Canada’s unions call for a National Action plan on Gender-Based Violence

Canada’s unions are marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women by calling on the federal government to establish a National Action Plan on Violence against Women and Gender-based Violence.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – observed every year on November 25 – also marks the start of 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence.

“Gender-based violence was a crisis in Canada even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic, domestic violence has increased and measures to slow the spread of the virus have made it increasingly difficult for anyone living in an abusive relationship to escape their abusers,” said CLC Secretary-Treasurer Marie Clarke Walker. “Over a third of women workers have experienced domestic violence – and those numbers are even higher for trans people,”

A woman is killed by her intimate partner every 6 days in this country. Thousands of Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people have been murdered or gone missing. And more than half of women have been exposed to sexual harassment at work.

Shelters and support organizations in many areas have reported alarming increases in demand for services. With many people, working from home and many others laid off, the stress of economic insecurity, social isolation, fear of infection and other pressures raises the risk of escalating violence ꟷ and creates new barriers to support.

Calling a shelter or sexual assault centre can feel impossible when under a partner’s watch. Police interventions and “wellness checks” have proven deadly for Black and Indigenous people in particular.

COVID-19 has also led to a rise in violence and harassment at work, especially for workers on the front lines in health care, food services and retail, and other public-facing jobs. These are sectors where the majority of workers are women, many of whom are BIPOC, immigrant and migrant women and young women.

“We applaud governments’ efforts to support shelters through the increased demand this year, but this pandemic clearly shows the importance of services and supports for women, children and others experiencing violence,” said Walker. “Now more than ever, Canada needs a National Action Plan to tackle this crisis.

The National Action Plan must establish clear targets for eliminating gender-based violence. It must be intersectional and long-term and it must tackle gender-based violence and harassment at work. This means that Canada needs to ratify ILO Convention-190 on violence and harassment, and establish concrete ways to meet ILO obligations. Canada’s unions are ready to work with governments and employers to make this happen.

“Five years ago, Canada’s unions joined feminist and women’s organizations to lay out the blueprint for a National Action Plan. The time to act is now. We are done waiting,” said Walker. ‘

Visit the Done Waiting website for more information.