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.

Canada’s unions launch nation’s first-ever virtual lobby week

OTTAWA – Hundreds of workers from communities across Canada are meeting virtually with their MPs this week, part of the country’s first-ever national Action Week, organized by Canada’s unions.

Participants will be calling on elected representatives to push for federal investments towards job creation, health care and child care, among other necessary programs. Over 200 meetings are scheduled.

“The pandemic continues to disrupt our lives in a myriad of ways. Our governments have an integral role in making sure that workers and their families get through this ongoing crisis,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff. “Workers know they have to advocate for solutions that centre their experiences and which address the systemic gaps this pandemic has revealed. Right now, the only way to do that is virtually and workers are stepping up in a significant way to do what it takes to be heard,” said Yussuff.

Canada’s unions are calling on the federal government to disaster-proof the economy.  This includes committing to shovel-ready projects that create stable, well-paying jobs, as well as investing in job training for workers, particularly those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including racialized workers, women, and people with disabilities. Unions are urging the government to start by implementing its promised $15 minimum wage in federally regulated workplaces.

The pandemic has also demonstrated the need for a more resilient and comprehensive public health care system. Canada’s unions have long called for the implementation of single-payer, universal pharmacare, particularly urgent now considering that millions of people in Canada have lost access to drug benefits and are struggling to pay for their prescription medications.

“There is no going back to business as usual,” said Yussuff. “On the contrary, we’ve managed to weather this pandemic better than some countries by working together and taking care of one another. MPs will be hearing directly from their own constituents this week on how they can continue to support working people and their families going forward.”

To arrange an interview, please contact:
CLC Media Relations
media@clcctc.ca
613-526-7426

Canada’s unions join Global Day of Action on Care

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerability of Canada’s care system. On October 29, Canada’s unions are joining together the International Trade Union Confederation and global unions for a Global Day of Action on Care.

Workers around the world want investment in public health and care services including mental health, child care, early childhood education, elderly care and other social care services that serve all our communities. In Canada, unions are also calling for a federal Care Economy Commission.

Decades of austerity-driven fiscal policies and a market-based approach to the delivery of care have created inequities and gaps.

“We have been sounding the alarm about the crisis in care services for years,” said CLC Secretary-Treasurer Marie Clarke Walker. “The added pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these problems. Our economy is relying more than ever on unpaid labour, and on precarious, low-wage work done by women, a disproportionate number of whom are racialized.”

Canada needs care-focused solutions for the recovery. These solutions must meet the needs of our most vulnerable, create better jobs and disaster-proof our economy and our social safety net against future crises.

The proposed federal Care Economy Commission would study, design and implement a care strategy for Canada that would:

  • Create a broad and inclusive labour market strategy to achieve high-quality, equitable care jobs;
  • Examine paid and unpaid care work and develop a roadmap to meet the increasing demands for care; and
  • Reduce and redistribute women’s unpaid care work by improving access to public care services for children, the elderly and people living with disabilities.

“This pandemic has shone a light on what’s been broken for too long,” said Walker. “We need to rethink our approach to care. Strong public care systems – whether health care, child care, long term care or care services for persons with disabilities – are central to the well-being of individuals, families and communities.”

Canada’s unions are calling for a Canadian plan that’s rooted in our way of doing things – and that means taking care of one another. Public investments in services – not austerity – are a key part of a robust response and recovery that ensures our collective well-being.

Canada’s unions push for implementation of National Action Plan on Violence Against Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People

Every October 4, Sisters in Spirit events honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit persons (MMIWG2S) and their families. Canada’s unions join communities across the country to mourn and to call for action.

“This ongoing crisis, and the long history of colonialist attitudes that devalues the being and culture of Indigenous peoples, is our biggest shame,” said Marie Clarke Walker, Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress. “Canada’s unions are calling on our federal government to develop and implement a national action plan on violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people,”

The rate of sexual assault of Indigenous women in this country today is more than three times that of non-Indigenous women. The homicide rate of Indigenous women in Canada is six times higher and those crimes are solved at a lower rate.

In June 2019, after years of advocacy from the families of the missing and murdered and their allies, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report. The report was based on three years of testimony from 2,000 individuals and their families. Among the report’s 231 Calls for Justice is the call for a national action plan to end this violence.

Despite commitments from the federal government to develop a national action plan by June 2020, no plan or updated timelines have been released.

“It’s been over a year since the National Inquiry’s final report was published, and still there is little progress from the federal government,” said Clarke Walker. “During this pandemic, we’ve witnessed a spike in domestic violence, homicide and cyberbullying. Action on gender-based violence has never been more urgent.”

The action plan must be developed with input from provinces, territories, Indigenous leaders, families and women’s groups, two-spirit persons and all other advocates, to ensure it is transparent and trauma-informed.

To mark Sisters in Spirit this year you can:

  • Attend a virtual vigil: The Native Women’s Association of Canada is livestreaming a vigil on Sunday, October 4 from 2-3:30 pm EDT.
  • Find a social-distanced vigil in your community: The Native Women’s Association of Canada will post local events. Families of Sisters in Spirit is organizing a vigil in Ottawa on Sunday, October 4 at noon EDT. This vigil may be moved online.
  • Write a letter to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett, to demand a national action plan using Amnesty International Canada’s letter-writing tool
  • Learn more about CLC’s lobbying priorities on Indigenous rights here.