Time for Society to End Violence Against WomenPublished on 6 December 2016 Publications by Senator Lillian Eva Dyck (retired)
In our times, the achievements in civil rights for women have been significant. Some major hurdles have been passed too: Canada has had a woman prime minister. Women have distinguished themselves from the Supreme Court and the Senate to executive positions in the corporate world.
But despite these great gains, women remain the targets of sexist-fueled violence.
On December 6, 1989, a deeply troubled young man with a violent attitude towards women unleashed his disturbed sentiments by killing 14 female engineering students at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal.
That’s why on this day every year, we observe the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
In the aftermath of the massacre, we learned that the killer, Marc Lépine, grew up in an environment where abuse against women was common.
Too many women are still subjected to this kind of abuse within the privacy of their homes and in the company of their families.
While violent crime overall is on the decline in Canada, every year more than 170,000 women are victims of violent crime — 83% of the time men were responsible, and 45% of the time the attacker is the woman’s intimate partner.
Tragically violence against Aboriginal women is not in decline. Aboriginal women and girls are 3-4 times more likely to be murdered or sexually assaulted than other women. This national crisis has prompted the government to create its National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Recently Stats Canada confirmed what many of us knew intuitively — that simply being Aboriginal is a risk factor for violence for females but not for males. In order to reduce this risk, I am sponsoring Bill S-215 in the Senate which would toughen penalties for violent offences against Aboriginal women.
Strengthening laws alone isn’t the answer to violent attacks against women, but combined with a national campaign of education and awareness, it can help enhance the safety that all women deserve.
We must also acknowledge and address the profound influence an individual’s social environment has in forming negative stereotypes about women. Part of the sad legacy of colonialism is the perception that Aboriginal women are easy sexual targets who no one cares about.
We’ve seen with the recent elections south of the border how quickly sexist and racist rhetoric can be deemed acceptable and normal.
Canada is not immune to such reactionary waves. The gains that women have made against misogyny and racism can too easily be lost.
As a senator, I will continue to champion initiatives that help women, particularly those most vulnerable – such as Aboriginal women – reach their full potential in peace, freedom and security.
Lillian Eva Dyck is a senator and member of the Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan. She is chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.