All judges and RCMP officers should have to go through mandatory training on gender-based violence and sexual assault, says a new report from the House of Commons committee on the status of women.
“Acts of gender-based violence can prevent young women and girls from leading fulfilling lives as equal members of Canadian society,” the committee said in a statement accompanying the release of the report on Monday.
“Young women and girls who are victimized experience both immediate and long-term physical and mental-health problems, reduced economic and social prosperity and lasting pain and suffering,” the statement said.
Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, who chairs the committee that heard from 99 witnesses over the last year on what the federal government can do to reduce violence against women and girls, said the report’s recommendations focused on campus sexual assault, harassment in public, such as when women are subject to cat-calling on the streets, and cyberviolence.
Other recommendations include working with the provinces and territories to figure out how to require all colleges and universities to set up sexual assault centres and exploring whether the Criminal Code needs to explicitly include cyberviolence and online harassment, so long as it would not violate charter-protected freedom of speech.
Gladu said the report also referred to what she calls “rape culture,” that can get in the way of helping survivors of sexual assault, including in the justice system.
The recommendation on the judiciary is similar to a private member’s bill tabled by interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose that would require mandatory training for would-be judges on issues surrounding sexual assault.
Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef is expected to unveil a federal gender-based violence strategy in the coming weeks, which she has said will look at ways to prevent violence and support its survivors, but also how to improve the criminal justice system.
New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson said her party is issuing a supplementary report calling for the government to go a step further by developing a national action plan on gender-based violence that involves the provinces and territories.
“We heard one witness after the next say we need the provinces to work together and provide equivalent level of service and we need everybody pulling in the same direction and this patchwork makes women more vulnerable,” she said in an interview last week.
‘Violence a daily fact of life:’ Monsef
At an event during a trip to New York last week to attend the UN commission on the status of women, Monsef spoke about how violence still affects the lives of women and girls around the world.
“Over these past four years, we have . . . seen a resurgence of feminism and the growth of a global, grassroots women’s movement,” Monsef said at a side event on how the health sector can respond to gender-based violence, according to a copy of her speaking notes provided by her office.
“But there has been no change in the numbers of women and girls for whom violence is a daily fact of life. Yes, it’s 2017! And every day, countless women and girls still suffer at the hands of men,” she said.
“The roots of gender-based violence are entwined in outdated, patriarchal values and they are tenacious,” she said. “But so are we! As a movement and as allies, we have never been stronger, more connected and better prepared to take on this daunting adversity,” she said.