Women’s Initiatives For Safer Environments - Initiatives des Femmes pour la Sécurité Environnementale

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December 2019 - The work to end violence against women goes beyond the 16 Days of Activism

The work to end violence against women goes beyond the 16 Days of Activism

By: Nasreen Rajani, WISE Communications Chair

December 6th, 2019 marked 30 years since the horrendous attack against 14 women engineers at Montreal’s L’École Polytechnique. This date also marked the final day of the16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence and the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. On that Thursday evening, hundreds of us gathered first at Minto Park to commemorate all 14 of them along with other women and girls who have been murdered since. Downtown, both the University of Ottawa and the National Arts Centre projected and displayed the names of all 14 women who were killed on this day 30 years ago on the outsides of their buildings. During the outdoor candlelit vigil, one-by-one, volunteers read the names and short stories about the women and girls who have been murdered. Together, alongside the drumming from our Indigenous leaders, we marched with our candles from Minto park to the National Arts Centre. There we took a break from the cold weather, enjoyed some snacks donated by Three Sisters and listened to a panel of brilliant Indigenous women discuss the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and the need to push our Prime Minister to consider the over 200 calls to justice directed at all Canadians. Thank you to all of the volunteers involved.

Upon reflection of this evening, I couldn't help but wonder if much has changed in the last 30 years in terms of the violence experienced by women and girls in Canada. The most recent Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability report stated that at least 118 women and girls have been killed this year alone in Canada. You can read the full report here. This number only reflects the cases that police have ruled as (murdered) killed, but not cases that are deemed suspicious, are currently open or where the victim is still missing.

Although December 6th has now passed, WISE urges us all to continue the fight to prevent and end violence against women and girls in our communities. This needs to be an ongoing topic of conversation for not only us community members but our political leaders.

How can we continue to push our political leaders to take violence against women and the report on MMIWG more seriously and take bigger steps to protect our women and girls beyond the yearly statements of supports during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence?

WISE offers workshops aimed at personal safety, workplace safety, and engaging boys (ages 8-12) about gender norms and their relation to violence against women. Check out the list of programs we offer and contact us at info@wiseottawa.ca or give us a call at 613-230-6700.



November 2019 - ByWard Market Safety

ByWard Market Safety

By: Chloe Watt, WISE Chair

The ByWard Market has many attractions for all ages both during the day and at night. During the day, you’ll see the busy hustle and bustle of a vibrant market with many independent stores and restaurants, and tourists exploring our beautiful city. When the sun goes down, the nightlife comes alive and often, you’ll be able to see buskers performing during the summer or some interesting night life. The general sense of comfort however seems to fall as the night progresses largely due to the recent increase in violent crimes in the area. We should not live in fear or feel uncomfortable going out with our friends but we should always remain vigilant.

As someone who has worked in the ByWard Market for a long time, I have often been asked if anything has happened or if I feel safe walking back to my car late at night. I’ve been lucky so far and aside from a few scares, nothing serious has happened to me. Do I feel comfortable? No, not always, but there are a number of things that we can do to keep our community safer for all:

  • Report unsafe areas to WISE to conduct a community safety audit and/or let your city councillor know. Take photos or videos of the area.
  • Let someone know when you’re leaving and when you’ll be back: I always let someone know when I’m leaving and when I get back. We send so many text messages in a given day but this one could make a huge difference in determining that there is a problem if I don’t check in.
  • Walk with friends or a co-worker if possible: It’s always safer to travel in groups so when this is an option I always take it. Going into the garage we will walk to one car and then drive to the other person’s car.
  • Is it an emergency? Call 9-1-1-. If not, think twice before involving the police: Did you know that police are called in more instances where there are racialized or Indigenous people involved when no police are actually necessary? In some cases, police presence aggravates situations of distress and conflict. If you see a crime, you can report it online at www.ottawapolice.ca/onlinereporting, by calling the non-emergency number at 613-236-1222, ext. 7300.
  • Trust your feelings: if I feel like something is off I don’t just brush it off. I will either pick another route or reassess if I should find another way of getting home like calling a friend or a taxi service.

Many community initiatives are working towards keeping us safer in the Market but we all have a role to play starting with practicing community safety and not turning away when we see a problem.

Learn more about WISE can support you and your community safety needs. Email us at info@wiseottawa.ca or give us a call at 613-230-6700.



August 2019 - Immigrant women facing intimate partner violence: A view from the frontline

Immigrant Women Facing Intimate Partner Violence: A view from the frontline

By: Kewei Xiao, WISE Board Member

Intimate partner violence exists in every country and community. However, education programs and prevention strategies for violence against women (VAW) can vary. Some countries, like Canada, place emphasis on this pervasive issue while others tolerate or ignore the problem. Culture has a great impact on how women are perceived and respected. 

As a law enforcement officer, I deal with intimate partner violence disputes on a nearly daily basis; ranging from verbal arguments to physical assault causing bodily harm. On the frontline, I hear first-hand the stories and am able to help women who are suffering from physical and psychological abuse in their relationships. In many cases, women are isolated from their friends and families. In other cases, women are unable to leave abusive relationships because they are newcomers to Canada without any support to rely on. Intimate partner violence can have a huge impact on children who witness it on an ongoing basis. The abuse can lead to serious physical injury to women and can be fatal. Yet, the number of reported domestic violence incidents does not accurately reflect reality. Why is that? 

From my experience, there seems to be a number of reasons why women, women who have immigrated to Canada in particular, are less willing to report instances of abuse:

Women are fearful that they may lose their immigration status. Often they are dependent on their partner who may be earning their household income. Fears of being deported are always a strong motivator to remain silent.

Women may not have the training or experience to enter the workforce when they first arrive. This further increases dependency on their partner.

Women are fearful of losing financial support. Laying complaints against an abuser can leave them vulnerable, often isolate them from their cultural community and leave them with no means of support. 

Mistrust of the police because of previous experiences and interactions with them either here or abroad.

Community or cultural norms often create huge pressure on women which discourages them from airing issues frowned upon by ethnic community leaders. 

As more and more immigrant families arrive in Canada, it is imperative that we provide more education and prevention programs that can help break down such barriers for immigrant women and create support systems for when they choose to leave an abusive situation. We need to do more to support these women until the violence stops.

At WISE, not only do we offer our Personal Safety Workshops to everyone in the city of Ottawa, including immigrant women, but we also offer a Legal Education Workshop to help all women know what their rights are here in Canada. If these workshops are of interest to you or to your community, or you simply want some more information, send us an e-mail at info@wiseottawa.ca.