EI’s affiliate, the Canadian Federation of Teachers (CTF), held its 2013 Women’s Issues Symposium from 17-18 April in Ottawa. This year's theme focused on violence against women and girls. In Canada, violence against women and girls is all too prevalent. It targets all groups of women, across age, ethnic, class and races, as well as across sexualities and physical or mental abilities. Violence is especially rampant against Aboriginal women and girls.
With the motto, ‘Ending violence against women and girls, for one and for all’, teachers, school leaders and community representatives examined the issue from various perspectives and voices, including statistical, societal and policy-based.
Guest speakers at the symposium included Michèle Audette, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada; Shari Graydon, award-winning author, journalist and communications consultant; Kim Pate, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies; and Kathleen Monk, Senior Advisor at the Broadbent Institute.
No more stolen sisters “First nation, Inuit and Métis women and girls have the right to be safe and free from violence. There should be a concerted effort to prevent violence against women and girls,” said Michèle Audette, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).
Canadian government statistics indicate that Indigenous women and girls in Canada are five to seven times more likely than other women to die as the result of violence. According to the most recent study by Statistics Canada, in more than 60 per cent of homicides in Canada, police never identify whether or not the victim was Aboriginal.
Because of gaps in police and government reporting, the actual numbers may be much higher. The NWAC has documented more than 580 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Most of those have occurred within the last three decades.
The Government of Canada has acknowledged the discrimination and violence faced by Indigenous women and girls in Canada but to date have taken insufficient action to stop the violence committed against them. United Nations’ officials have repeatedly called on Canada to take comprehensive action to put an end to this violence.
Ignorance killing women Audette stressed the importance of concerted efforts on prevention of violence against women and girls. “We need a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls,” Audette said.
“Teachers’ organisations can lobby to move forwards, sign the petition, and join the public awareness raising activity on prevention on 4 October 2013. Each school should teach the beauty of the First Nations and Inuit who are today and where we want to go tomorrow – some teacher unions have partnerships with aboriginal organisation and are developing curricula, teaching materials on aboriginal culture. Ignorance is also killing us!”
The scale and severity of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls requires a concerted national response that must be comprehensive, coordinated, and developed in collaboration with Indigenous women themselves. A lot more Canadian people want to jump in our canoe, she added.
From local to global level Participants at the symposium learned about the different realities and actions taken, shared actions and debated on joint strategies to stop violence against women and make the Canadian government accountable for human rights issues, including women’s inequality and Aboriginal issues, among others rights at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women’s (UNCSW) priority theme this year was “The Elimination and Prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”. Participants also analysed what has been Canada’s response, challenges, successes and the role of the trade union delegation at the UNCSW 57th Session.
CTF was part of the trade union delegation formed by EI-ITUC-PSI-UNI Global Union. The delegation prepared statements, strategies and priorities, including explicit reference to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Human Rights Watch report, “Those Who Take Us Away: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada”, will be highlighted at this review.
They also shared information and plans about the EI Second World Women’s Conference (WWC2), On the Move for Equality: from words to action, from 7-9 April 2014 in Dublin, Ireland.
Watch Day two of the Symposium live here