Chair Bradley’s remarks on the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence
Today marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. This is an international campaign that starts on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day.
Based on a motion passed by the Region’s Women’s Advisory Committee, and endorsed by Regional Council, Niagara Region will be formally supporting this year’s campaign. Just this morning, I joined other community leaders from around Niagara to raise flags that are designed to build awareness of gender-based violence, as well as the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada.
While gender-based violence is always a serious concern, the last 20 months of the pandemic has seen a steep increase in reports of domestic violence across our community. The necessary social isolation required to slow the spread of COVID-19 has had the unintended impact of exacerbating unstable and exploitive situations in Niagara. During periods of quarantine, crisis lines across the country nearly doubled their call volume, and law enforcement found that domestic violence calls spiked by nearly 12 per cent.
During the next 16 days, we must also consider the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada. A recent RCMP report found that First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls are four and half times more likely to be murdered than any other woman in Canada. This does not take into account the hundreds of Indigenous women and girls who remain missing under suspicious circumstances. Moreover, reports from the Native Women’s Association of Canada indicate that only 53 per cent of murders involving Indigenous women and girls result in homicide charges, as compared to 84 per cent for the general Canadian population.
A challenge unique to Niagara is our geographic location as a border region which brings with it many tragic instances of human trafficking. These victims are 95 per cent women, and more than one in four are under the age of 18. These victims are controlled through grooming, coercion, isolation, shame, threats and substance abuse – we would all do well to be more aware and better educated on both the scope of this issue, and how best to recognize the warning signs.
Ending gender-based violence will not be easy, nor will it be eradicated overnight. We must focus on prevention, starting with education. We must support victims, and ensure adequate resources and supports are available in our community. We must work to address the social norms and power imbalances that, in-part, allow gender-based violence to occur. Finally, we need to ensure our law enforcement agencies and judicial system holds perpetrators accountable.
For the next 16 days, let us reflect on what steps we can take to eliminate gender-based violence forever.
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