Canada: Advocates call for national strategy to end violence against women Print E-mail
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Group seeks federal action plan on violence against women

Meagan Fitzpatrick , Canwest News Service
OTTAWA - Canada is not a safe country for women and to help make it one, the federal government should implement a national strategy to end violence against women, said a group of advocates who launched a public awareness campaign on Tuesday, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The Rose Campaign, led by YWCA Canada and supported by a number of national organizations, takes its name from the original rose button that was designed to honour the 14 women murdered at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989. The button has been redesigned and bookmarks and brochures urging action on violence against women are being distributed to schools, government agencies and other organizations across the country.

The campaign also involves an online component, urging Canadians on Dec. 6, the 19th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre and Canada's national day of remembrance and action on violence against women, to visit to e-mail a virtual rose to their MP asking for a co-ordinated national plan to end violence against women.

Australian actress Nicole Kidman is seen at press conference to announce the results of the "Say No to Violence against Women" campaign, an internet-based petition, on November 25, 2008 at United Nations headquarters in New York (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

"Canada is not yet a safe country for women. We urge the government not to wait until the 20th anniversary of Dec. 6 to take steps toward a co-ordinated national action plan. In fact, implementation now will save lives," said YWCA Canada CEO Paulette Senior, at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

It is estimated that more than half of all Canadian women will experience violence at some point in their lives, most before they turn 25 years old.

Noting the connection between poverty and violence against women, Senior and advocates from other supporting organizations who attended the news conference said the government strategy should include more emergency shelters, affordable long-term housing, pay equity, and affordable child care.

Conservative MP Helena Guergis, the new secretary of state for Status of Women, said her government has been working to reduce violence against women through its crime legislation and other initiatives that support aboriginal women. The Conservatives also pledged in the February 2008 budget to create an action plan to advance the equality of women, she said.

"The action plan hasn't been developed yet and now as the minister of state, that's my role," said Guergis.

Status of Women critics from each of the other federal parties who were at the news conference said the Conservatives need to take immediate action and should implement the recommendations made by YWCA Canada, including adopting a national child-care program, restoring the Court Challenges Program, and reversing changes made to the mandate of Status of Women.

"There's human lives that are at stake and we need to address that now - not yesterday, but now," said Liberal MP Maria Minna. Minna introduced a motion in the House of Commons Tuesday calling on the government to answer YWCA Canada's call for a national strategy.

Senior urged MPs to work across party lines to come up with a comprehensive plan to end violence against women and she added there needs to be a greater political will and public support to mount a successful strategy.

"There's also a need, I think, for the social awareness such as we have with breast cancer. That's why the Rose Campaign is critical because we want to have it be in the public sphere in terms of discussion," Senior said.