November is Woman Abuse Prevention Month in Ontario; an important opportunity to shine light on the gender-based violence committed against women and to look at what we can all do to address gender inequality so that women can live safely.
Gender-based violence against women and girls in Canada has been called a shadow pandemic; one that has been taking place long before the COVID-19 pandemic began. OPSEU/SEFPO members work hard in shelters and community agencies to support women and children seeking refuge from violent homes. During the long lockdowns of the pandemic, women’s shelters experienced an increase in calls as instances of domestic abuse sadly worsened.
A recent report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability noted that on average, one woman or girl is killed every two and a half days in Canada, based on reported cases of femicide in 2020. That statistic doesn’t include all the cases of missing women that are yet to be solved.
The rate of gender-based violence significantly increases for Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ+ people. The National Inquiry’s final report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls acknowledged the staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGTQQIA people. The final report and 231 Calls to Justice amplified the voices of those who have been fighting for decades for their sisters, mothers, aunts and daughters.
In addition, glaring data that a new report from Canada’s human trafficking hotline shows the disturbing rise in sex, labour and human trafficking across this country. According to Stats Canada, 97 per cent of victims of human trafficking were women and girls, with over two thirds of reported human trafficking incidents between 2009 – 2019 taking place in Ontario.
During the pandemic, there has also been a reported increase of incidents of anti-Asian racism. Violence towards individuals and communities of Asian descent in Canada has significantly increased since the start of the pandemic. Of the total reported anti- Asian crimes, over 60% of those assaulted or attacked were Asian women. Structural and gender-based violence also intensified against marginalized populations such as Trans or two spirited people, women living with disabilities, senior women and Black, Indigenous and racialized women.
The violence that women in Ontario continue to experience is unacceptable and we all have a responsibility to put an end to it. To address violence against women, we must continue to fight for gender and racial equality. Affordable, accessible child care, affordable housing, eradicating systemic racism and removing the pay equity gap are all issues that must be addressed to adequately support women in Ontario.
OPSEU/SEFPO stands with all women, and we commit to pushing for progress to make Ontario a safer place for women to live, work, and thrive.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
Dianne Clarabut, Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Provincial Women’s Committee