Conservatives nuke motion seeking end to violence against women in Canada

Conservatives nuke motion seeking end to violence against women in Canada

by: Obert Madondo  | May 27, 2015

Shannon Alexander and Maisy Odjick are two of the more than 1200 missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada today. (Photo: OBERT MADONDO/The Canadian Progressive)
Shannon Alexander and Maisy Odjick are two of the more than 1200 missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada today. (Photo: OBERT MADONDO/The Canadian Progressive)

Who is from a “culture” that hates women? The Conservative Prime Minister of Canada. Ending violence against women in Canada is not a priority for his government.

Earlier this evening, Stephen Harper’s loyal rubber-stampers in the House of Commons voted down M-444, a motion seeking to end violence against women.

The motion, dubbed A National Action Plan to End Violence against Women, was sponsored by the NDP Critic for Aboriginal Affairs, Niki Ashton (Churchill).

“Today the Harper Government once again turned its back on Canadian women by voting against M-444,” said Ashton in a statement. “After decades of Conservative and Liberal neglect, women are facing crisis levels of violence in Canada.”

According to a report issued by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives last fall, Canada lacks the political will to achieve equality between men and women. The report, Progress on Women’s Rights: Missing in Action (PDF), argued that gender inequality in Canada had persisted or worsened in critical areas, including violence against women.

The report’s findings include:

  • The federal government does not have a stand-alone policy on intimate partner violence or sexual assault, nor does Canada have a national action plan to address violence against women.
  • Rates of sexual assault and intimate partner violence have remained persistently high in Canada, with 1.8 million Canadians reporting having experienced one of these forms of violence in the past five years. The issue of violence is particularly acute with respect to Aboriginal women and girls in Canada, with rates of violence that are at least three times higher than non-Aboriginal women and girls.

According to Statistics Canada, women aged 15 to 24 experience the highest rates of sexual violence in Canada. The Canadian Women’s Foundation estimates that half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.

Aboriginal women and girls suffer the brunt of the violence against women in Canada. A groundbreaking report issued by the RCMP last year revealed that 1,181 Aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered in the last 30 years. (PDF version). Various studies have revealed that, while Aboriginal women comprise only 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, they are three times more likely to experience violence than non-Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women also comprise 11.3 per cent of missing women and 16 per cent of female homicides.

In May last year, Professor James Anaya, the then UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, called the situation of missing and murdered indigenous women a “disturbing phenomenon.”

“This Motion is the first meaningful anti-violence against women legislation that has come to Canada in decades, and yet the Conservatives have voted against it, sending the clear message that ending violence in women’s lives is not a priority for them,” Ashton said, adding that similar bills have been enacted in Canada’s so-called allies, including Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Here’s the full text of M-444:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should develop, in collaboration with the provinces, territories, civil society and First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and their representatives, a coordinated National Action Plan to Address Violence Against Women which would include: (a) initiatives to address socio-economic factors contributing to violence against women; (b) policies to prevent violence against women and policies to respond to survivors of violence; (c) benchmarks for measuring progress based on the collection of data on levels of violence against women over time; (d) independent research on emerging issues that relate to violence against women; (e) a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls; (f) strategies that address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of different communities including specific attention to Aboriginal women, women with disabilities, women from minority groups and young women; (g) participation by community and other civil society organizations, including support for those organizations to participate in the implementation of the national action plan; and (h) human and financial resources earmarked specifically to carry out the program of action set by the plan.

In 2013, the Harper government was accused of scuttling global efforts to combat sexual violence against women during the 23rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC).

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow me on Twitter: @Obiemad