by Jarrah Hodge
With a provincial election coming up, the Jane Doe Legal Network has come out with a list of “31 Things British Columbia Can Do Right Now to End Violence Against Women”. Starting in March to coincide with International Women’s Day, the group released one recommendation a day for 31 days. As the network stated in its release:
Women in British Columbia have waited too long already. That is why we are offering 31 things that BC’s new Provincial Office of Domestic Violence (PODV) can push for right now to increase safety for women and to bring us closer than we have ever been to ending violence against women once and for all. We are calling for 31 social, economic and legal changes, none of which are unachievable in this province. Some would require very little financial investment, and each of them will save resources in the long term given the high costs of violence against women.
These have all been shared at the Jane Doe site and Battered Women’s Support Services’ Ending Violence Blog, with more detail on each recommendation, but I wanted to share the list and summaries of each point for those of you who are looking for what policies to support and advocate for when contacting your local candidates. Many of the recommendations are also applicable to other jurisdictions and might help focus work for activists outside BC.
- Call violence against women what it is. We need to shift our language away from euphemism and legalese in law, in policy, the courts and everyday life in order to make systemic problems visible.
- Audit for compliance with BC’s Violence Against Women in Relationship policy. There needs to be monitoring for compliance and consistency with the VAWIR policy guidelines for professionals, including police, Crown, probation officers and child protection workers.
- Meet the immediate financial and housing needs of women fleeing violence, including making sure women fleeing violence can access short-term income assistance, child care, and transitional housing.
- Enhance access to justice for women – invest in family, immigration and poverty law legal aid services. BC needs to support funding for legal aid so abused women don’t have to compromise their rights in order to avoid self-representing or accruing unmanageable legal costs.
- Make addressing women’s inequality a core learning objective for all BC students. My personal favourite. We need to start at least in secondary school to educate kids about gender inequality and teach them that women have equal value. It’s part of making violence less acceptable.
- Add sexual violence by police to the mandate of the Independent Investigations Office. The IIO was established to investigate cases of death or serious harm at the hands of police, but it has no mandate to ensure the safety of women who have been sexually assaulted by police, or to protect police officers’ intimate partners when fleeing abuse.
- Address the feminization of poverty with a provincial anti-poverty plan. BC needs a comprehensive anti-poverty plan that includes a gender lens to help marginalized groups of women who are particularly susceptible to poverty.
- Push to add gender and sex to the hate crime provisions of Canada’s Criminal Code. BC should lobby the federal government to add sex and gender to legal hate crime provisions to send the message that misogyny is real and as devastating as any other kind of hate.
- Bring back regional coordination committees for women’s safety. In the 1990s the government supported regional committees of government agencies and non-profits working on issues around violence against women. These committees collaborated on policy issues and collaborated on some specific cases.
- Join the call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. Hundreds of Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada and the provincial government needs to join the many individuals and organizations who have called for a national inquiry.
- Do not let immigration status stand in the way of women’s safety. Women fleeing violence should not have their immigration status called into question or be reported to Border Services, as some women advocates report happens currently.
- Value the expertise of women’s organizations by investing in their work. Financially supporting experienced women’s organizations will yield optimal return on investment as women fleeing violence would be more able to swiftly access counselling, legal services, and “Stopping the Violence” programs. Read more