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e-2881 (Social affairs and equality)

E-petition
Initiated by Karen Kilbride from Surrey, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons in Parliament assembled

Whereas:
  • Relationship violence is any form of physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial abuse, negative social control, neglect or coercion, that is suffered by anyone who has a bond or relationship with the offender;
  • Violence in relationships impacts Canadians at all levels of society, regardless of socio-economic status, education level, religious affiliation, ethnicity, gender or age;
  • Relationship violence is an issue in homes, schools, post-secondary institutions, workplaces and in society;
  • Children who are raised in homes where domestic violence is witnessed, will suffer health and emotional trauma throughout their lives;
  • Intergenerational learned behaviour normalizes violent behaviour in relationships;
  • Victims of violence, and families bearing the stress of violence, can be found in all communities;
  • We suffer violence in relationships from conception to the grave;
  • The cost to Canadian society due to lost economic productivity and wages, social services costs, court costs, illness, physical injury, mental illness and death is estimated to be in the billions of dollars;
  • 12% of all violent crimes are related to relationship violence and 25% of calls to local police are related to relationship violence in couples; and
  • We cannot accept, we will not accept, that violence is a normal part of human relationships.
We, the undersigned, citizens (or residents) of Canada, call upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to develop a national prevention plan that includes a media campaign on healthy relationships and the consequences of relationship violence and to proactively address educational goals and societal change to establish a society with healthier and happier relationships.

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

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Gudie Hutchings

INTRODUCTION

The Government of Canada would like to thank the petitioners for expressing their concerns on gender-based violence (GBV), and especially on one of its forms, family violence, which includes intimate-partner violence. GBV is one of the most pervasive, deadly and deeply rooted human rights violations of our time and the Government of Canada continues to be committed to preventing and addressing this serious problem in our country. It is a major barrier to the expression of individual freedom and to our societal and collective development.

While violence can affect people of all genders, ages, religions, cultures, ethnicities, geographic locations, and socio-economic backgrounds, some populations are more at risk of experiencing violence because of historical and ongoing oppression, such as sexism, homophobia, transphobia, colonialism, ageism, classism, racism and ableism. These populations include Indigenous women; Black and racialized women; non-binary, gender diverse and LGBTQ and Two-Spirit people; those living in northern, rural, and remote communities; those with disabilities; non-status and temporary status migrants, immigrants and refugees; children and youth; and seniors.

The negative effects of GBV reach far beyond the individuals who have this violence committed against them. Violence can have long-lasting and negative health, social and economic effects that span generations, often leading to cycles of violence and abuse within families, and sometimes whole communities.

The Government of Canada is committed to continuing to invest in efforts to prevent GBV, notably through It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence (the Strategy), which includes several initiatives aimed at addressing the factors contributing to GBV, and through the development of a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.

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

Launched in 2017, 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 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: the Department of Women and Gender Equality (WAGE); the Public Health Agency of Canada; Public Safety Canada; the Department of National Defence; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The Strategy’s first pillar focuses on prevention by addressing the root causes of GBV and understanding its risk factors as it is the most effective way to end GBV and its devastating effects. Having conversations about gender equality, healthy relationships, and appropriate boundaries will help lay the foundation for preventing GBV, particularly among at-risk populations. Raising awareness about the causes and consequences of GBV, as well as what constitutes toxic behaviours and attitudes, will also help put an end to the perpetuation of beliefs that contribute to violence.

Living with family violence has devastating effects on children. The Strategy’s first pillar includes an initiative, led by the Public Health Agency of Canada, aiming to prevent child maltreatment through parenting support programs. Adolescence is a key time to provide youth with the knowledge and skills to develop relationships free of violence. An additional initiative, also led by the Public Health Agency of Canada, supports the development, delivery and testing of innovative programs to promote healthy relationships and prevent dating violence in both school and community settings.

Every year, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence begins on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, and ends on International Human Rights Day on December 10. In Canada, the 16 Days of Activism include the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women on December 6. The 16 Days are an opportunity for the Government of Canada to develop an awareness campaign to reflect on GBV, to invite Canadians to come together to address injustices, and to take immediate action to create safe homes, communities and workplaces for everyone.

The federal leadership demonstrated through the federal GBV Strategy has been welcomed by partners and stakeholders and has proven to be a strong first step to align federal partners, build collaborative structures, continue engaging with everyone in Canada, and demonstrate progress. Nevertheless, the Government of Canada has also heard the repeated calls for a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence and understands the urgency that COVID-19 has brought to these long-standing needs.

NATIONAL ACTION PLAN TO END GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE

In December 2019, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality Canada was mandated to build on the foundation laid by the federal GBV Strategy and move forward to develop a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence. Through an evidence-based and trauma-informed approach, the National Action Plan will aim to address the root causes and systemic violence that perpetuate GBV, to ensure that victims, survivors and their families are protected from violence no matter where they live in Canada.

The Government of Canada is currently collaborating with stakeholders as well as its provincial and territorial counterparts and National Indigenous leaders and representatives on development and next steps. Since mid-March 2020, WAGE has heard from over 1,500 individuals representing organizations across the country on possible priorities for the National Action Plan.

Like the GBV Strategy, one of the pillars of the National Action Plan would focus on prevention approaches meant to stop violence before it occurs by addressing its root causes. Recognizing that prevention cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach, it is important that this work is gender-informed and inclusive, intersectional, violence- and trauma-informed and culturally safe and appropriate to best meet the needs of diverse populations.

It is also important that this work involve collaborative actions from federal, provincial and territorial governments, each working within their respective jurisdictional authorities, and in close partnership with victims and survivors, civil society, the private sector and researchers.

On January 22, 2021, the Government of Canada, along with the Governments of the provinces and territories, endorsed the Joint Declaration for a Canada free of Gender-Based Violence. More than ever, there is a strong need and commitment from all levels of government to prevent and address GBV in our country. The Declaration can be seen in full at: https://cfc-swc.gc.ca/violence/knowledge-connaissance/gbv-declaration-vfs-en.html.

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent guidelines to stay at home, evidence from widespread reports suggests that there has been an increase in the frequency and severity of some forms of GBV, including domestic violence and online child sexual exploitation. The pandemic has highlighted the lack of necessary resources to meet the needs of those experiencing GBV and the need for further prevention and awareness efforts to stop violence from happening in the first place.

The Government of Canada has provided a total of $100 million in emergency funding to women’s shelters, sexual assault centres and other organizations providing critical gender-based violence supports and services.

As mentioned, the pandemic has exacerbated existing shortfalls in multiple systems and sectors, increasing the need and urgency for the development of a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.

CONCLUSION

Canada remains committed to addressing the root causes of violence by working to challenge the cultural and societal perceptions of gender norms, gender inequalities and economic, political and social power imbalances which contribute to GBV. While critical work has been done and is underway to prevent and address GBV, the continued implementation of the federal GBV Strategy and the development of the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence will provide the Government of Canada with opportunities to do more to prevent, increase awareness of, and address GBV.

 

Response by the Minister of Health

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Jennifer O'Connell

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recognizes that gender-based violence, including family violence, is a serious public health issue that can have lasting impacts on both the physical and mental health of Canadians. 

Our Government has invested more than $200 million since 2017 to establish It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence. Based on three pillars—prevention; support for survivors and their families; and promotion of responsive legal and justice systems—the Strategy builds on and coordinates existing programs to establish a whole-of-government approach to addressing this issue.

As part of the Strategy, PHAC is investing more than $40 million over five years and more than $8 million per year ongoing to prevent gender-based violence and its impact, from a health perspective. This includes investing in initiatives that help prevent child maltreatment and teen/youth dating violence as well as equipping health professionals and allied adults to recognize and respond safely to gender-based violence.

Furthermore, PHAC invests over $6 million per year to support the health of survivors of family violence, through guidance and training for professionals, and through the delivery and testing of health promotion interventions for survivors. These projects are measuring their impact on health outcomes such as anxiety, depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The government also recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has created increased risks for the health and safety of many vulnerable Canadians, as children and families face increased stress, and may have difficulty leaving abusive relationships or accessing support or prevention programs.

The government’s commitment to prevent and address family violence continues. Recently, PHAC launched a new call for proposals for projects that build the knowledge base of effective practices by delivering and testing diverse approaches to prevent and address family violence. This funding will support new strategies and adaptations to meet the growing and changing needs of families and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery period.

As a member of the federal Family Violence Initiative, which brings together 12 departments and agencies in a multi-sectoral approach to addressing family violence, PHAC hosts and coordinates Stop Family Violence, a web-based source of current information on family violence for health professionals and the public. Stop Family Violence also provides links to supports and services available in each province and territory.

Open for signature
October 22, 2020, at 4:47 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
January 20, 2021, at 4:47 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Lindsay Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe)
February 26, 2021 (Petition No. 432-00602)
Government response tabled
April 12, 2021
Photo - Lindsay Mathyssen
London—Fanshawe
New Democratic Party Caucus
Ontario
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