• Post published:February 25, 2021
  • Reading time:5 mins read
  • Post category:In Ottawa
Madam Speaker, I am raising an issue today in our adjournment proceedings that I originally raised on December 3 during Oral Questions.

Almost a year ago, the UN Women issued a statement calling violence against women and girls the shadow pandemic. This should come as no surprise and it should not have taken COVID to expose the ways our society perpetuates this violence. 

The data tells us that half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. Despite decades of research and community activism across the country, violence against those identifying as women, girls or two-spirit people persists as a manifestation of misogyny, objectification and discrimination.

Women from all walks of life are victims and survivors of various types of physical, sexual and psychological violence inflicted by intimate partners: people they trust and often share their homes and lives with.

In 1982, MP Margaret Mitchell prompted a ruckus in the House of Commons that sparked national awareness of domestic violence. She told the House that 1 in 10 Canadian husbands regularly beat his wife. The male MPs erupted, laughing and shouting. She furiously replied that this is no laughing matter.

It has been almost 40 years, and things have changed in the House. No MP would laugh at that statement today, but not enough has changed in the houses of the women of this country. The violence persists.

I know there is room for enhanced leadership from our federal and provincial governments. I think of the recent government-funded, victim-blaming ad campaign in Montreal that showed an image of a young girl with a bag over her head, as though it was her fault that sexually explicit images of her were being passed around by anonymous men and boys on the Internet. This is unacceptable and adds to the hesitancy to report such abuses for fear of backlash.

In my home province, a group of survivors of sexual assault have gone public this week saying that they have been manipulated by the provincial government, and their experiences and research are being used as a way for the government to create the illusion of wanting to help. We need government leadership and allyship that goes beyond illusion.
We know the statistics are worse for indigenous women; Black women; queer, non-binary and two-spirited women; newcomer women; women with disabilities; and women who are otherwise marginalized. Our approach must centre on an intersectional lens to address the unique and specific challenges of those facing the highest rates of gender-based violence. I will use this opportunity to remind the government of its responsibility to put forward the action plan to address the findings of the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
The challenges of COVID-19 cannot be an excuse for the delay. As I have outlined, the urgency has only increased, and we must respond. No more stolen sisters. No more brights lights snuffed out in the night. We need to act. We need a cultural shift. I believe it can start with leadership, and it starts with our generation here and now.
As the mother of young boys, I teach my children to respect all people, to find the right language to address their emotions and talk about the ways they may be struggling. I talk to them about tough subjects and the hard truths in this world, but I also teach them about the opportunity to change it. I empower them to do their part and trust their abilities. I am proud that my children are also young indigenous boys, Wolastoqew, who will be encouraged to end gender-based violence, and to lift up and protect the women in their community.
I look forward to hearing the member opposite discuss the role her government can play in combatting this shadow pandemic in Canada.
Madam Speaker, I am reminded of my experience in my first year of university during orientation. I was given a rape whistle. I was shown the dark paths not to go down and told stories of the women who had gone before me. Here is a thought: instead of arming women with rape whistles, and instead of removing responsibility from the perpetrators, how about we tell young women all the ways that we will support them and focus on their safety; that we will educate them and their classmates about consent; that, should any problems arise, they should contact authorities without hesitation; that we will believe them and that their offenders will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law?

We do not say these things, and in many ways we cannot yet, because of the ongoing failures of our system. How about we also direct-fund organizations, particularly those supporting women fleeing domestic violence and those providing mental health services, meeting women with open doors instead of a lack of options? How about a guaranteed livable income, so that women are not financially dependent on their abusers?

I know that our generation has the power to put an end to gender-based violence. We require ongoing leadership and dedicated funding from the government to do it.