By David Maher
One in two women above the age of 15 years old will experience some form of violence in their lives. Indigenous women are five times more likely to be killed from violence than non-indigenous women.
About 100 advocates, front-line workers, members of government, and experts on violence against women and girls in the province met on Friday for a full-day session to identify how to bring an end to such startling statistics.
Attendees were in working groups, with their discussions recorded to help inform future policy by the Department of Justice.
Linda Ross, co-chair of the Minister’s Committee on Violence Against Women and Girls, hosted the meeting, and said the meeting brought together a diversity of voices toward the cause.
She says the behaviour that leads to violence against women happens every day.
“It is quite disturbing, the kind of behaviours that are accepted,” said Ross.
“You need to name it. Everything from the sexist comments, the degrading comments in the workplace or at a party. We have to become intolerant of that kind of behaviour if we really are looking to end violence.”
Jenny Wright, executive director of the St. John’s Status of Women’s Council, did not attend Friday’s session, after a second invitation from the Department of Justice didn’t make it to her office.
She says she’s happy the meeting happened, but she’s tired of the talk.
“There’s a great deal of expertise in that room. I’m happy for that. But let me tell you how many committees on violence against women that I currently sit on,” said Wright.
“We’ve had report after report after report. One right after the other. And what is happening in this province? Domestic violence is on the rise.”
Along with Wright, each person who spoke with The Telegram on Friday called for a taskforce on ending violence against women and girls in this province.
St. John’s Centre MHA Gerry Rogers says the people who want to do the work don’t need another committee to tell them what to do.
“All the people doing the front-line work, they know the issues, they know what needs to be done. They’re saying the time for action is now,” said Rogers.
Kim Campbell-McLean, executive director of the AnanauKatiget Tumingit Regional Association, a Labrador-based women’s group,
says Indigenous women and girls are the most at-risk for violence and need help now.
“Aboriginal women are 3 1/2 times more likely to be assaulted than a non-indigenous woman. An indigenous woman is five times more likely to be killed from a violent act over a non-indigenous woman,” said Campbell-McLean.
“We’ve talked and talked and talked about these issues. We know what needs to happen, we know where it needs to happen, we just need the resources to be able to do it.”
Val Barter, executive director of the Coalition Against Violence Avalon East says that while she recognizes money is tight for the government, if the government really takes this issue seriously, more resources have to be provided.
“We need more funding, more resources, more support for the women and girls in our province,” said Barter.
“You look at the stats and they’re staggering. One out of two women in Newfoundland and Labrador over 15 will experience some type of violence. The sexual assault centre received the most crisis calls in its history this year. And we’re all still running on that shoe-string budget.”
In a news release, Justice Minister Andrew Parsons stated Friday’s meeting was a first step toward ending violence against women and girls.