2016—2017 · Vol. 44 No. 3



Changing the landscape of domestic and sexual violence

From November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, until December 10, we acknowledge and remember victims of violence. This is also the time to take concrete action to end violence against women and girls around the world.

The senseless and horrifying murder of 14 women taken from us far too early, in Montreal on December 6, 1989, has fostered an awareness and desire to end gender-based violence in Canada and around the world. The United Nations states that one of the major challenges in eliminating violence against women and girls is a substantial funding shortfall. We see that funding shortfall in the lack of resources and protections aimed at ending violence against indigenous women and girls, or to ease the stress of lost income for families facing domestic and sexual violence. For a difference to be made, there must be appropriate, sustainable funding along with legislation to bring tangible and meaningful changes in the lives of women and girls.

Currently, in Ontario, a new bill has been proposed to try to address the income shortcomings that affect women and children in domestic and sexual violence situations. The new Bill 26, formerly Bill 177, will create some protections in the workforce to reduce some of the financial strain that women and families endure when they are faced with domestic violence. The new bill will provide a leave of a “reasonable duration” to employees who have experienced, or who have children that have experienced, domestic or sexual violence.

The paid leave, which is proposed to be up to 10 days, can be used to obtain legal services, medical attention, or to relocate, either temporarily or permanently. The bill further provides a requirement for employers to accommodate employees’ circumstances if they or their children have experienced domestic or sexual violence. Lastly, the bill will require employers to provide information and instruction to every supervisor/manager and worker regarding domestic and sexual violence. The measures proposed by this bill will not only affect the Employment Standards Act but will also be enacted under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

One of the main reasons that women do not leave domestic violence situations is the fear of financial hardship. This legislation, if enacted, would be a step in the right direction for women and children affected by this type of violence.

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