HVPC and Step It Up: Provincial Election 2014

In Halton, our last coordinating committee meeting came on the heels of the announcement that as a province, we’d be going to the polls on June 12th. It seemed important to reflect upon the work done towards placing the issue of gendered violence on the political agenda.

As political platforms have been released and we’ve been overwhelmed with debates, photo ops and political attack ads, key election issues have emerged, including job creation, health care, education, taxes and balancing the budget. However, the issue of gendered violence – violence against women and their children – has been notably absent from any political agenda and garnered very little media attention in the context of the election.

This is alarming for several reasons. Those of us who work in the VAW sector know the devastating and long-lasting effects violence and abuse has on families. We also know that it is a community and societal issue – both in terms of accountability and impact. The trauma, healing and repair following violence many families must endure spills over into so-called ‘key’ election issues – survivors of violence may find themselves in need of medical and psychological health care, children who are witnessing violence in the home may be absent physically and/or cognitively from school, survivors may experience difficulty securing and/or maintaining non-precarious employment either during or following the abuse…the list goes on and on.

Additionally, it places our already underfunded and overburdened response services in limbo. For example, at our committee meeting we were reflecting upon whether additional follow up was required regarding our response from the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) surrounding our communicated concerns about the change in structure to the Partner Assault Response (PAR) program. The decision was made to wait – wait to see what additional changes might be implemented onto this program, following the results of the provincial election. Would there even be a program to critically reflect upon?

Finally, there is no excuse for the ignorance of this issue. The issue of gendered violence has played out in the media in very significant ways over the last few months. As a larger society we are aware of the over 500 murdered and missing Aboriginal women; we have raised care and concern about the captured Nigerian school girls; and we have reacted with horror and outrage in response to the misogynistic mass murder of 6 women at the hands of Elliot Rodgers in California. People are talking about this issue, so why aren’t our politicians?

As a result of the significant concern we shared as a committee that the issue of VAW has not yet been placed on the political radar, we decided to join the Step It Up campaign. In doing so, we’ve submitted a press release to our local media outlets acknowledging our involvement with Step It Up, and submitted questions pertaining to parties’ responses to gendered violence for the June 3rd political debate. Additionally, we sent letters to candidates of the three main parties in the three ridings in our area asking them for a written response about how their platforms speak to the needs of women and children who are experiencing abuse, to the needs of men who have chosen to use violence and abuse in their intimate relationships, and how they will respond to the specific needs of Violence Against Aboriginal Women. We have heard from Liberal and NDP candidates and responses are posted below, as are the provincial party responses. Also check out stepitupontario.ca for provincial responses. The Ontario Progressive Conservatives have chosen not to respond at either a local or provincial level.

Political experts indicate that this election is too close to call. While we don’t yet know who the premier of our province is, we do know that gendered violence is a key issue, and hope that our efforts to ensure VAW remains a political issue are responded to. This is something all Ontarians deserve.

Dana Gillespie Tozer
Coordinator, Halton Violence Prevention Council

NDP Halton Candidates Response:

Halton Violence Prevention Council –– 2014 Election Questionnaire
Ontario NDP Response

1. Will your party commit to maintaining the current funding allocation for organizations
serving women experiencing violence?
Yes. Working to build communities where every person is able to feel safe and live in dignity is at the heart of who we are as New Democrats. The Ontario NDP believes that as legislators we have a responsibility to stop violence against women. We must all work together at Queen’s Park and within our communities to support women who are facing violence and keep them safe.
The Ontario NDP has a strong record of working to end violence against women and have every intention of maintaining our commitment. We will maintain the current funding allocation for organizations that serve women experiencing violence and will invest $2 million, over two years to support the Joint Working Group on Violence against
Aboriginal Women to tackle domestic violence.

2. Will your party commit to maintaining the current funding allocation for organizations serving men who have been criminalized with domestic violence offences?
Yes. The Ontario NDP stood up for women when the Liberal government decided to reduce the length of time that offenders must spend in Partner Assault Response Programs, PAR, a program designed to reduce violence against women. These programs play a vital role in holding abusive men accountable for violence against women and keeping women safe.
Each year, about 14,000 men participate in a PAR program, most of them through court order.
The Liberal government reduced the length of time that men who have assaulted their partners have to attend counselling –against the recommendations of the ministry’s own provincial advisory committee—this doesn’t make sense.
The Ontario NDP has a strong record of working to end violence against women and have every intention of maintaining our commitment.

3. How will your party speak to the needs of women experiencing violence in your election platform?
Many women are forced to stay with abusive partners due to financial dependence.
When one in five Ontario tenants pays more than half their income on rent, it’s clear that something is wrong. To make life more affordable and create the conditions that help women leave violent situations, an Ontario NDP government will commit to the funding to Support Violence Against Women shelters in budget 2014. We will increase the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative by $42 million annually to $294 million over seven years. We also will provide over $400 million, over five years, as part of the extended investment the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy.
We will also increase the minimum wage to $12 and tie it to inflation; index the Ontario
Child Benefit to inflation after it increases to $1,310 in July; and increase the number of affordable child care spaces so women can get into the workforce and maintain their independence. In addition we will expand dental benefits for children from low-income households. With an additional $15 million per year in funding 70,000 more children will receive dental care. We will also expand school nutrition programs so more kids can access healthy food and be better prepared to learn. Vulnerable kids deserve nothing less.

4. In light of the recent RCMP report that states 1,186 Aboriginal women are missing and believed murdered in Canada, what will be your party strategy to address Violence against Aboriginal Women?
The recent RCMP report although disturbing confirms what Aboriginal communities and agencies that serve Aboriginal women, have been saying for years. The Ontario NDP is committed to addressing violence against Aboriginal women. We voted to keep the fund to fight violence against Aboriginal women and we will work in partnership with First
Nations on strategies to address violence against Aboriginal women. We will invest $2 million, over two years to support the Joint Working Group on Violence against
Aboriginal Women to tackle domestic violence. We will work in partnership with First
Nations groups to create an Urban Aboriginal Action Plan to serve women and children facing violence and address issues that create the conditions for violence to occur in the first place.

Liberal Oakville Candidate Response:

Dear Halton Violence Prevention Council,
Our party has shown a strong commitment towards women experiencing violence, which we will continue to champion if given the opportunity to form the next government. We have provided women who are experiencing violence with a number of victim services. Since 2003, we have invested over a billion dollars in services for victims of crime. Each year we spend over $100 million dollars on victim services.
Not only do we commit to maintaining services for women experiencing violence, we have increased funding for community services that help victims of domestic violence by 48 per cent since 2003. This funding helped to serve close to 12,000 women and 8,000 children in emergency shelters last year. We also proposed a further increase to funding for domestic violence shelters in the 2014 Budget – an additional $15 million dollars over 3 years. Unfortunately, that increase, and all the work we have pursued together to protect women and children experiencing violence, was placed in jeopardy by the NDP’s decision to force this election.
Domestic violence crosses every social boundary and it will not be tolerated in Ontario. It is a priority for Ontario Liberals to ensure that women in Ontario feel safe in their homes, in the workplace, and in their communities.
Since releasing our Domestic Violence Action Plan in 2004, we have implemented many initiatives to raise awareness of domestic violence and strengthen support for victims and will continue to do so if we form the government. These services include the following:
Our 2014 Budget proposed an additional $15 million over three years to support Violence Against Women shelters.
The Neighbours, Friends and Families public education campaign – reaching out to communities across the province – including Francophone, Aboriginal, immigrant, and refugee communities.
• Training for more than 34,000 front-line professionals and service providers to detect domestic violence and support victims.
• Expanding the Language Interpreter Services program to include sign language interpretation for Deaf, oral deaf, and hard of hearing women who may have experienced violence and need access to health care, legal and social services.
• A Learning Network that is researching and promoting effective professional training and public education for those working to prevent and respond to violence against women.
• Introduced the Family Court Support Worker program, available in all court districts across Ontario, to help victims of domestic violence across Ontario navigate the family court system during the difficult process of separation and divorce.
• Launched Canada’s first Integrated Domestic Violence court as a pilot project in Toronto, which will hear both criminal and family cases where domestic violence is the underlying issue. This “one family, one judge” approach allows the judge to have more complete information about the families, and to monitor them more effectively.
• Established specialized Domestic Violence Courts in every court district in Ontario. Specially trained police, Crown attorneys and Victim/Witness Assistance Program staff work together with community partners to support victims while holding abusers accountable.
• Amended the Occupational Health and Safety Act to prevent violence in the workplace, including domestic violence and sexual harassment.
Ontario Liberals launched a $15 million, four-year Sexual Violence Action Plan in 2011. We are working with community organizations to implement public education and training initiatives, and improve the community and justice response to this serious issue. As part of the action plan, the Ontario Women’s Directorate supports a number of initiatives to help raise awareness and improve services; among them:
• Development and implementation of standards of care for hospitals to better support victims of sexual violence.
• A guide to assist Ontario’s colleges and universities in their ongoing efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence.
• Expansion of the Language Interpreter Services program to help women who have experienced sexual assault access health care, legal and social services in over 70 languages. Sign language interpretation is also offered to improve access to services for women who are hearing impaired.
• Training for more than 8,000 professionals in the health, education, justice, and social service sectors on evidence-based practices for treating and caring for women who have experienced sexual violence.
• Our government is also providing an additional $3 million over four years to sexual assault centres across the province to help them better respond to victims of sexual assault in their communities.
I hve worked closely with the Halton Women’s Centre to work on programs to help those who are getting out of violent relationships. Recently I was recognized as a Man who Makes A Difference. It’s work that I am going to be happy to get back to after election day.
Kevin Flynn, MPP, Oakville