Focus should be on men to fight gender-based violence: new minister

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New Minister for Women and Gender Equality Marci Ien said as part of her efforts to tackle gender-based violence she intends to put a focus on men to understand why this occurs in the first place.

She said the problem was high on her priorities for the department as it is “clearly unacceptable” and that she wants to not only support women but also focus on men to understand the root causes of the problem.

“There’s another part of this equation, and that’s why violence happens,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “If we are to end it, we have to understand why it is happening in the first place.”

The minister said her department will continue to conduct research on gender-based violence to understand the problem, identify gaps and find areas for improvement.

She also said that she sees Women and Gender Equality Canada as a “core” that connects all other government departments, as gender equality is at the center of everyone.

Ien made the remarks when asked how she fits into efforts to address the gender effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, given that other ministers have also been involved in the file.

In March, the federal government launched a task force to address the unique challenges women face during the pandemic, led by Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Finance, and Mona Fortier, then Minister of Middle Class Prosperity but is now President of the Treasury Board. .

Gender equality advocates have sounded the alarm bells on an increase in gender-based violence during the pandemic, a trend the United Nations has called a “phantom pandemic.”

Andrea Gunraj, vice president of public engagement at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, said a national action plan to address violence specifically against Indigenous women and girls as well as Two-Spirit, transgender and non-binary is important.

“It’s a long-standing thing that indigenous communities have been asking for,” Gunraj said. “We have had many reports, we have had many recommendations, now is the time to act.”

The new Minister for Women says she is focusing on men in order to fight gender-based violence. #CDNPoli #GenderEquality #GenderBasedViolence

Advocates have called on the federal government to put in place stable funding for programs that aim to end gender-based violence.

Katherine Scott, senior economist at the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, said she was seeking more details on how the national action plan will coordinate responses at all levels of government.

Scott, who is the director of the Center for Gender Equality and Public Policy, said she was not just looking for a transfer of funds from the federal government to the provinces.

“We are seeking a collaborative and meaningful plan that tracks results and commits to reporting publicly each year on the reduction in levels of violence among women and others fleeing violence,” she said.

Gunraj said that when it comes to national action on gender-based violence, it’s time to take a look at how these solutions are being funded.

Citing her past experience as a journalist, Ien said she was aware of the lack of funding for women’s organizations doing this work.

“They were severely underfunded and frankly undervalued by previous governments,” she said.

A 2019 Women’s Shelters Canada report surveyed hundreds of women’s shelters across the country, revealing that 74% of respondents said inadequate funding was a major challenge, while only 5% said it wasn’t. was not a problem.

The report also showed that 61 percent of shelters had not received an increase in their operating funding from their major government funder for at least two years, and that one in five had not received an increase in operating funding. funding increase for 10 years or more.

Gunraj said that while services focused on prevention and intervention are considered to be the most effective in alleviating the problem, “they have consistently secured the smallest tranche of funding compared to government-run organizations that have not dealt with the problem. things only after they have already happened “.

In contrast, Gunraj said, billions have been set aside for police, prosecution and prisons, even though research shows these responses are not as effective in tackling gender-based violence.

Gunraj noted that gender-based violence tends to be underreported, pointing to data from Statistics Canada which, in 2016, indicated that 70% of people who experienced domestic violence and 93% of people who experienced violence as children did not had not spoken to the authorities.

She also highlighted the work of University of Ottawa Professors Rakhi Ruparelia and Elizabeth Sheehy who have shown that when racialized women report violence, their experiences are often taken less seriously in the criminal law system and their abusers receive less severe penalties.

“I think if we were to change the funding model and supercharge the organizations that do it well, and those organizations that do it well, I think we would see a change.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 4, 2021.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.


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