YWCA Hamilton: Voices

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Too Many Barriers to Escape

Raquel Junio had a plan. A plan to escape her husband. A plan to give her children a better life. At the Brampton thrift shop where she worked, she bought and stored furniture.  She took the bus to the library to search the internet for affordable apartments. She was looking for a second job to make extra money. Raquel Junio had a plan. But after months of working towards her goal it all came to a violent and horrific end last week when witnesses say her husband dragged her from her home into a truck. A few days later Junio’s body was found in a pound.

Junio died because of her gender. Because women make up 2/3 of minimum wage earners in Canada – earning incomes that fall far below the poverty-line.  Because women’s shelters remain largely inaccessible –three quarters of women are turned away each year because shelters are too full. Because gender-based violence is a wide spread Canadian problem – domestic violence accounts for 12% of all violent crimes in Canada – but violence against women fails to be a national priority. Junio died because as a woman, she faced too many barriers to escape in time.  

 Junio died not for her lack of effort – but for ours. We as a society must ensure women’s rights and freedoms are equally protected and enforced.

 It is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that in Canada a woman is killed by her intimate partner every six days.

It is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that each year 427,000 women in Canada report having been sexually assaulted.

It is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence.

If we are to empower women like Junio to take greater control over their own destinies, we must ensure their fundamental rights and freedoms. Because without fundamental rights and freedoms, Canadian women are without control over their destinies.

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Making Women A Priority: Bringing the International Women’s Summit Home To Canada!

A few weeks ago, World YWCA held the International Women’s Summit with the theme “Women Creating a Safe World.” Here, Canadian Stephen Lewis blasted UN member nations for underfunding UN Women. “It is unconscionable, morally indefensible, ugly, and reprehensible political behavior to create an agency, promise to pledge support, and to strangle it at birth,” said Mr. Lewis.

At home, we are witnessing a similar strangulation of women’s initiatives.

Last week, two prominent aboriginal groups withdrew from the inquiry into the women murdered in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. They join a growing list of women’s and aboriginal groups who cannot participate in the hearings without government funding for legal representation.

Commissioner Wally Oppal recommended the BC government fund lawyers for several women and aboriginal groups, however the request was denied. This has outraged several groups who question why the BC government was able to fund other inquiries, such as the slaughter of Husky dogs and Vancouver’s hockey riots, but not an investigation into the women who disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Former Vancouver police officer and key witness Kim Rossmo is asking “if the government is already refusing to provide funding, how likely is it that the government will commit funds to implement recommendations that come out of the inquiry?”

The inquiry is important to learn from the terrible events and to prevent it from happening again. As such, it is important that the invited women’s and aboriginal groups participate in this inquiry. YWCA is the largest provider of women’s shelters in Canada, but it doesn’t have to be if we take measures to prevent gender-based violence in the first place. Let’s bring home the theme “Women Creating a Safe World” and make women’s safety a top priority.