Each September, elected officials from across B.C. come together at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention to discuss issues of common concern and to vote on resolutions urging action by the provincial government.
At the 2015 convention, a resolution came forward calling for an intergovernmental task force to address “the ‘rape culture’ pervasive in schools, universities, workplaces and elsewhere across Canada.”
After much debate, the motion carried. In response, the provincial government reiterated its commitment to ending violence against women and its efforts to change the societal attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate gender-based violence and to strengthen responses to it.
Despite increased government efforts to address violence against women and gender-based violence more broadly, it continues to be a widespread problem.
In B.C., over 60,000 physical and sexual assaults on women are reported each year.
In Canada, a women dies at the hands of her intimate partner every six days.
Every night, approximately 3,500 women and 2,700 children fleeing domestic abuse stay in shelters while another 300 are turned away due to a shortage of space.
Estimates suggest one in eight criminal prosecutions in B.C. are in response to domestic violence despite that only 28 per cent of incidents are reported to police.
Similarly, only 12 per cent of sexual assaults are reported to police and only a small proportion of reported incidents are prosecuted.
As with other forms of discrimination, violence against women has become rooted in social, economic and political systems.
The ways that women are portrayed in media, the different standards they are held to, that they earn an average of just .72 cents for every dollar earned by men, that they continue to bear disproportionate responsibility for the unpaid and undervalued work in society, that women are over-represented in poverty statistics and other disparities, all contribute to both men and women unwittingly internalizing beliefs and biases that in turn perpetuate the cycle of violence against women in its broadest sense.
We in Nelson are not immune to this phenomenon.
The Aimee Beaulieu Transition House, named in remembrance of a young Nelson woman and her children killed by her partner, is almost always full of women and children fleeing violence and is at times unable to meet the need for space.
Specially trained Kootenay Lake Hospital staff are too often called on to deal with cases of sexual assault, and quite recently there are reports of young women in our community being lured by people involved in sex trafficking rings.
Nelson’s Violence Against Women Committee (VAWIR) works to better understand, inform and co-ordinate responses to domestic, sexual and other violence against women in our community.
The committee includes representatives of Nelson Police, RCMP, Victim Services, Mental Health, Community Services, Crown Council and other community organizations. Each year VAWIR hosts an awareness-raising event on Dec. 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada.
Established by the Parliament of Canada in 1991, the day marks the anniversary of the 1989 murders of 14 female students at École Polytechnique de Montréal who were killed simply because they were women.
This year, in addition to the commemorative ceremony, Nelson’s VAWIR Committee will screen a film on the topic of sexual assault as part of its efforts to educate youth about gender-based violence.
The event will take place at the Civic Theatre beginning at 2 p.m. I encourage you to join in this opportunity to learn about and reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our community and in society more broadly.