We should all feel safe and secure going about our day-to-day lives, but sexual harassment and violence is a daily reality for far too many women.
We need safety, equality and economic justice for women
Sexual harassment and violence remains a very serious barrier to women’s equality, especially in the workplace. It can range from verbal and psychological harassment, to unwanted touching, to physical and sexual assault. Many women are now also harassed in digital spaces. Perpetrators can be co-workers, supervisors, or even clients, patients or members of the public.
Sexual harassment and violence can have serious consequences on women's physical, emotional and mental health, and on their work performance. It can compromise their ability to advance in the workplace and even lead to job loss.
The hard truth about gender-based violence
Half of women in Canada will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. It can be physical or sexual abuse, emotional or verbal abuse, financial manipulation or control, spiritual abuse, criminal harassment or stalking. It can happen at work, at home, online or in the community.
About every six days in Canada, a woman is killed by her intimate partner. Each night, almost 4,000 women – many with children – turn to shelters because they aren’t safe at home. Research by Canada’s unions found that almost 40 percent of working women have experienced domestic violence. For most of those women, the impacts followed them to work, putting their jobs and their co-workers at risk. COVID-19 lockdowns exacerbated these realities for many workers. During stay-at-home orders, it becomes increasingly difficult for women to access services as they are trapped at home with their abuser.
Not all women experience harassment and violence in the same way. Young women, Indigenous women and women with disabilities experience higher rates of harassment and violence. For racialized and immigrant women, lesbian and bisexual women and trans and non-binary folk, sexual harassment and violence can be exacerbated by other forms of discrimination. They also face more barriers when it comes to finding services and support.
Survivors are not alone
Canada’s unions are making workplaces safer for women by lobbying for anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies; better protection and intervention for women experiencing domestic violence; health and safety protections; and improved employee assistance and support programs. Due to these tireless efforts, workers in almost every province and territory, as well as federally regulated workplaces, now have between three and five paid days of domestic violence leave so they can seek the support and services they need. Canada's unions will continue to push for similar legislation in other provinces and territories.
In 2019, the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted a groundbreaking new labour standard on the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. Ratifying Convention C190 would demonstrate that Canada is committed to ensuring everyone has a right to a world of work free from harassment and violence.
Women’s organizations are on the frontlines when it comes to sexual harassment and violence, providing support and services to survivors and advocating for changes to ensure perpetrators are held accountable. But while gender-based violence costs the Canadian economy $12 billion annually, these organizations have no stable funding and are struggling to survive.
We can end sexual harassment and violence
With leadership, education and action by the federal government, we can end sexual harassment and violence. We can make workplaces safe for women, and we can make sure that survivors are believed and that perpetrators are held accountable. Join us in calling on the federal government to:
- Introduce a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women: Fund and implement a robust, long-term plan that works across jurisdictions to address gender-based violence. This plan must support recommendations from the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls;
- Strengthen public awareness: Launch a national public education campaign on sexual harassment and violence;
- Fund women’s organizations: Provide sufficient and long-term core operational funding to women’s organizations in order to support survivors, carry out vital advocacy and research, and respond effectively to evolving crises like COVID-19.
- Make workplaces safe: Ratify and implement ILO Convention C190 on violence and harassment in the world of work. Strengthen federal labour legislation so that it clearly defines sexual harassment and violence, reinforces employers’ obligations to ensure workplace safety and ensures effective and impartial mechanisms are in place. Such mechanisms would include guidelines around the investigation of complaints, as well as provide support and protection for survivors, and how to hold perpetrators accountable.
Are you done waiting for an end to sexual harassment and violence? Add your voice.