Women’s issues are everyone’s issues

Earlier this month, Timmins police released the identities of the four people killed in a car fire last month. Found inside the car were Tammy Gagnon, 24, Cole Gagnon, 16 and Brandi Gagnon, 14. Found close by but outside the car was Joey Gagnon, 37. Police have said all along that this was a “tragic violent event,” that it was “isolated,” and that there was ‘no remaining threat to the public.”

While the police have not provided any motive for the deaths, these words are code for domestic violence homicide.

This act of femicide comes at the end of a long winter of murders of women and their family members. According to Myrna Dawson of the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, 57 women had been killed in acts of femicide in Canada by the end of April.

What a nice smile you have, said the wolf

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, the man who would be Premier thinks it is appropriate to comment – not once, but twice – on what a nice smile one of his female competitors for the position has. Kathleen Wynne has responded to Doug Ford’s comments by pointing out that her smile has nothing to do with making good policy for the province. She is right.

All the major parties have been woefully silent on issues related to violence against women, which will take more than a nice smile to address.

The list of so-called “women’s issues” is long. And, of course, most of them are not women’s issues at all, but rather issues that would make our communities better places for everyone.

You may have already decided on the candidate or party you want to support or, like me, you may still be undecided. Regardless of where you find yourself, consider asking candidates in your community about some of the many issues that have a particular impact on women.

There’s a lot at stake

Here are just a few of the topics you could raise at all candidates meetings, when you encounter a candidate in the street or when one comes knocking at your door:

  1. With economic security, women are less likely to become trapped in abusive relationships. Economic safety means things like safe workplaces, affordable child care, safe transit and a livable minimum wage.
  2. School curriculum that addresses gender-based violence will lead to young women and men who understand the meaning of consent and who know that violence – physical, sexual or emotional – is never okay.
  3. Post-secondary education that is safe for young women and marginalized students requires meaningful sexual assault policies and procedures supported by true transparency and accountability.
  4. Adequate affordable, safe housing means women and their children have somewhere to go when they leave an abusive relationship.
  5. Ongoing implementation of Ontario’s Long Term Strategy to End Violence Against Indigenous Women will begin to address some of the long-term impacts of colonization, the residential schools program, the ’60s scoop of Indigenous children by child protection authorities and ongoing racism.
  6. Long-term, sustained funding for community-based counselling, legal and other services for survivors of male violence will support women to take the next steps after being subjected to abuse.
  7. Implementation of an Access without Fear policy across the province will allow people with precarious immigration status to reach out to police and other services for assistance without jeopardizing their ability to remain in Canada

Every candidate should be willing to endorse It’s Never Okay, Ontario’s Gender Based Violence Strategy and to commit their energy to ensuring its ongoing implementation after June 7th, regardless of which party (or parties) forms the government.

Ontario Thrive is a non-partisan coalition of organizations and individuals that has come together to call on political parties and candidates to make meaningful commitments to women’s equality in this election and after. The coalition’s website is a rich source of questions to ask candidates, a candidate survey and fact sheets on a host of important issues.

Let’s get asking!

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