Carole James MLA Report – December

It was twenty-four years ago this month that fourteen women were massacred at École Polytechnique de Montréal in the worst mass murder in Canadian history. The attacker also injured ten other women and four men, before turning the gun on himself.

The day of the massacre, December 6th, has become the National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. In the years since, we’ve made some progress in the effort to end sexualized violence and violence against women.

But we still have a long way to go. Gender-based violence remains pervasive in many segments of our society. Consider the recent wave of sexual assaults at the University of British Columbia and rape chants at university frosh events.

Statistics Canada reports that more than half of all women living in B.C. have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. That’s more than one million women. Every year in the province, there are more than 60,000 physical or sexual assaults against women.

Safety won't be achieved by allowing women to live in fear of sexual violence. It will be achieved only by our working together to end sexual violence and stand up for the right of every woman to a safe and secure environment – at home, at work, at school, and everywhere in our communities.

Violence against women isn’t simply a women’s issue, and it’s important that all of us take a stand. Initiatives like the Moosehide Campaign run by the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres offer a way for men to signify their personal commitment to ending violence and to protect our sisters, aunts, grandmothers, mothers and daughters from violence.

By standing united, a future free of violence against women is possible. That’s why it’s particularly important that we demand safer communities, and take a stand when authorities make decisions that negatively impact our safety, the safety of our children, and the safety of our neighbours.

As individuals, we have that power.

Government must show leadership, and unfortunately our province is falling far short. Decisions like cutting funding to organizations such as PEERS that serve vulnerable women and help them break free of the sex trade aren’t helping. Neither is the reluctance of the B.C. Liberal government to act on recommendations from the Missing and Murdered Women Commission.

It is a dismal record that earned government more failing grades on the West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund's annual women's equality report card. The report noted the government’s failure to take action on the recommendations -- nearly a year after they were made -- and a lack of action to combat violence against Aboriginal women.

Days like December 6th are a time for us not only to remember, but to recommit to taking a stand and furthering the discussion around how we can tackle all forms of sexual violence in our society. It’s a time for us to remind our decision makers that we need commitment with legislation, and we need it now.

There is still much progress to be made, and I am optimistic we can do it. There’s more awareness now than ever of the scope of the issues at play, and there’s more determination in our communities to speak up and work together for meaningful, lasting change.

Carole James
MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill