We’re still trying to deal with the serious issue of violence against women. So, when our provincial government decides to turn a blind eye, we are left feeling defeated with a scary image of our future. Spoiler alert: it looks a lot like the present.
As Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government continues to review past social assistance policies implemented by the Liberal government, it has annulled the Roundtable on Violence Against Women, a panel that gave the government advice on policies dealing with emerging gender-based violence issues.
Some of the things the Roundtable on Violence Against Women has initiated since its establishment in 2015 include the exemption of domestic violence cases from family court fees, as well as making paid leave available for survivors of sexual or domestic violence, which is found in Bill 148. These are things we need now more than ever to tackle the static number of self-reported instances of gender violence. But along with pulling the roundtable, the government will be attempting to repeal Bill 148.
This is yet another thing the PC government is scrapping without the offer of a replacement. How can we possibly advocate for women who are victims of sexual assault if our leaders aren’t leading the way?
Protests are an option. While spreading awareness, they provide a sense of community and empowerment. We’ve seen people rally against Ford for other decisions, from slashing city council seats, to regressing the sex-ed curriculum and to implementing free-speech policies. But these tiresome feats aren’t quite getting us what we want.
Co-chairs of the Roundtable on Violence Against Women, Farrah Khan and Pamela Cross, stepped down from their positions in unison with the government’s announcement due to anticipation of the panel being discontinued. It looks like it was clear from the moment Ford was elected that his government had no interest in engaging with the roundtable. Khan and Cross resigned on the anniversary of the #MeToo movement.
But who can blame the two? When your own government – the one you work for – is answering your concerns and issues surrounding women’s violence with silence, where else can you turn?
Lisa MacLeod, community and social services minister with the Progressive Conservative party, only vaguely mentioned a possible initiative to replace the roundtable.
MacLeod was the one responsible for informing the panel that it was disbanded. In her letter doing so, she said, “In the near future, however, I look forward to working with representatives across various sectors to advance the empowerment of women across the province and to address violence against women and human trafficking.”
This is hopeful, but it is an open promise.
So, it’s obvious that victims of sexual violence are placed at a further disadvantage. If the Ford government doesn’t wish to work toward abolishing a systemic problem, but rather abolishes the resources designed to help it, it is up to us to voice our needs to those who have the power to implement such policies. Most importantly, it is essential to go out and vote for the ones who are interested in building a safety net for women facing violence.