Vol. 17 No. 2 NEWSLETTER February 2016
On March 6, 2015, the Governmet of Ontario announced “It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment.” Consultations were held in various cities across Ontario where organizations and individuals gave input of their experiences with, and recommendation on, sexual violence and harassment. The result was Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), 2015. Thelma McGillivray and I gave a presentation to the committee at Queen’s Park on behalf of PCWO. The bill has gone through second reading and is now in the committee stage.
Sections of the Act Include:
Every college and university that receives funding from the government and every private career college shall have a sexual violence policy.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act is amended so that workplace sexual harassment is added to the definition of workplace harassment, and there are procedures for a worker to report incidents of workplace harassment to a person other than the employer or supervisor if the employer or supervisor is the alleged harasser.
A tenant may terminate a monthly or yearly tenancy or a tenancy for a fixed term by giving at least 28 days notice if the tenant or a child residing with the tenant has experienced violence or other form of abuse. A joint tenant may give notice solely. A tenant who gave notice and vacates the rental unit on or before the termination date set out in the notice, ceases to be a tenant and a party to the tenancy agreement on the termination date.
We have no policy on colleges and universities having a sexual violence policy.
“Sexual Harassment in the Workplace” 1998, we asked that sexual harassment be designated as a workplace hazard, require completion of the investigation by one year after the complaint is filed, and require all employers to provide policies dealing with sexual harassment to all employees.
In 2007 in our policy “Rental Housing Rights for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault or Stalking” we asked the government to allow a victim to end a lease or rental agreement with a 14 day notice, not require the agreement of another person who co-signed the lease in order to terminate it, and allow the victim to have the locks changed without requiring the permission of the landlord.
So, some of our requests of government were included in the new proposed legislation, but not all. We may have to revisit this in the future.
SELECT COMMITTEE ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT: FINAL REPORT
I attended the Queen’s Park Legislature on December 10, 2015, because I indirectly heard that the Select Committee, at which President Mary Potter and I presented on behalf of PCWO on May 11, 2015, was presenting their Final Report to the House. Most fittingly on International Human Rights Day.
The Introduction in the Report reflected the experience of most Ontarians. In the fall of 2014, Ontarians were shocked by the news of several high profile cases of sexual violence and harassment. Stories emerged from workplaces, campuses, the military, and government. As has happened many times, these reports were initially met with skepticism and even ridicule. “Why didn’t she say something earlier if it was so bad?” or “I know him, he would never do something like that.”
At the same time, women’s groups were outraged when the Toronto Star published a series of sexual assault and harassment on Ontario campuses. Further, it shocked many when they learned that so few universities and none of the colleges had policies and prevention in place to protect students and staff from sexual assault and harassment. The CFUW clubs got active on these issues and a template letter was circulated to graduates of various universities to contact their respective universities and inquire about the policies in place and if not, why not. This probably made an impact on the universities and with direction from the Ministry urgent meetings were arranged to address this concern. As of now, most either have policies in place or are designing polices with the input of students and staff on campuses.
Subsequently, Premier Kathleen Wynne mandated all her Ministries to follow up on their policy. The Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, Tracy MacCharles, responded immediately to a question in the House re what is being done? Thereafter, The Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment was formed (December 11, 2014) into a non-partisan Committee under the Chair of Daiene Vernile and Vice-Chair, Laurie Scott, with eight MPPs from the three parties to conduct hearings across Ontario. In March 2015, the Ontario government launched “It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment.” Since that time, on October 27, 2015, the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, introduced Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment) 2015. (Please refer to President Mary Potters report). This legislation if passed, would implement more of the components of “It’s Never Okay.” Some of the issues received through testimony during the public hearings have been addressed by the government’s response to date, and will be further addressed if Bill 132 is passed. (by July 2016). The report contains some areas of note and 67 recommendations in accord with the proposals in “It’s Never Okay.”
PCWO, under the Status of Women, suggests that everyone read these 67 recommendations for further study. As Mary Potter outlined some PCWO policy, we do have numerous policies under violence against women that Councils could explore for writing an update. One recommendation No 17, is relevant immediately. It reads, “The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services work with local police services to develop standards for responding to reports of sexual violence, including exploring the possibility of offering to have female officers or social workers present to take victim statements, or encouraging every police force to have specialized police units or investigators to oversee sexual assault investigations.” There are six pages of Recommendations, too many to include here. If you wish to obtain this report, you may contact the Ontario government and quote the following numbers:
ISBN 978-1-4606-7029-3 (Print) or ISBN 978-1-4606-7028-6 (English) PDF
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN:
There are six main forms of victimization that too often result in women and girls being criminalized: 1) running away from home to escape abuse, 2) living on the streets, 3) addictions, 4) poverty and homelessness, 5) abuse at the hands of male partners, and 6) state violence. (Gilfus, Mary, http://www.vaw.umn.educ/
There are many reasons why women may not leave abusive relationships. Many women fear for their lives, or for the lives of their children. Many also lack the resources to support themselves and their children. Those who have tried to leave in the past have likely experienced little to no support from the police or others and may therefore feel additionally entrapped. Others may be dependent on their abuser because of illness, disability, or immigration status. (Smith, Ekuwas. “Nowhere to Turn” Ottawa: Canadian Council on Social Development, 2004.)
Individual men who commit acts of violence against women must take responsibility for their own choices and the consequences of their actions. “No child could warp into such a man without the intentional collusion of some, the mindless cooperation of many, and the indifference of even more. And we are not talking about their mothers. We must ask ourselves, who introduced them to pornography, to weapons, to abuse, to being abusive, to sexualizing abuse, to abusing for sexual gratification? Who ignored, or even rewarded their actions, as they became more terrible and more terrifying?” (Kim Pate and Debbie Kilroy, Developing International Norms and Standards to Meet the Needs of Criminalized and Imprisoned Women. Ottawa: Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, 2005.)
Research by University of Ottawa professor Holly Johnson released four years ago, shows how few sex crimes get reported and how even fewer are prosecuted. She found that 460,000 women told a Statistics Canada survey in 2004 that, they had been victims of sexual assault, but only 15,200 reported it to police, 5,544 charges were laid, only 2,824 cases were prosecuted and only 1,519 offenders were convicted. In 2014, Toronto police logged 1,890 reports up from 1,313 reported in 2007. However, the Toronto Star’s data reveals a second troubling trend: more sex crimes are reported in the city’s poorest neighbourhoods. That’s the result of several factors such as the high turnover of poor residents underserviced by social services, not enough street lighting and too many vacant properties, and those most likely to experience sexual assault, are girls under age 18, who are black, indigenous or have a disability. Still, they are to be highly commended for fighting back by reporting. Let’s hope the numbers of those prosecuted and convicted also rise.
(Toronto Star, February 9, 2016)
~Thelma McGillivray, VP Status of Women and Newsletter Editor
WOULD YOU REPORT YOUR SEXUAL ASSAULT TO THE POLICE?
Pardon me for asking, but if you, a woman, were sexually assaulted, by a man you were attracted to, or married to, would you report it to the police? Of course, you may reply, the police are those who are there to help me, and to arrest the person who injured me and will bring him to justice, won’t they?
And then you enter the court system and you are called to the witness stand to testify what occurred to you, perhaps months or years before, because to be heard in a court of law takes time. You will feel anxious and nervous in this strange, austere environment. But, the Crown prosecutor will try to put you at ease as he/she asks you to state your recollection of the sexual assault you experienced at the hands of the accused. So you comply.
Then, the accused’s lawyer cross-examines your statement. Strangely though, he/she doesn’t ask about the sexual assault, rather you are asked about the clothes you were wearing, how much alcohol or drugs you had consumed, why were you there in his company or if he is your spouse, in either case, why didn’t you run away, call for help?
You had slept very little the night before, in fact for some time your sleep had been broken because you still feel the fear, and your body reacts to the assault, again and again, and how you struggled to stop the aggression against your body, or perhaps not, instead, you froze, unable to integrate the reality of this attack on you, why, why?
Right now, in this room, you feel it again, the rejection of your self-worth, the slow reality that you are not believed. You want to argue, no, no, that is not what happened; exclaim loudly that none of those questions are relevant. But it is to no avail, because you were warned to ‘answer the question’. And, no one else is going to refute those degrading, insinuations about your honesty, your morals, because you are not allowed to have a lawyer. And then, it dawns on you. This charade is not about you and the crime perpetrated upon your privacy, your body that was beaten and raped. No. It is about HIM. You feel nauseated, soiled, used, again, not just by HIM but by the whole system that brought you here, only to feel the despair, desperation, and depression, that was a clear reminder of your sexual assault once again.
THE FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY OFFICE (FRO)
COULD IT PLAY A ROLE IN ENDING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN?
In Canada, mothers are awarded sole custody in 79.3 per cent of court-ordered custody arrangements. Women are by far the largest recipients of child support payments. Court ordered child support should be reviewed annually based on the filed income tax return of the payor. Adjustments to payments can then be made in accordance with the Child Support Guidelines (CSG). Ideally, this recalculation service should be provided by the province with responsibility to supply relevant tax information in a timely manner being placed upon the payor.
In July 2015, the Ontario government proposed changes to Family Law Act: ONTARIO REGULATION 190/15: the Administrative Calculation and Recalculation of Child Support. As part of Bill 14: Building Opportunity and Securing Our Future Act (Budget Measures), 2014, this regulation will become active when subsection 10 (1) of Schedule comes into force.
The changes enable child support recalculation through an online portal without having to attend court and incur related expenses. To make use of this service both parties, payors and payees, must agree in writing to the process and also agree to provide their most recent income information or give consent for the service to obtain his or her income information directly from the Canada Revenue Agency. As well, both the applying parent and the responding parent must pay a fee of $80 before the process will be undertaken.
Unfortunately, this service remains inaccessible to those who really need it — women who have been in abusive relationships. Where a history of power and control exists, these women will find it impossible to persuade the payor to consent to the process in writing, provide the required income information, and pay the service fee.
This forces these women, and their children, to forgo the court ordered annual reviews of child support payments unless they file a motion with the courts. That is a very time consuming and expensive proposition and one that places women at great risk when dealing with abusers during case conferences, settlement conferences and court appearances.
The proposed recalculation process makes the payee responsible for ensuring the payor’s co-operation even though she has a court order stating the date to exchange tax information as well as a specific date on which adjustments must be made. If the payor doesn’t comply, then the payee has no recourse except filing a motion.
Ironically, the payor in breach of the court ordered exchange of tax information suffers no repercussions. If the payor is making child support payments through the FRO, then technically he is not in arrears because he’s paying the most recent court ordered amount. However, these payments are not up-to-date because the payor has not submitted his most recent tax information—sometimes for decades at a time.
This is a way for abusive, non-custodial parents to manipulate the FRO and family court system in order to continue financially and emotionally abusing custodial parents and their children.
As human rights lawyer Eric Letts points out, “Children with parents that live apart are the most at-risk group for negative adult outcome. Family status trumps poverty, race and gender for predicting bad adult outcomes namely, criminality, victimization, substance abuse, lower education, lower income, suicide, and divorce. It is worth noting because this is the exact demographic that needs to be targeted. We, as a community, need to nurture and develop resilience, social survival skills and hope. Instead, these children are getting attacked by the Provincial Government.”
The province of Manitoba has a recalculation service that treats both parties equally and prevents payor’s from manipulating the process. The Recalculation Service Office (RSO) notifies both parents of the application and requests updated financial information. Once the information is received by the service, the table amount of child support and any special or extraordinary expenses are reviewed and changed.
If a parent doesn’t provide updated financial information, the Manitoba RSO can apply to the court for court orders, including court costs, and can ask a judge to determine the other parent’s income based upon the best available evidence. In some cases, the RSO can deem financial disclosure as being received and adjust accordingly.
The Manitoba RSO provides each parent with the relevant financial information given by the other parent. A support determination officer will discuss with either party any concerns about the recalculation process. It’s a very fair and transparent process.
In Manitoba, recalculation services are free of charge. However, parties are responsible to pay for any related court filing and document serving fees. Recalculation adjustments are available on an annual or bi-annual basis.
The Ontario government should adopt an annual recalculation process more in line with the Manitoba model. In addition to keeping women safe from further financial, emotional and even physical abuse, the Manitoba process benefits children by preventing ongoing parental confrontation and litigation.
Doreen Nicoll is a feminist and member of Advancement Women of Halton and several community organizations, working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.
BECAUSE IT’S 2016!
No. That’s not a typo. It is the title of this piece. It is 2016, and over forty years since we celebrated International Women’s Year in 1975. We’ll soon mark International Women’s Day, on March 8th, and while this presents an opportunity to celebrate our successes, this always gives me pause. Have we achieved what we set out to do?
Like many of you, I’m feeling optimistic. Oh, I know, it’s much easier to be cynical given the state of the world. Western civilization at the moment feels tired and even desperate. Fear has been implanted in us. Psychologically, we tend more to operate from a worldview of fear and scarcity – think of all the talk about the economy and the price of food. No doubt these are important issues especially for the most vulnerable.
Optimism though allows us to live with hope and purpose. Who would have thought that we would have a Cabinet in our Parliament that attracted global attention with the establishment of gender parity! If, all goes well and women’s voices are heard, Canadians will soon achieve gender parity in the Senate as well! For some time research has shown that having women in power positions has the ability to change outcomes.
We can also be relieved that efforts are being made to examine the missing and murdered First Nations women. While it has been a long tortuous road, we can say, better late than never.
These initiatives give us hope that we actually have an opportunity to make change. Advocacy is needed however, to move us forward. And, the Council of Women needs to be part of it.
A national early learning framework that promotes quality, accessible and affordable child care is still a must. Families need this support and children need secure, stimulating environments in which to thrive. Some might suggest that having women on Canadian bank notes or promoting gender neutrality in the National Anthem are issues that are less important. These issues however, speak to gender equality as loudly as any other.
In the ‘what were they thinking’? category we cannot ignore the decision of Ontario community colleges to agree to provide education programs off-shore in countries that prohibit women from participating in their program. While it is not necessarily against human rights to segregate men and women in the classroom, it is totally unacceptable to deny women the same quality and choice of topics to that of men. Canadians expect that Canadian values of human rights and gender equality will be maintained whatever the business model and culture in which it is delivered. In their eagerness to provide programs abroad, in 2016, this decision by the colleges needs to be explored without delay to ensure that they have not opened themselves to discriminating against women. Women in Canada have advocated and financed education for women and girls where education is often not available to them. Any plan that impedes or ignores these efforts cannot be tolerated.
Women’s rights continue to be violated in the workplace. Think of the female firefighter who recently accused her male colleagues of harassment or the young woman told by her superior that her pregnancy and maternity leave wasn’t “convenient”. And then, there’s the question of equal pay. Having a “nice” boss or a satisfying job cannot assure workers of either job security or just remuneration. It’s 2016, but it’s obvious there’s still work to do.
We can hope that the recent initiated political changes will continue and that issues important to women will remain front and centre. It will be hard to believe that everything will go as planned. Like the rest of us, those in the public eye will make mistakes. We can take a deep breath – exhale slowly and calm down. Patience is our trade mark – think of the last 40+ years of waiting – but don’t be surprised if we continue to make our point loudly. Women have gained confidence and do feel a new sense of power and optimism. After all, it’s 2016!
~Monica Cullum, Convenor of Status of Women
Ottawa Council of Women
TWO BOOKS RECOMMENDED FOR RAISING AWARENESS ON SEXUAL ASSAULT AND MISOGYNY
Misogyny: the World’s Oldest Prejudice by Jack Holland, 2006, Publisher, Robinson, London, UK
In this powerful book, the highly respected writer and commentator, Jack Holland, sets out to answer a daunting question: how do you explain the oppression and brutalization of half the world’s population by the other half, throughout history?
The result takes the reader on an eye-opening journey through centuries, continents and civilization as it looks at both historical and contemporary attitudes to women. Holland’s spotlight falls impartially on the Church, witch-hunts, sexual theory, Nazism and pro-life campaigners and on today’s developing world, where women are increasingly and disproportionately at risk because of radicalized religious belief, famine, war and disease. Well-informed and researched, highly readable and often entertaining, this is no outmoded feminist polemic, but a refreshingly straightforward investigation into an ancient, pervasive and enduring injustice. It deals with the fundamentals of human existence – sex, love, violence – that have always shaped our lives.
Holland reaches the conclusion that it is more than time to recognize that the treatment of women amounts to an abuse of human rights on an unthinkable scale. This important and timely book will make a long-lasting contribution to the efforts to improve those rights for future generations.
Sexual Assault: The Dilemma of Disclosure, The Question of Conviction, by Rita Gunn and Candice Minch, University of Manitoba Press, 1988
Only a small percentage of all cases of sexual assault are reported to the police. Why do so many women decide not to report an assault? And what happens to the assailant when the case is reported and charges are laid? In this volume Rita Gunn and Candice Minch explore the answers to these questions, basing their analysis on the most comprehensive data available on sexual assault in Canada.
Through interviews with victims of sexual assault, they analyse the factors that influence the woman to report an attack or to keep silent. Society still places the responsibility on women to avoid being sexually assaulted, so the victim is caught in a dilemma when deciding whether to disclose an assault. The authors then look at what happens when the sexual assault is reported. They follow a sample of assaults from the initial police report through to the final disposition of the case, demonstrating that:
Only 10% of the original charges resulted in conviction,
20% were reduced to lesser charges,
Over 70% of the charges were filtered out of the criminal justice system before trial,
Societal attitudes which blame victims for the offence extend into the legal system.
While these authors completed their study in 1988, their findings are very relevant to today’s society. Their research concludes that even when the victim initiates the legal proceedings, the majority of perpetrators slip through the cogs in the “wheel of justice”. This corresponds to the concern many of the victims initially expressed when they were asked why they did not report an assault – that is, the fear of the police not believing them. The extent of self-blame experienced by the victims is encountered in the second most frequent reason for the filtering out of charges: the victim withdraws charges. However, the current state of underreporting not only exacerbates the problem of dealing effectively with the offence in the legal system, it leaves victims without redress and the perpetrators of the crime unaccountable. Clearly, it should never be the victim’s behaviour at question, which does occur; rather, it must remain the perpetrator’s unwelcome sexual assault. Otherwise women will not report.
TRIBUTE TO CAROL CANZONA (1935-2015)
Over a great many years, Carol served on Boards of the London Area Council of Women, the Toronto and Area Council of Women, the Provincial Council of Women of Ontario and the National Council of Women of Canada, some years earlier, representing the latter at the International Council of Women meetings in London, England. In recent years, she formed the Oakville and Area Study Group and was a devotee of Councils’ aims of advocacy and education for the betterment of society as a whole. ALTIOR! I can almost hear Carol encourage Council “Ever higher…” (TACW).
Carol was an enthusiastic, gregarious, gracious, and loyal hard working leader on behalf of Council. She always had a word of support when anyone accomplished some action to further Council. She was always the first to send flowers, and a get-well-card if a member was briefly taking time out for a health issue. She will be missed. (PCWO)
“It was a shock to lose Carol, such a vital person, instantly involved in other people’s concerns. I miss, too, her sense of humour. We had many laughs together about ordinary life. Her last email to me was that she felt tired and had decided to go to BEDfordshire.” Margaret Blair, OASG member.
• February is Black History Month
• International Women’s Day is March 8
• The next newsletter will be sent out on May 15. Submissions are accepted until April 30. Theme to be announced.
• The PCWO AGM will be held on April 23 and 24 at the Holiday Inn Downtown Toronto Centre. The theme is Gender Wage Parity in Ontario. Registration forms will be out soon.