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

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The Impact of Children on Careers, and Why This Predominantly Falls on the Mother

May 2022

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Motherhood Penalty, which is when someone sees a negative impact on their wages due to becoming a mother. Data shows that women typically experience a drop in earnings starting in the first year after having a child, and spanning 5 years after giving birth. This is especially true for those who are younger, namely 25-29 year olds who experience an average of a 14% loss in earnings. Women of colour, Indigenous women, new Canadians, and women with a disability are often affected even more. This really hurts when you consider that women earn on average 70% of what men make doing the same jobs.

This drop in earnings in the first year can be attributed to maternity and parental leave – Canada only offers up to 55% salary reimbursement for maternity and parental leave, and if companies don’t provide a top up, parents, especially mothers, see a deduction of nearly half their salary – at least. After having a child, mothers are also more likely to switch to a more flexible, or part time position, in order to care for the child; or even consider leaving their jobs due to a lack of affordable childcare. This trend is not true for fathers.

The timing of having a child also impacts women’s careers. More than 33% of women between 25 to 34, which is a key period of career development and advancement, have a child under 6. This means that women are taking up to 18 months off during a crucial period of their career, and may have to work less upon their return to the workforce, because the burden of childcare is typically placed on the woman.

Taking maternity leave, especially the extended 18 month option, can also reflect negatively on mothers. A study showed that women who take a longer leave are often seen by employers as less ambitious or dedicated to their job. Anecdotal evidence from women who have taken leave corroborate this, with some saying they felt overlooked for promotions or open positions due to their leave. Never mind the fact that women have so many other roles - caring for aging parents, bearing many of the parental duties around home and school, with community engagement, etc. 

Clearly, there are many issues here that come together to negatively impact mothers. So, what can we do?

 

Provide fully covered maternity and parental leave.

Maternity and parental leave is currently covered at up to 55%. To negate the impact of taking leave, Canada should reimburse leave at 100%. This would eliminate the reduction in earnings in the first year.

Encourage fathers to take leave, and fully cover this leave.

Canada introduced paternity benefits in 2019, but they are only covered at 55%, and it is currently unclear how many fathers take advantage of this leave. However, Quebec introduced paternity leave paid at 70% in 2006, and 86% of fathers take this leave. Having dedicated leave, reimbursed at a higher rate, can encourage fathers to take leave.

This is important because fathers taking substantial leave (more than a few weeks) increases how much men participate in childcare and household responsibilities, and increases the likelihood that women stay in full-time employment.

Broaden access to leave benefits so lower income families can take advantage.

Canada’s leave policies have narrow eligibility requirements, meaning close to 40% of mothers and 56% of low-income families are excluded. Research has shown that broadening policies by reducing the amount of time people must work to earn benefits, increasing the benefit rate, and eliminating wait times for benefits led to an improvement in use among low-income families. Policies need to be less restrictive and allow all parents to take advantage.

Have more accessible and affordable childcare options.

Canada is introducing $10 a day daycare administered by the provinces, which is a great step towards more affordable childcare. Although it may be sometime before families realize the savings if it is slow on the rollout. However, this childcare also needs to be accessible. There needs to be an increase in the number of spaces in daycare centres for all children, and this daycare needs to be affordable for families at all income levels. Daycare needs to also have extended hours to accommodate all work schedules. If childcare is accessible and affordable, it will help the mother return to work, and having flexible day care can mean the mother can continue to work full-time.

Companies need to be more inclusive, understanding, flexible, and accommodating.

Companies often have a negative view of mothers, and motherhood can negatively impact career development and advancement opportunities. Companies need to make changes to accommodate parents, including flexible work practices, scheduling meetings around childcare, such as school pickup and drop-off times, and encouraging men to take parental leave. Both parents need to take advantage of flexibility, leave, etc., so the burden and impact does not continue to fall on the mother.  

 

 

WISE’s TAKE ON THE TRUCKERS’ OCCUPATION

March 2022

The truckers’ protest made news all over the country and even internationally as people sought to understand how a protest – initially dubbed as one for freedom – escalated to an occupation. Although it’s impacts were at first significantly underestimated, it became apparent after several days of protest that it would pose much more than a mere nuisance for Ottawans. With protesters firmly entrenched in the downtown core, weeks of hardship, pain and fear ensued for local employees and residents, especially women and other vulnerable populations. Ottawans soon realized that this supposed protest for freedom would, in fact, cost them theirs for (at the time) an unknown length of time. The effects of the protest were not felt equally: Women are more likely to work in retail, accommodation and food service industries, which were hit especially hard during the protests. The protests caused businesses in the area such restaurants, retail stores and even the largest mall in the city, to close as customers couldn’t access buildings and staff did not feel safe getting to and working at their place of employment. Whether it be the incessant honking that could be heard from almost anywhere, large crowds of people refusing to move or their reported harassment and use of hateful language (which is not surprising considering some of the protest leaders’ history), people did not feel safe accessing local businesses. Indeed even journalists reported actions such as being spat on and being told by protestors to kill themselves. Those that owned and worked for local businesses suffered doubly as they not only had to operate under these conditions simply to keep their businesses afloat but also endured a loss of income at a time where some COVID-19 restrictions were poised to be eased. It has been reported that the truckers’ occupation cost the city about $36 million with more reckoning to come.

The protests also particularly affected people living with disabilities, who faced additional barriers due to restricted mobility within the city. For example, it was widely reported that one woman was unable to get food as grocery stores could not deliver in the area due to blocked streets and traffic. Thankfully, a neighbour was able to get her groceries and deliver them to her. Others faced challenges in accessing important medication and mental health supports, a resource of particular importance given the extra stress downtown residents were forced to endure.

And of course, those living in the shelters in the area had to face these protests as well. We know Shepherds of Good Hope had protesters harass volunteers and clients and demanded free food. At Cornerstone Housing for Women Shelter, women staying there ended up re-triggered by the aggressive situation with at least one woman having to go the hospital. This kind of loud and intimidating atmosphere deprived people already going through struggles and relying on these shelters to be their safe space of their ability to feel safe both inside and outside of shelters.

Everyone living downtown had to face all these issues with no break as they could not simply leave the area. Residents had to find strategies to cope with the noise, harassment and just the overall sheer disregard protestors had for folks living downtown. Some people were able to come together and help each other out, but the fact remains that people suffered when they should not have had to. Recognizing the threat to residents’ safety and well-being, including some of our own clients, WISE released a statement to demand that the city take measures to ensure the safety of Ottawa residents and do what it had to do to end this occupation.

Thankfully this costly siege has come to an end following an unprecedented action by numerous police forces. However, although the protesters may have left, lasting effects, both financially and relating to the mental health of residents, remains. There has, however, been some positive outcomes such as a march of solidarity to “say no to hate and yes to community care and solidarity” hosted by Community Solidarity Ottawa and Canadians United Against Hate to bring attention and accountability to the siege. It has also been acknowledged by many city officials that policy change is needed to ensure future protests do not become occupations that threaten the safety of locals.

We at WISE believe that when we make communities safer for women and other vulnerable groups, it will be safer for everyone. The city of Ottawa has launched an inquiry to examine how the protest was allowed to devolve into an occupation that held locals hostage for over three weeks. Thought will need to be given as to how we can implement additional security measures to protect our city against future occupations all while providing space for peaceful and lawful protests. We need to ensure that our city keeps safety a priority for all and continue to support each other and move forward together.

 

 

PROFESSION FACING MOST ACTS OF VIOLENCE? – POLICE? PRISON GUARD? OR HEALTH CARE WORKER?

March 2022

 

Over the past two years, we’ve seen a slew of worrying headlines on how the COVID-19 pandemic has ‘exposed gaping problems with…’, ‘highlighted longstanding issues in…’ or ‘brought to light the longstanding problem of…’. One headline that particularly struck me is how Canadian health-care workers are facing increasing harassment and violence on the job, especially related to COVID-19.

Its hard to fathom that in addition to bearing the brunt of the pandemic, health-care workers have also had to contend with increased threats and acts of harassment and violence, both inside and outside of their physical workplace. And its not just the rate of threats and acts that has increased - Its also the severity. One health-care worker reported receiving a suspicious package at their place of work that led to an evacuation. Another was attacked by a patient, who released bear spray from a concealed can. Some health-care workers even had bounties placed on them.

Unfortunately, we know that these incidents are just the tip of the iceberg as many acts or threats of violence are not reported.

Although the rise of violence against health-care workers is worthy of immense concern, lest it overshadow the fact that health-care workers have been victims of workplace violence long before the current pandemic. In fact, prior research has found that nurses are subjected to more acts of violence than police officers or prison guards. The Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board reported that in 2014, the number of workplace injuries that required time off work from the healthcare sector greatly outnumbered those in other sectors surveyed.

After many years of advocacy from a variety of civil society organizations, the federal government recently announced new legislation aimed to protect health-care workers from violence at work. While this is an important step in recognizing the serious risks of assault and injury that health-care workers face on the job, a multi-faceted approach – from sensitising Canadians to addressing staffing shortages – will be needed. Organizations, like the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, for example, are urging that key recommendations outlined in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health’s study Violence Facing Health Care Workers in Canada, be implemented as well.

WISE has always underscored the notion that the effects and consequences of workplace violence and harassment extend well beyond the physical parameters of workplaces: Ensuring the safety and well-being of health-care workers (women making up the majority of paid care workers in Canada) is consequently intrinsic to the safety and well-being of our communities.

 

 

WHAT GIVES? THE IMPACTS OF A PANDEMIC ON WOMEN'S MENTAL HEALTH

February 2022

 

Let’s face it –no matter who you are or what you do, we are all having a tough time right now. The pandemic has been raging on for far longer than we ever expected, and “normal” life before March 13, 2020, seems like a fleeting memory…

In 2019 the World Health Organization published data that found significant impacts on mental health for individuals in conflict zones such as countries experiencing war or significanct economic contraction. In 2006, the World Psychiatry Association published research that found that the impact of mental health in times of crisis or conflict is more significant for women and other vulnerable groups.

The pandemic has created a situation not unlike a long-term crisis –and we need to allow for the impact this pandemic is having on our mental and physical health and safety.

In our very own city, we can see the physical impacts on women every day. Front line workers risking their lives are mostly women. Gender based violence (GBV) has seen a startling upswing as women are more isolated and less financially stable. Shelters for women and families are overflowing.

Women have always worn many hats in the community and in the home, and COVID has only amplified that: wife, mother, main cook, chauffer, disciplinarian, home school supervisor, professional working at home, caregiver for elderly parents/relatives, & community volunteer. No wonder women are feeling this strain. Something’s got to give!

​So, what gives? Our mental health.

Several studies point out the acute impacts that the pandemic has had on women’s mental health. One study in Tunisia Africa looked at the mental health impacts of partner violence during the pandemic and found extreme distress in 57% of participants. Another study from France finds that research on the subject of mental health issues during the Covid-19 pandemic is still scarce, especially concerning women. A third study from the University of Chicago Medicine points to the likelihood that a large portion of women were already near the edge of vulnerability: “When the world shut down, transportation became more difficult, food access became harder, and very soon after the crisis began, many women found themselves struggling to meet basic needs.” It is clear that women in our community need more support than ever.

In Ottawa, to address the striking rise in GBV, a new service was set up to help women and LGBTQ2S+ communities with a chat and text support line. Text to 613-704-5535 24/7 if you are feeling unsafe in your community or, contact us at WISE. 

Mental health resources are also available to support our community. In the event of a mental health crisis, you can call the Ottawa Crisis Line at 613.722.6914 24/7 or visit their website at https://crisisline.ca/ . You can contact the Ottawa Distress Centre by calling 613-238-3311 24/7 or texting 10am-11pm 343-306-5550.

If you prefer to be assisted in French, you can contact Tel-aide Outaouais 24/7: in Gatineau you can call 819 775-3223, and in Ottawa region you can call 613 741-6433.

Even though many of us are feeling overwhelmed, you can take part in a WISE Community Safety Audit, in which we band together with other community members to help address safety issues in our neighbourhoods, it can be one small way we can make an impact and help create that positive feeling that you are affecting change.

With your help, together we can continue to create safer physical and social environments in our neighbourhoods, parks, workplaces, recreational pathways, and schools. We believe that if we make the community safer for women and other vulnerable groups, it will be safer for everyone!

If you would like to support ending GBV in your city, please consider donating to WISE Ottawa.

 

Sources cited: 

Frontiers in Global Women’s Health, 2020: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fgwh.2020.588372/full

Stats Canada: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-28-0001/2018001/article/00020-eng...

Springer, 2020:  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00737-020-01082-4

University of Chicago Medicine, 2021: https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/research-and-discoveries-arti...

WHO, 2019: https://www.premiere-urgence.org/en/mental-health-and-conflicts/#:~:text...

World Psychiatry Association, 2006: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1472271/

 

 

A GBV ADVOCATE’S NARRATIVE

December 2021

I’ve been involved in helping to organize activities to educate the public on violence against women for over 20 years.  These events include: International Women’s Day Celebrations, ClothesLine Event, Take Back the Night Marche and Vigils for the December 6 National Day of Remembrance and Action to End Violence Against Women.  While each event has their own specific focus, it’s the Vigil that hits hardest each year.

The Vigil memorializes the 14 women victims of the Montreal massacre in 1989 and pays tribute to women from our own communities who have paid the highest price for living with violence -  murder!   

Names that will never leave me are:  

Ardeth Wood in 2003 who went missing and whose body was found on a local bike path. Her murder sent chills around the city causing women to lock themselves at home in fear for weeks. 

18-year-old Jennifer Teague in 2005, who went missing after her shift at a local business; later found murdered. In the next year, 27-year-old Francine Mailly and her 3 children Jessica, Brandon and Kevin were murdered in a house in the east end by the husband/father.

52-year-old Nassima Chamouri was found hanged in her living room while her 83-year-old mother Afife Saroufim was found stabbed in the stairwell. Nassima’s estranged husband was charged with the murders.

I remember the 3 teenagers Zainab, Sahari and Geeti Shafia along with their aunt Rona amir Mohammad were all drowned in a submerged vehicle in Kingston. The girls’ parents and brother were charged with 1st degree murder. 

In December 2009, I’ll never forget the tragic account of 33-year-old Donna Ellen Jones-Hutt who was beaten and scalded by her husband and left to suffer injured on the basement floor and died days later.

These are just a few of the horrific stories we hear. We want the public to understand how prevalent this type of violence is. We want to wake everyone up to this horrific crime. Each year in Canada far too many women die at the hands of someone who claims to love them or knows them.

According to the statistics from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability:

  • 92 women were murdered in Canada in the 1st 6 months of 2021. That is up from 78 in 2020 and 60 in 2019.
  • The total number of women and girls murdered this year in Canada is 159 - 58 in Ontario.
  • Every 6 days a woman is murdered by her intimate partner.
  • Indigenous women are 3.5 times more likely to experience gender-based violence and 6 times more likely to be murdered.

We know that too many women are suffering in our communities; right under our noses. In fact, they are our friends, colleagues, families and neighbours.

The pandemic has exacerbated the level of violence as many women were trapped with their abusers and had no escape due to lockdowns, had less access to service providers, lost their jobs in many cases, had more responsibility for schooling children at home, as well as many other stressers. 

The lack of affordable housing also contributes to women often remaining in an abusive situation as she has no where to move; even after fleeing to a shelter. Housing resources are in short supply. 

Since the 16 Days of Activism on Gender-Based Violence launched on November 25 with the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women, are you wondering what you can do? 

  • Tell members of government to fund organizations working to end violence against women
  • Support a local shelter financially and by volunteering  
  • Reach out to anyone you think may be experiencing violence and share information with them.
  • Be there for the person experiencing violence; even if they are not ready yet to leave. It sometimes takes many attempts for them to leave.          
  • Learn the principles of Bystander Intervention
  • Attend a Vigil on December 6 to show your support.

Join with us locally this year at the Women’s Monument in Minto Park at 6 PM on the 6th, to remember these women who died this past year from male violence:

39-year-old Krista Quesnelle  Of Kingston

62-year-old Susan Rosenberg-Danese of Belleville

50-year-old Hanadi Mohammad of Ottawa    

44-year-old Shannon Ferguson Of Kitigan Zibi

3-year-old Orli Kpatcha of Gatineau    

5-year-old Liel Kpatcha of Gatineau

64-year old Linda Frederick of Barrhaven  

 

Gender-based violence needs to stop. You can play a part in making that happen! Everyone deserves to live violence-free!

 

January 2021: Stay Home, Stay Safe: An Oxymoron Worth Investigating

Stay Home, Stay Safe: An Oxymoron Worth Investigating

Written By: Alana Couvrette, WISE Board Director

Since the very start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the directive “stay home, stay safe” has guided the lives of Canadians from coast to coast. In a time of great uncertainty, these four words provided a sense of comfort and assurance: home is where you are the safest and staying home is how you can best protect yourself from harm. But what if home is where you are the least safe? What if staying home meant increasing your exposure to abuse and your likelihood of experiencing violence? The truth is that for many women around the world (including Canada), home is the most dangerous place to be. This was the case well before the pandemic began and lockdowns and curfews precipitated by COVID-19 only serve to exacerbate violence against women (VAW) by empowering perpetrators. 

After the pandemic's onset, Women and Gender Equality Canada consulted various frontline organizations, provinces, territories and Members of Parliament from across Canada to better understand the impact of the pandemic. Their efforts revealed a 20 to 30% increase in rates of gender-based violence, especially intimate partner violence, in certain regions of Canada. As of March 31, 2020, Vancouver-based organization Battered Women's Support Services noted a 300% increase in crisis calls compared to pre-lockdown call levels. In a similar vein, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, through a survey of more than 250 Indigenous women, found that one in five reported they have been a victim of physical or psychological violence over the past three months. Preliminary results of the survey and two additional consultation efforts also revealed that more of these women were concerned about intimate partner violence in the midst of the pandemic than they are about the virus. Similarly, Black-led shelter Imani’s Place – which focuses primarily on serving the Black, Indigenous and persons of color community – witnessed a 40% increase in calls since the pandemic began. Specific to LGBTQI2S people, although data relevant to the Canadian context is still emerging, extensive research has demonstrated that the incidence of intimate partner violence among lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) couples is the same or higher than that among heterosexual couples. It is reasonable to deduce that LGB people may be at an increased risk for domestic violence during the pandemic, with the potential effects on Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Two-Spirit people largely understudied.

While there is a wealth of information documenting the widespread and longstanding issue of VAW in Canada, there is limited evidence on how the drivers of violence change during a pandemic, how different forms of violence against women are heightened and how different types of women experience violence. Crises, unrest and disasters have long been linked to a multitude of risk factors for increased VAW (see Enarson 1999; Fraser 2020 or Palermo and Peterman 2011) however our understanding of the mechanisms linking these dynamics remains limited. Unlike other types of criminal activity and violence where data is more readily accessible, VAW is often underreported due to (among many reasons) fear, shame and stigma – a reality further compounded by structural, historical and systemic injustices known to racial and ethnic disparities. In addition, as of now, most data finds its base in police reports, media reports, anecdotal evidence and evidence from communities or organizations working with survivors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the gaps in our understanding of the current VAW and intimate partner violence crisis. While immediate measures are needed to support organizations working at the frontlines of the crisis, these informational gaps must not be forgotten in the process. Thought should be given to defining a research agenda that would help elucidate the pathways by which pandemics can exacerbate different forms of VAW - evidence essential to crafting responsive policy interventions. Governments, post-secondaries and research organizations must demonstrate intellectual humility and work more collaboratively with service providers like Women’s Initiatives for Safer Environments (WISE) who, by virtue of their work, have insights into which questions need to be asked and answered. Engaging with stakeholders at the onset of the research process can help build allyship and trust, potentially mitigating some of the ethical and methodological challenges in obtaining data.

There is concern that our standard policy ‘toolbox’ will be insufficient in addressing the additional and unprecedented challenges faced by women experiencing violence in a pandemic setting. Indeed, overwhelmed crisis lines, strained health-care services and at-capacity women’s shelters seem to evidence this conclusion. While the transfer of federal emergency relief funds to organizations providing services to women experiencing violence is critical, it is nevertheless a Band-Aid solution. A more nuanced understanding of the different forms of VAW in a pandemic and how different types of women experience it would ensure that programs and services are altogether more responsive and meet a more diverse set of needs. Likewise, clarity on the pathways or drivers of VAW during a pandemic could help inform prevention strategies in mitigating stressors and triggers. 

Ultimately, it is only once we begin to make what has been dubbed an ‘invisible pandemic’ more visible that we can we begin the real work: acting on the evidence.

 

May 2020 - Job Searches and Personal Safety

Job Searches and Personal Safety

By Christine Johnson

Thinking about personal safety may not be something that is top of mind for everyone when applying for a new job but it is important to consider for job seekers. 

Late last year, the media warned the public of human traffickers using “job postings” as a way to meet potential victims. As someone who works with youth and frequently supports them when looking for employment, I felt it was necessary to not only warn those who I work with directly of these dangers but also my greater community.

The following tips have been shared by Consumer Services of Ontario and Employment Ontario (the links can be found at the bottom of this post) about how to keep yourself safe while looking for work.

1.     Be suspicious

Always look into companies that are hiring. A quick look on your favourite search engine will let you know if the address, email or phone number connected to the job posting is correct or if it is phony. Don't be scared to call the company and verify that they've posted a job on whatever job searching site you've chosen. An employer won't be upset with someone for being proactive and protecting themselves.

2.      Don’t meet potential employers offsite

If you're unaware of the location the hiring personnel is asking you to meet them at, or you know the location and don't feel safe attending a meeting there, let them know and ask if there's a different, perhaps more populated location for the two of you to meet. Physical safety is always important; think of what time of day you're meeting; is there proper lighting; is there transit or parking nearby so your vehicle is close; is it highly populated or a frequently attended location (will there be other people near)? These are all important questions to ask ourselves when meeting new people in general.

3.     Never share personal information without doing your research and signing a contract

Things like your mother's maiden name, your SIN number and your birth date can be used by scammers to access your personal information, including banking information. Keep that information private until you're sure this is a safe and viable work opportunity.

Finally, two additional tips from Consumer Services of Ontario: 

- Be wary of anyone guaranteeing or promising you money.

- Don't sign a contract until you fully understand it and have a personal copy for your records. 

It is my hope this article has been helpful and useful for your future job searches. Please check out the links below for more information on different types of fraud and how to report a fraudulent experience:

·      https://www.ontario.ca/page/report-scam-or-fraud

·      https://www.ontario.ca/page/employment-ontario

 

February 2020 - Campuses need to do more to prevent sexual and phyiscal assaults

Campuses need to do more to prevent sexual and physical assaults

By: Kristy-Lu, WISE Direcotor

It’s that time of year again for post-secondary students as they head back into classes after Winter Break. And as more and more students complete their term this year, campus becomes increasingly deserted, leaving many walking to bus stops alone after a final exam or late night of studying. While post-secondaries try their best to keep campuses safe, we are still seeing physical and sexual assaults on campus. In fact, 63 per cent of people in a recent survey have experienced sexual harassment on campuses in Ontario. Clearly, there is still much more to do. This issue is not new and something women in particular have always had to be cognisant of – receiving advice on how to protect themselves from a variety of different sources. It is thus an even more appropriate time as we look back on Take Back the Night and the December 6th vigil, city marches aiming to keep our streets safer for all women  We have these events to remind us how far we've come and just how far we have yet to go. This is especially true for university/college campuses.

Most of the advice out there about sexual assault on campuses is focused on what YOU, the individual, can do to protect yourself. While there are many things out there that can be good to know and in the worst cases, utilize, more emphasis should be placed on the campuses themselves on how to protect their students. What can a campus do to protect their students? There are many options. They can utilize educational campaigns such as social media, peer educators, and bystander training. Campuses are doing more partnerships and studies, such as OCTEVAWs campus safety campaign, #JustGotWeird.

How do campuses physically lay everything out? Are there spaces people can easily hide? How are campus safety staff trained? How do they respond to sexual assaults? How are investigations done? Do they cooperate with the police? Do they discourage you from going to the police? What are the consequences for those commit assaults? What kind of counseling services do they offer? The list goes on.

Until post-secondaries change the environment, assaults will not end. Until post-secondaries are willing to put themselves in the spotlight, to show the mistakes they have made and be willing to fix it, change won’t happen.

WISE’s program Community Safety Audits help people evaluate safety concerns in an area to identify changes that could be made to render it safer for not just women, but for all. How does it work? Participants walk around a designated area, like a campus, pathway, tunnel or bus stop and identify possible safety concerns from the criteria on their checklist. This is one part of larger solution to help post-secondaries make the campuses safer for women and for all.

Just last year, WISE took part in an outside campus-wide safety audit of Carleton University. We gathered volunteers, students, staff, faculty and safety officers around the campus and hear stories of potential assault areas and the steps Carleton is taking to remedy them (increasing the lighting in the area and creating paths where students have created their own to detour around buildings to reach their classes and residences.

Want to know about our community safety audits or how we can help? Email us for more information.

 

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.