The Harper Conservatives have gone beyond the pale, announcing they would establish a “tip line” to goad people to report their neighbours if they suspect them of “barbaric cultural practices.” Their aim is to divide the polity and justify what cannot be justified. PEGGY ASKIN
Jason Kenney Minister of Defence and Minister for Multiculturalism was one of the main figures pushing the Conservatives’ Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act adopted June 16, 2015. In speaking about it in Parliament, Kenney first said that there is a problem that people refuse to leave behind their “barbaric cultural practices” when they come to Canada. He then used this allegation to say that immigrants have a “duty to integrate” into Canadian society. What he was suggesting is there is no problem of violence against women in Canada, only that brought by immigrants. Instead of taking measures to end violence against women and increase the safety of women at risk, passions are inflamed and communities singled out for scrutiny. None of this actually deals with the issue of violence against women.
Status of Women Canada, a government agency, has also played a role in pushing this agenda. Women’s organizations funded by Status of Women who worked with immigrants were expected to shift from programs which actually help women join the work force, learn English and flourish in their new home to repeating Kenney’s accusations of barbarism in their own communities, or lose their funding. Funding was also made contingent on not engaging in advocacy or identifying the needs of local communities.
By identifying a false problem, attention is diverted from real problems and the fact that the Harper government’s agenda for women has actually made women and Canada less safe. It also diverts attention to the fact that conditions persist wherein women are still “fair game” in Canada and cannot go about their lives, or even live in their own homes “free” of violence or the fear of violence. Canadian women and men will never tolerate such a brutal, feudal and anti-woman outlook which has not been targeted by the Harperites as a “barbaric cultural practice.”
Between 1980 and 2012, more than 1,000 Indigenous women were murdered or went missing. As of April 2015, 174 Indigenous women remain missing in Canada. A 2015 United Nations report found that young Indigenous women are five times more likely to die under violent circumstances compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts. The report also noted that Indigenous women report rates of violence 3.5 times higher than non-Indigenous women. The UN report echoed the calls for a national inquiry into the violence against Indigenous women, a demand dismissed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who said it was not on his radar.
In a 2009 Canadian national survey, women reported 460,000 incidents of sexual assault in just one year. Researchers estimate that only about one in ten instances of sexual assault in Canada are reported to police. These result in only about 1,500 sexual assault convictions annually in Canada.
Around one in four violent crimes that come to the attention of the police involve violence known as “intimate partner violence.” On average, a woman is killed by her “intimate partner.” every six days.
Under Harper’s rule, women’s lives have become more precarious. Funding has been withdrawn from women’s organizations and women’s shelters. More women are turned away from shelters than can be accommodated. Where women do find space, the shelters and transitional housing can only provide a short stay and safe and affordable housing is very difficult to find. More women have been forced out of the labour force because of job losses. They are also forced out of work to take care of family members due to lack of affordable child care, public health services and seniors’ care.
All of these factors make women more vulnerable and more likely to remain in an unsafe environment.
To use violence against women to sow hatred and division in Canada is the most anti-woman action possible. Now, in the last week of the election campaign, it is time to go all-out to make sure that those who sow division in order to attack the rights of all cannot prevail. Let’s go all out in the last week to make sure that the Harper government is defeated!
On October 19, support all of Canada’s women by recognizing the need to work even harder for the people’s empowerment which will bring into being the conditions where women can no longer be treated as “fair game.”
In solved murders, sixty three percent of all murdered women were killed by a family member, twenty-eight percent by an acquaintance and eight per cent by a stranger. When it comes to Indigenous women, the RCMP reports that within RCMP jurisdictions, offenders were known to their victims in 100 per cent of solved homicide cases since 2013. But almost one in five murders remains unsolved. In other words, the RCMP has not solved a single murder in which the offender was not known to the victim. This corroborates what the families of missing and murdered women have long said about police indifference and failure to act on reports that women and girls have gone missing. What else can be concluded but that Indigenous women are being murdered with impunity!
(Photos: Renewal Update, B. Horne, Sanctuary Hamilton)
Source: Renewal Update