National Initiative on Violence against Women

Gender-based violence is a persistent and pervasive issue in Canada, affecting approximately half of all women over the course of their lives. The mental, physical, social, and financial impacts of violence are devastating and cannot be ignored.

Recognizing the importance of this issue, CFUW has a long history of promoting women and girls safety, and advocating for stronger national and provincial action to end violence against women, including intimate partner violence, sexual assault, non-state actor torture, human trafficking and prostitution.

Most recently, CFUW National has been advocating for a comprehensive national action plan/strategy to end violence against women and girls, and has been a strong supporter of Aboriginal women as they call for action on missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

With this national initiative, CFUW advocates providing increased support to women and children who experience all forms of violence, ensuring that their voices are heard, and letting them know that they have friends and supporters across Canada. Our collective efforts help raise public awareness about gender-based violence, improve support and prevention, and put pressure on all levels of government to take stronger action.

In 1992, CFUW conducted a survey of 45 universities in Canada to evaluate the status of female faculty and students at those institutions. 25 years later, CFUW will be conducting this survey again in order to compare the results, with a focus on safety, prevention and services for violence against women. You can access the 1992 report here.

Non-State Actor Torture

CFUW has actively pursued the addition of Non-State Actor Torture to the Canadian Criminal Code since 2011. Torture by non-state actors is not criminalized as a specific offence in Canada, however the 1993 report of the Canadian Panel on Violence against Women established that women are being tortured in the private sphere by non-state actors.

Protection from torture is a non-degradable human right. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, among other conventions and agreements have all reinforced that no one shall be subjected to torture, irrespective of who the torturer was/is. Despite being a signatory to these conventions and agreements, Canada long lagged behind when it comes to non-state torture.

In 2016 we have finally seen movement on this issue. On February 26, Liberal MP Peter Fragiskatos (London North-Centre) introduced Bill C-242, Private Member’s Bill to amend the Criminal Code of Canada (inflicting torture). This bill would amend the Code which deals with State Torture, to include Non-State Actor Torture as a criminal offence. CFUW has worked with Mr. Fragiskatos to encourage other MPs to support this bill. Two of our members and champions of Non-State Actor Torture legislation, Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald, were interviewed by CBC Radio on the topic. They also attended a press conference with CFUW President Doris Mae Oulton and MP Fragiskatos. CFUW looks forward to continuing to support this action on Non-State Torture, to meet our United Nations commitments and protect vulnerable citizens of Canada.

National Action Plan on Violence against Women

The federal government has promised to fund a National Action Plan on Violence against Women, after years of inaction on the issue. CFUW joined a group of organizations supporting the drafting a Blueprint for the National Action Plan, led by the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses. The Blueprint can be found here.

Missing & Murdered Aboriginal Women

Aboriginal women and girls experience four times the amount of violence that non-Aboriginal women experience. The Native Women’s Association of Canada states that there are over 600 cases of missing and murdered women, and that 55 percent of those women and girls have been murdered or gone missing since 2000. In 43 percent of the cases of murdered women, no one has been charged, and the cases have not otherwise been cleared. In 2008 the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) called on Canada to report within one year on its progress in implementing their recommendation to "examine the reasons for the failure to investigate the cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women and to take the necessary steps to remedy the deficiencies in the system."

CFUW urges the following actions from the Government of Canada regarding the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women:

  • Initiate a full public inquiry into the root causes of racialized and sexualized violence against aboriginal women and girls;
  • Set out clear timelines for stated objectives to ensure timely responses for Aboriginal women;
  • Allocate funding to the Native Women’s Association to continue the “Sisters in Spirit Initiative”; and
  • Develop a coordinated federal response to violence against Aboriginal women, led by Aboriginal communities and organizations, with sustained and sufficient multi-year funding.
  • Examine the deeper, systemic issues underlying why indigenous women are at such great risk of violence, including explicit exploration of racism, sexism and colonialism
  • Research and highlight the specific effects of colonialism and how they are contributing to this systemic discrimination
  • Empower women and their families to take the lead: ensure that all stories are heard by providing transportation and access to the hearings
  • Approach the inquiry with the aim of empowering indigenous women and families, and establishing concrete steps that can be taken to heal the wounds of colonialism, support Canada’s indigenous peoples to live in safe and healthy communities

Want to get involved in ending violence against women?

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