The Provincial Action Network on the Status of Women (PANSOW) and the coalition want a provincial taskforce on gender-based violence established to oversee the implementation of a comprehensive, provincial plan to end domestic violence, and all violence, against women and girls.
“This needs to be the moment in our history, where we agree as a people that the levels of violence experienced by women and girls is simply no longer acceptable to us,” said Jenny Wright, PANSOW co-chairwomen and executive director of the St. John’s Status of Women Council, “that we have been doing is failing women, and that we choose another path. That path is a task force on gender violence.”
Other organizations joining the call include Transition House Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John’s Native Friendship Centre, Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre, Violence Prevention — Avalon East, and Violence Prevention-West.
Wright said the task force must contain representation from the provincial Departments of Justice and Public Safety, Education and Early Childhood Development, Health and Community Services, Children, Seniors and Social Development, and the Status of Women, survivors of domestic violence and women-serving anti-violence organizations.
The call for the task force comes days after the In Her Name Vigil for missing and murdered women and girls of Newfoundland and Labrador was held in St. John’s.
“Too many women are missing or have already died and many more are at risk,” said Janice Kennedy, PANSOW co-chairwoman and executive director, Bay St. George Status of Women Council.
“We demand the task force bring together government and community stakeholders to implement systemic and legislative changes that improve the safety and lives of women and children throughout the province.
“Every citizen of this province deserves the right to live in peace and safety in their homes and their communities.”
According to PANSOW, this province has among the highest rates of domestic violence in the country and is one of the few where domestic violence is on the rise.
Wright and Kennedy say the rate of domestic violence is likely much higher than publicized, as 70 per cent of spousal violence is not reported to the police. Of the 217,900 women over the age of 15 residing this province, approximately 108,950 — one in two — will experience at least one incident of sexual or physical violence throughout their lifetime, they say. Approximately 10 per cent (10,895) of these women will report the incidents to police.
PANSOW is asking other women-serving anti-violence organizations to join the call for a provincial task force and to contact Wright to sign on.
When contacted by The Telegram, Siobhan Coady, the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, said the issue of violence against women remains an important one for government.
Having attended the vigil earlier this week, she said it was difficult hearing the names of so many missing or murdered women, but said it was important to see and hear how families and communities are impacted.
Coady said government is doing a lot to address the issue of violence against women and continues to work closely with communities and organizations.
Besides adhering to initiatives laid out in the 2015 action plan, Working Together for Violence-Free Communities, she said, government is working with groups to advance restorative justice, support the family violence intervention court, a sexual assault response pilot program and the national inquiry for missing and murder indigenous women. It is also ensuring ongoing interaction between government departments.
“Can we do more? Absolutely. This is a horrific issue and we’ve all got to work together,” said Coady. She hopes to meet with Wright in the near future.
“If a task force could help, then we certainly would consider it. We all need this (violence against women) to stop.”