing wage gaps.

 

Presented to the House of Commons
Paul Manly (Nanaimo—Ladysmith)
December 6, 2019 (Petition No. 431-00006)
Government response tabled
January 27, 2020
Photo - Paul Manly
Nanaimo—Ladysmith
Green Party Caucus
British Columbia

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