As December 6 approaches, I feel hopeful about some important steps taken this year to end violence against women and girls. But that hope is mixed with sadness.
First, the hope. 2016 saw, finally, the launch of a national inquiry into the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. This inquiry needs to shine a strong light on the reasons why Indigenous women and girls are at much greater risk of violence and on the ways to prevent this risk. As well, I am proud of USW’s National Women’s Committee, which is leading a national anti-violence campaign, challenging the men in our union to play a role in ending violence against women.
But now for the sadness. Canada’s chief public health officer released a report this fall, calling the rate and impact of domestic violence “staggering.” The report noted that every four days a woman is killed by a family member. As we saw recently in Choiceland, Saskatchewan, with the murder of Nia Eastman by her father, the victims of domestic violence can be as young as seven years old. Yet the federal government has still not taken steps to develop a national action plan on violence against women, something women’s organizations and unions like USW have repeatedly called for.
This is why we must continue to mark December 6. We must remember the women murdered at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, murdered for dreaming of being leaders in our society. And we must never stop demanding action—from our governments, our unions, and ourselves—to ensure that all women’s lives are valued.