I want to begin by acknowledging the first nation of the traditional territory on which we are meeting. I send my thanks and greetings to the Algonquin Nation, and also to you, the status of women committee, for interest in some of our programs and for giving us this space.
I'm not one to read, although they sent me to school and I can, but I'm much better in 10 minutes if I take you on a little trip. If you want to put your seat belts on, we'll do that.
I work for an organization of indigenous friendship centres. There are 28 in Ontario. We provide the services and programs—cultural, recreational, educational, social support, addiction, and anti-violence work—for people who live in towns and cities. We're part of a national network. There are 118 indigenous friendship centres, and probably some of you have one in your riding.
What we were asked to talk about is some of our programming, specifically working with men and boys about ending violence.
The federation has a long history of doing this. We have enjoyed fairly long and committed support from the province, through a beginning with the NDP, through Conservatives, and through Liberals. Really since we began in 1971, but formally in the early 1990s, we began programming.
For a long time, we worked from the perspective of the victim. We provided supports, circles, counselling, and some court support, through what I think is still called the aboriginal courtwork program. Everybody is changing their lexicon, and we all have to rush to keep up, I guess.
A number of years ago, it came to us that the only way we were going to end violence against indigenous women, which is who I am here to talk about, is for men to stop it. It's a simple answer. It's a hard process. We had to look at what we were doing and what we could do better. We also have learned in the past 30 years of doing this that the answers for our community have to be distinct. They are not going to be the same thing that the mainstream or everyone else does.
We've also found that working with men takes some savvy in getting them to come in and begin to feel and not just to talk, and not having to go to a program. It's not a thing you do while you're in provincial or federal jail, but it's something that's important.
One of the programs in particular that I want to talk about is named Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin, which is Ojibwa for “I am a kind man”. It speaks to a long history of not having violence, of not behaving in that way. To make it easier—if it is easier for you in English—it means “I am a kind man”.
The elder who named it was very clear that it's about taking responsibility. It's about picking up your culture and traditions, a tradition that does not in any way, shape, or form tolerate violence against women, young women, or girls. It couldn't be packaged nicely in terms of family violence. Sometimes we have to have a verb in this, and it has to be about ending violence. It can't just be about wanting to talk about it forever.
Kizhaay very recently was expanded to a number of sites in Ontario, to all of our friendship centres, and there are a few other places we deliver it. It has four components. The first one is education, acknowledgement that sometimes things become normalized for you and you don't understand that you were raised and taught violence. Children learn what they live, so people who had an experience where there was violence in their lives, of course, went on to continue that.
It was also to re-establish our traditional teachings, long conversations with respect to residential schools, child welfare, federal corrections, to all kinds of reasons that people have been moved and displaced from understanding our culture.
It's to inspire men to help other men, and for them to know that any violence against women can't be solely the responsibility of indigenous women or all women, that men have a role to play.
Last but not least, it's to support men who choose not to use violence. We do that through a variety of programming, including cultural programming. We have a course that runs 12 weeks or 16 weeks. It has a curriculum. It deals with histories of violence, intergenerational trauma. It talks about examining your own attitude and beginning to change it toward your relationships, your intimate relationships in particular. It has one-on-one counselling supports, group-based activities, circles, and a variety of activities where men can network, can support each other. It is a very simple model.
Indigenous men in Kenora supported take-back-the-night initiatives. They got a local business involved. It gave them coffee, and they handed out coffee all night and protected the parade route. They encouraged men to come and be supportive. While they were there they were teaching them very simple ways of dealing with their power and pulling back and, even if they were just walking in the same direction, not having to walk behind a woman. They could wait a few minutes. They could walk across the road. They could do all kinds of very simple things that lots of people unfortunately don't know about. We can have all kinds of public education campaigns, but if they're not targeted at certain people, they're not in a language or if they're not produced in ways that are familiar to our community, they're not going to be particularly relevant.
The other issue I have to mention here is that not all violence that is directed at young indigenous women and girls and women generally comes from inside our community. It's important that a committee like yours take a broad perspective. When taking a broad perspective, you can't forget that indigenous issues may not exactly follow your public education proposals or your campaigns. There may be other things.
We have created a series of recommendations for you. One is that you create a national initiative that is focused on any violence against indigenous girls and young women, which is the mandate you asked us to talk about today. In that program you also need to consider young people and youth. The earlier we normalize positive behaviours, and less violence, the more successful we're going to be. We need to be able to transmit it not just to youth groups where some violence in relationships will already have been learned and will occur, but as early as we can.
In Kizhaay we have a young men's peer program and a young men's mentorship program where a young man works with our Kizhaay workers in the community and learns to talk about this among his peer groups. We also believe that indigenous cultural competency and anti-racism training, which is part of what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission talked about, is good for everybody and we should do that and some of the roots of violence will become clearer. When you understand where they come from, you can understand better the behaviours and we have a better chance of addressing them.
We do support the capacity development of indigenous organizations. We need to do some of this work, but this isn't the kind of money we usually get to work.
The last thing I want to talk to you about is that this committee could play an important role. We have had a number of indigenous women's summits. We're about to have the fifth one. At those national indigenous women's summits across the country, we talk about how the situation for indigenous women could be improved. We've made tons and tons of recommendations. It's a federal, provincial and territorial process, but nobody monitors the implementation of the agreement. You could play a very important role in strategically talking about ending violence against not just girls and young women but indigenous women by monitoring that. If you said every once in a while you wanted to know the kind of progress being made on these things and what is being done, it might make it easier to integrate what is being done. You would play an important role in having the provinces and the federal government actually talk to each other, and not just talk but perhaps be accountable for something for a change.
I'll leave my remarks there.
Greetings form British Columbia. Thank you so much for inviting me to be part of the call today.
I bring regrets and regards from Tracy Porteous, the executive director of the Ending Violence Association of BC. She is in Ireland today speaking about our program. I got to come to this square room with a TV, and she got to travel to Ireland, but I'm delighted to be here to discuss an honour for our organization, the BC Lions Football Club, to be involved with over the last six years. I want to talk a little about how it started, because this truly is a partnership.
Tracy approached the BC Lions organization about an idea she had. In some ways, I was saying it was crazy, but she thought the way to help change the situation of violence against women was to get men involved, and in particular, sports icons and these gruff rough-and-tumble football players.
She came up with this concept because the vast majority of the work to date had been done by women's organizations: how do we help the victims; how do we keep them safe; how do we teach them the warning signs; how do we deal with victims after something terrible has happened; how do we bring back their identity and their confidence; how do we deal with the perpetrators? All that work has been done.
All this wonderful work was being done by women and women's organizations, but the voice of men was missing. This issue had been seen as a women's issue for so many years, when in fact it's a men's issue because men are committing the vast majority of this crime.
She came to us with this idea that we as athletes could use our platform and our voice to help speak to men specifically and boys about what gender violence is and about how we can be part of the solution. That's where the idea evolved.
Tracy always says that we jumped on board right away, but there was much discussion. Obviously, it was a big risk for our organization. If we look at the history and the future of our organization, there is going to be a time when somebody screws up, when a player or someone in our organization does something in a negative way as it relates to violence against women, and we will be sticking our neck out waiting for the axe to come down.
As our leadership said, there is a need in our community. We have an opportunity to make a difference, so we're going to. We're going to deal with any issue that comes up, and we'll deal with it appropriately. We won't hide from it. But we have an opportunity to make a difference, and we want to be part of the solution. That's how it all started.
Anyway, what exactly are we doing? Our program is called Be More Than a Bystander. It's about two things. It's about entering into the conversation. No one was speaking about violence against women. This conversation wasn't happening. It's not something that men talk about. If you bring up the topic in a room, men will go completely silent. There is a need for the conversation, and there is also a need for the call to action and for action. That's what the Be More Than a Bystander program is all about.
While the vast majority of the crimes are being committed by men, the vast majority of men aren't perpetrators. Many of us have friends or have been witnesses to off-putting jokes or negative attitudes about women, or we may know someone, maybe a friend, who is struggling in their relationship, and we don't do anything about it, because we don't know how to. We don't want to get involved. We don't feel it's our place. That's the challenge. How can we get the vast majority of men, who are good men, kind men, to take action and get involved in the conversation, in the solution, rather than being part of the problem? By being silent, we're saying that what's happening is okay.
We wanted to be more than a bystander. We wanted to break the silence on violence against women. That's what we're doing. We're doing it in three ways.
One, we have presentations primarily at the high school level throughout the province of British Columbia. Our players go into the schools and speak to hundreds, sometimes thousands, of students about the issues: what's happening, what the facts are, what the statistics are, what it might look like in their school or their community, and then about how they can be part of the solution, some simple things they can do to be more than a bystander if they witness something. That's the presentation part of what we do.
Two, there is the advertising and promotion, the public service element, in which we have our players on television and radio and in the stadium promoting the message of being more than a bystander and talking about simple ways that we can get involved in a positive way and trying to raise the awareness and get more people to engage in the conversation.
Finally, three, we were able to create a legacy film, which was distributed throughout the province to all of the high schools and a number of the organizations that deal with violence against women, so that we have a resource that will live on when we're no longer around. The program has been an outstanding success.
That's what we're doing. I'll give you some of the numbers.
We've reached over 86,000 students across the province through our presentations over the last five years, and we're going into our sixth year in the program. That's a huge number. We're proud to say that the students are very willing to enter into this conversation. There is a huge hunger for this conversation amongst the students. We've also had over 500 million impressions—and thank God I didn't have to be the one counting them—with our publicity ads, our radio ads, our website stuff, and the hits on our web and on EVA's web, so we're having a lot of success in terms of getting the message out there as well.
I think one of the key measures of success is that we are getting inquiries from a whole lot of other organizations to help them create Be More Than a Bystander programs in their organizations, whether it be British Columbia Institute of Technology, Simon Fraser University, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers or Saskatchewan Football, to name a few of the organizations that we work with, along with the Ending Violence Association of BC, to help them develop their own program to spread the message. We know it's working because people are really interested in what we're doing and the success that we're having in getting the message out.
Certainly we haven't done it without help. Status of Women Canada, the federal government, the province, and even the corporate community, through such organizations as Encana, as well as the unions, and the BC Federation of Labour have been partners. We also have the municipal partners, the City of Surrey and the City of Vancouver. Without their support, there's no way we could do the program.
Tracy spoke to the United Nations. As I mentioned, she's in Ireland. We won a B.C. Association of Broadcasters award, which awarded us, I think, $2 million in free advertising. That really helped us. We've had a whole a bunch of successes in terms of the program itself.
I would say that some of the challenges really relate to the resources that we have to spread around. As I always remind Tracy, while she is a non-profit organization focused on ending violence against women, we're actually a professional football organization focused on winning championships and providing outstanding entertainment. It is challenging our resources. Certainly I would say one of the main concerns we have is with long-term funding for the program. The way we look at it with Tracy, we have to treat this like anti-smoking or drinking and driving. It's going to take years and decades to change attitudes, to change behaviours. Unfortunately, with the process as I know it, you're running a two- or three-year grant, but then, when it's over and you've done all this great work and you have all this sweat work to do, you can no longer apply for the same program, so we have to come up with some unique twists and turns. Maybe that's something you guys can really help with. Is there a place for long-term funding? I do believe that's what it's going to take to change this over the long term.
At the end of the day, this program is all about leadership. I will ask those of you in the room, just by a show of hands, how many of you have a woman in your life that you care about. Really, that's what it's all about. It's not about men coming to the rescue. That's not what it's about. It's about us joining forces with women in a partnership to create a change, to create a solution. I think that's really what the Be More Than a Bystander program is all about. I want to stress how important that partnership really is.
That is one of my main concerns as the director of community relations. We aren't experts on gender violence; we're experts at playing football, and yet we've learned a lot, and with the guidance of EVA BC, we've been able to get the message out. I think it works because of that partnership. For whatever reason, children and young men will listen to us. Perhaps their teacher told them or their parents told them or someone else told them the same message and they never heard it, but they finally heard it when we said it, because for some reason they put us on a pedestal.
Once again, it's been an outstanding six years—we're going on six years—and I thank you for allowing me to speak about it today.
We try to do the kinds of things that Jamie does.
We talk about that we have it, and a few brave people will come forward. Usually they're ready. They maybe have already turned themselves into a kind man, but they want to understand where all this history comes from. We have cultural events. We serve food.
People come to us through court referrals, particularly where the crown will agree. These aren't diversions per se, but in our province we have something called a partner assault response system where people agree to do certain things. Some people are court ordered, and it's a little bit harder to work with them. That's the difference between a 12-week program and a 16-week program, right? I have to convince you a little bit more.
We have people who have picked up the phone to disclose and talk about it, and they go through one to one. They'll come more formally into the program and eventually participate.
We have groups of students at university who are really keen, and in our youth groups, they want to do something different. These people are peer mentors or peer counsellors, peer support, and want to do it. I think people come in all kinds of ways.
We have women involved in healing and wellness programs. If they are with their partner, it's not unknown to us, and Kizhaay will reach out and offer supports. There are things that like it or not are public secrets. There are places where people can go.
They tell me in some small communities it's hanging out at the Tim Hortons, that eventually everybody will come through and you can chat with somebody.
People who open the door for these first steps are really important people, and how they're trained and their orientation becomes really important as well.
When I responded to the question about the root causes, those causes are different for us. Canada as a whole did not experience something called the Indian residential schools because guess what it's name was: Indian residential schools. It wasn't called something else.
The displacement from the land, the Indian Act, all these things are unique to our community, as is the land, as is the language. The fact that we chose a title, which is translatable...we've done some work in British Columbia recently, and they don't have any problems using the language that is appropriate to them with the same concepts.
For us, it is an early intervention with respect to identity. It is the loss of identity through a variety of attacks that we believe have displaced them. If I can use my own cosmology as a Mohawk woman, our own sense of saying Skennen'kó:wa is a part of a greeting. It means “is the great peace with you”. If somebody's beating you up, guess what: the great peace isn't there. If you are using your fists or sexual violence against women, guess what: the great peace isn't with you.
For us, on those kinds of notions that come, some of our elders and traditional people, some of our philosophies, might argue that we're waking up our blood memories. We're going back, and as part of our recovery we see ourselves and understand ourselves differently, understanding why you're just pissed off. I don't know if those are polite words for your committee, but you're all human beings.
Those are important notions for us. It's not that I don't think they are for everybody else, but we have a different twist to it. A lot of our recovery, a lot of our sobriety, a lot of the issues in terms of dealing with all kinds of addictions in our community, and modern issues such as pornography.... Government will pay for a big satellite in our community, but they don't want to pay for a healing and wellness program at our schools, so we're really starting I think from that different context.
I think issues of when people begin to own stuff, and they understand they can be self-determined, and they understand these things around them, those expressions are often different in our community.
We have an enormous number of children in care, and the kids who aren't in care, 27% are in female-led households, so they don't even have healthy men in their lives to see how to behave. I think all of those created a different pedagogical approach that we need.
I'm trying to use words that aren't—
First, I want to thank you for allowing me to come to speak. I appreciate the previous speakers, but I want to say that I want to live in a world where what women say matters, where women are heard and change attitudes and policy. I want to live in a world where 15,000 women turn out to hear women, and 15,000 men turn out to hear women. That's where I want to live, but that's not my point.
The Antigonish Women's Resource Centre provides support services and programs to women, adolescent girls, and youth living in rural and small-town northeastern Nova Scotia. We bring a feminist lens and an understanding of the complexities of living rural to the work we do with young women, indigenous, newcomer, immigrant, and refugee women and girls. Every day we hear stories from young women and girls about their experiences of being subjected to sexualized violence and the impact it has on their lives. That will be my focus today. Conscious of time, I want to start with the recommendations and then proceed with the context so that they're on the table.
Turning to the issue of sexualized violence, we live in a rape culture where the perpetration of misogyny and the devaluing of women is normalized. It permeates our institutions, policies, and program delivery. Any sexualized violence requires all levels of government to work together and with communities, institutions, agencies, and organizations to address the myriad forms of systemic social and economic inequality that women face. It requires addressing women's poverty; creating a universal child care program; implementing a living wage; improving the response of the criminal justice system; supporting sexual assault centres and women's violence prevention and response organizations, and more. The federal government must take a lead in doing this.
We need to address access of children to pornography. Our recommendation is that we negotiate an opt-in, opt-out system with the Canadian Internet service providers that would restrict children's access to Internet pornography along the lines of the U.K. model, so ask me about that.
End the trafficking of women and girls. Look at the Swedish government's approach to ending the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls. Along with enacting laws to reduce the demand for purchasing sex, and rules making it easier to confiscate the proceeds of crime, it funds comprehensive services for trafficked and other women leaving the sex industry. The Canadian Criminal Code governing trafficking is strong, yet convictions are few. Make changes to prioritize the prosecution of traffickers and johns, protect immigrant and refugee women, and provide women with the services and supports they need to escape, heal, and live financially stable lives.
Review and amend immigration policies and legislation to ensure the secure status and protection of non-status refugee and immigrant women in Canada. Ensure services and supports for survivors of violence are made available to all women regardless of immigration status. Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to guarantee protection to non-citizen survivors of trafficking, including access to services and permanent residence.
Keeping women in situations of insecure status can be deliberately used by abusive partners to maintain control over women. The Immigration and Refugee Board must implement guidelines for gender-based analysis of refugee determination. In particular, the designated country of origin should be ended, as women fleeing gender-based violence are particularly impacted by a system that deems certain countries as safe, while violence of women there may be endemic.
Address the criminal justice system. Until the criminal justice system makes changes, there will be no justice for survivors of sexual assault. As a first step, train police and crowns to work from a trauma-informed approach so they can reduce the re-traumatization of victims, can conduct competent interviews and investigations and increase the rate of successful prosecution, and ensure sentences reflect the seriousness of these crimes as a deterrent, but also to reflect the often lifetime impact of such crimes on their victims and the victims' families.
I'll provide a bit of background.
We live in a small town and in our town is a university, St. Francis Xavier University. Some of you may have heard of it. The population of our town of 5,000 doubles when the university is in session. As a sexual assault centre, we work with a lot of students who have been sexually assaulted.
One in four women is sexually assaulted while at university, many in the first months of their first year. This takes place in a rape culture of normalized sexualized violence, hypersexualization, slut-shaming, and slut-blaming that work together to obscure the act of violence, remove responsibility from the perpetrator, and stigmatize and silence the victim. Women who have been sexually assaulted are blamed and told to blame themselves. Few of these assaults are reported to police or even to campus authorities.
In our hypersexualized society, adult sexuality is imposed upon children and young people before they are capable of dealing with it mentally, emotionally, or physically.
We work with girls, and girls as young as 12 years of age tell us they've been sent unwanted pictures of their classmates' genitals. These are kids. They're pressured to respond with naked pictures of themselves. Embarrassed, confused, and not sure what to do or how to respond, they wonder if it's something about them. Do their peers see them as sluts? They tell us they're asked to perform oral sex on their peers, and to submit to anal sex. You can't get pregnant with anal sex.
Women are slut-shamed and slut-blamed, and slut-shaming is an effective tool of subjugation and used as a justification for perpetrating sexual violence. It removes the focus of responsibility from the perpetrator to the victim. Unfortunately, they have just elected a president in the United States who is a perfect example of it.
Incidents of sexual violence perpetrated against young women, captured on camera and shared through the Internet, are acts of sexualized cyber-violence. Too many girls have taken their own lives after being subjected to sexual assault and sexualized cyber-violence, and we need to take that really seriously.
It's interesting that you asked about pornography. With the advent of wireless Internet tablets and smartphones, children can and do access pornography that contains disturbing, violent, misogynistic images that link sex to violence against women. On average, boys view their first porn as young as 11 to 12 years of age, and this is all as they're developing. They're trying to figure out who they are as sexual beings, so of course there is an excitement to it that immediately gets linked with violence against women.
Scrolling through the Eastlink cable TV channel, children, young people, and adults see listings they may or may not be able to access, but just the listings say things like Red Hot Blowjobs, Teen Girls Next Door, Joanna Angel Filthy Whore, Teens Got a Tight Pussy, and Grandpa's Perversions, and on it goes. This is just on cable TV as you're flipping through the channels.
While many of us grew up in a text-based world, today's children are growing up in an image-based culture, and images impact a part of the brain different from the part affected by text. We will not know for a number of years the full impact that pornography has on the developing brain; however, research is telling us that it is harmful to a young person's healthy development. They're learning that sex is violent and degrading to women. It teaches boys that this is the way they must perform sex, and girls that this is what they must expect and accept. I could tell you story after story after story that we've heard from high school students and university students. In the U.K., legislation was proposed to protect children by limiting child and youth access to these sites. I hope you ask me about that.
I also want you to ask me about luring and trafficking, because we're seeing girls as young as 13 recruited and procured into sexual slavery by predators who profit from exploiting their bodies. This is on craigslist. It's unbelievable and it's, like, everybody's girls. The RCMP estimate that the annual financial gain for every woman and girl trafficked is $280,000 to the trafficker. The younger the woman or girl, the more profitable she is. They're often forced to perform sex acts 365 days a year and are required to hand over all the money to the traffickers.
That's probably it.
Hello. Thank you for having me today.
I'm prepared in French so I'm going to present in French, but I'm very capable of answering in English. Most of my presentation has just been said, so thank you very much for bringing up those recommendations and those ideas.
The Quebec coalition of sexual assault centres, or CALACS, was founded in 1979. However, some CALACS are over 40 years old. We bring our members together, and we provide training and opportunities to discuss issues. We play an intermediary role with the provincial and federal governments. We also speak to the media to educate the public on the issue of sexual assault.
Our centres provide direct assistance to women and teenagers over the age of 14 who are victims of sexual assault. The centres also provide services to the victims' family members so they can learn how to help the victims.
Prevention and awareness are important, especially in secondary schools. Last year, we spoke to 30,000 secondary school students. We also educate and train socio-judicial workers. We're being increasingly asked to take action at the university level.
Our third area of action is rights advocacy.
As I told you, we carry out a great deal of prevention work in schools. With the support of Status of Women Canada, we're developing a prevention program by collecting the best practices established by our CALACS over the years, in order to provide a better prevention service in schools. This coincides with a Quebec government pilot project under way to reinstate sex education courses in schools.
Unfortunately, we don't know what will happen after the two-year pilot project ends next year. We really want the Quebec government to continue providing sex education courses.
Through the program, we also aim to provide training to the people who work in schools so that they don't convey sexist and sexual stereotypes. People who work in schools say that, when they speak about the issue, sometimes teachers—who are usually male—make sexist jokes and take a bit away from their efforts. It's very important to educate school staff on how to handle the disclosures that students—mainly women, but also men—may make after a visit from representatives of a CALACS.
Our work is also innovative. We make video clips for parents to help them reinforce what their children learn in our workshops. The clips also give parents the tools to hold these types of conversation.
I'd like to share a story. Yesterday, my six-year-old son asked me whether I was sexy. This is to give you an idea. It gave me quite a turn, and I told myself that I wasn't ready for this conversation. Fortunately, I work in the field and I have access to tools to help me hold these conversations. He's only six years old and he's already talking about the word “sexy”. I may be too old, but I find that very shocking.
The issue that often arises and that has been mentioned a great deal is hypersexualization and pornography culture. You've probably talked at length about it in your two months of hearing people speak, but it's a real problem. We believe this issue, among others, is responsible for rape culture because it trivializes sexual violence against women and girls. Obviously, and unfortunately, it sends the message that women and girls are sexual objects at the disposal of men and that our reason for existing is really to please men. The message conveyed to men is that women are sexual objects that they can take, purchase and force to do as they wish, with very few consequences.
All these issues make rape culture increasingly pervasive. The phenomenon is blatant. Recently, in Quebec, more and more events have been showing the magnitude of the problem. Sexual assaults have been occurring on our university campuses. Many, if not all, initiation rites on university campuses have sexual connotations. At a demonstration, a young women accused a provincial liberal MNA of sexual assault. The list goes on.
The Quebec government has responded by launching a strategy to prevent and combat sexual assault. It's a good strategy. Unfortunately, it focuses too much on the legal aspect of the issue.
Too much money and too many measures focus on the legal aspect. It's not that the legal aspect isn't important. We want to see attackers convicted and sentenced. However, the figures show that only 5% of victims file complaints. However, very few measures or resources are allocated to the 95% of victims who need support.
That's something deplored by people who work in the field in Quebec, including the Quebec coalition of CALACS. Other sexual assault centres in Canada have already mentioned the enormous shortage of resources needed to accomplish our main task, which is to help victims of sexual assault. Half our centres currently have waiting lists, and that's unacceptable. It takes everything for a woman to pick up the telephone, call and ask for help. It's unacceptable that she's told that she will receive help, but only in six months.
We need more resources to help us carry out prevention work in a larger number of schools.
I'll move straight on to the recommendations in case I run out of time. We can talk more about it later.
We're asking both the federal and provincial governments for the same thing.
First, we want them to develop and launch an awareness campaign for the general public that addresses, among other things, the harmful effects of hypersexualization and pornography on women and young girls.
We then want them to conduct an intersectional analysis of the issue that takes into account all the systems of oppression and systematic causes that make certain women more vulnerable. These women include aboriginal women, racialized women, immigrant women, refugee women, women who have a disability, women who are deaf, women who live in poverty, women in prostitution, and LGBTQ women. We want the government to conduct an in-depth study on the impact of hypersexualization, while also taking into consideration these systems of oppression.
We also want Statistics Canada to conduct a new national survey on violence against women, particularly sexual violence. The last data is from 1993. I know the methods used to conduct the 1993 survey were criticized. We want sensitivity to be demonstrated. Women must not be asked questions in the forms or over the telephone in a way that makes them feel guilty. However, we need data to help us carry out our work in the community.
We also want the provinces to be strongly encouraged to reinstate sex education courses in schools. I think something of that nature is being done in Ontario. There's a pilot project in Quebec, as I said earlier. However, it must be done across Canada.
Lastly, we want an acknowledgement of the expertise of community contacts who work each day in the field with women and girls who are victims of sexual assault. We want the community contacts to constantly work with their respective provincial governments and with the federal government. Thank you again for giving us this opportunity to speak.
We want more funding so that we can actually meet the demand.
Since I have some time left, I'll talk a bit about the legal system.
This myth of consent and myth that a woman is always sexually available makes things very difficult for the victim once she ends up in the legal system. These myths and prejudices are echoed by both prosecutors and defence lawyers. We saw it in the Ghomeshi case, and we've also seen it in Quebec recently. We also saw the case of an Alberta judge who asked a young woman why she hadn't kept her knees together. A great deal of awareness needs to be raised. Before that's done, I admit that I have a great deal of trouble encouraging women to go through the legal system. It's a trying and difficult experience. Often, if the attacker is found guilty, he will receive a slap on the wrist. In other words, his sentence will fall short of the crime committed.
There's still much work to be done. In the meantime, we must at least support organizations that truly help women in the community.
Thank you. I could just say ditto for what these ladies said. I don't know if you watched me as they were talking, but I was nodding my head. A lot of these are issues that we all feel, and work towards. I'll read my preamble and then I'll talk a bit more and answer questions for sure.
First of all, my name is Katie Kitschke. I'm the Executive Director at SAFFRON Sexual Assault Centre located in Sherwood Park, a suburb of Edmonton. We're a community of about 100,000 people. SAFFRON provides two core services at our centres. We provide counselling for people who have experienced sexual violence as well as for their family members and supports. Our second core area of service is public education.
When I started with SAFFRON in 2008 as their public education director, we were offering presentations to students starting in grade 10. I asked why we were only presenting to students in grade 10, and the response was that's when the issues are starting. I said that we need to start in kindergarten, that we need to start having these conversations as young as possible. It took me a few years to convince the powers that be, so I was able to do junior high and then eventually move down to grades 4, 5 and 6, and eventually down to kindergarten. I actually had an epiphany the other day. This is not in my notes. I was attending an inter-agency meeting in my community. There's a parent group in our community. They were talking about some fall programs they have about how to tell if your child is developing naturally. They're for zero to five years old. I said that this who we need to be talking to, that we need to be talking to the parents of the zero- to five-year-olds, because that's the piece we're missing. We're missing the parents. We are in the schools, and we have this captive audience with the students, which is wonderful, but the key piece we've been missing is the parents. It's hard to get the parents engaged, especially as the children get older, because it's never their children who are at risk, or it's never their children who are perpetrating anything.
My epiphany is that we need to talk to them in that zero-to-five age range. We need to talk to them about how to talk to their kids about sexuality, how to model healthy relationships, how to create appropriate boundaries. We are seeing parents giving babies who are 18 months olds, if not even younger, iPads. We're seeing children having access to technology so much younger but they're missing that piece of education, because their brains aren't ready to understand it. That's the piece we really need to take on and focus on, that education piece with parents, as young as possible so that those tools—what a healthy relationship looks like and what boundaries are—can be given to our children as young as possible. We have to talk to them as young as possible about consent, and not force them to hug uncle Frank or whatever if they don't feel comfortable.
Part of the problem is that a lot of parents don't know how to have these conversations, and they definitely don't think they need to have those conversations in the zero-to-five age range. I think they do, and I think they need to do so in an age appropriate way. We spend so much time teaching our children how to walk and talk and to have all these other life skills, but we forget to teach them about sexuality. That's a really important component of what we're missing, but I digress. Sorry.
The public education program we currently have goes from kindergarten up to grade 12. We talk to them about healthy relationships, consent, boundaries. We tell the very young ones that if they don't want to be hugged, they don't have to be hugged, and if they want to hug somebody, they have to ask for permission to get a hug. We give them the right tools and the right words to say if they're feeling uncomfortable, or if they're feeling that their power is being taken away from them. As they get older, again in an age appropriate way, we talk to them about what sexual assault and sexual harassment are, because very often we have people growing up in these families, and it's been normalized. A lot of our clients who have come into our centre have said that they didn't know this wasn't normal in other people's families. We have conversations about what healthy relationships look like and what healthy sexuality looks like.
We also provide professional development training. This is really important, and this is also one of my recommendations. SAFFRON is part of the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services providers. There are 12 agencies in Alberta, and we're all part of this group.
We all strive to create an environment in Alberta where everyone who lives in Alberta, whether in remote areas or in urban centres, receives the same level of care. That's one of the recommendations that I think we need for the federal government. It shouldn't matter where people live in Canada. Everyone should have the same level of care.
Across the provinces and in the municipalities, we should be looking at what are we doing, at what is being provided. Are we all providing the same level of care and the best care that we possibly can?
We also know that sexual violence is linked to many other social issues, including addictions, mental health, sexual exploitation, medical problems, self-harm, suicide, parenting issues, poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, etc.
The majority of our clients are not just dealing with sexual violence. The majority of our clients are dealing with many of these social issues. We are seeing an increase in the number of our clients who have mental health issues and extreme mental health issues. As soon as they go to a doctor or to a mental health agency to report that they've been sexually assaulted, their mental health is put aside and they are sent to us.
We need to have better partnerships with sexual assault centres and mental health agencies so that we can provide the best care for our clients. We also need training in the sexual assault centres on how to work with individuals who are suffering from certain types of mental health issues.
As my colleagues mentioned here, we're living in a culture where violence against women has become common. Street harassment, cyber-violence, and disrespectful behaviour not only exist, but are almost encouraged and condoned. I have five children, and my four daughters will not walk on the streets. My daughters go to school in downtown Edmonton, and they are terrified to take the bus. They are terrified if they ever have to walk on the street because almost every single time they've ever had to do it, they've received some type of harassment.
Very often what we see is that there is a perpetrator of that street harassment and there are the people who are encouraging the behaviour. It has become a reality for many people, and not just for young people. I've definitely received street harassment, as well.
We need to understand that this is a reality not just in Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto, or Vancouver, but in communities of 100,000 people and in communities of 20,000 people because it's allowed to be there. There's a tolerance for it.
In the work we do with our clients, we definitely see a lot of cyber-violence. We see cyberstalking and sexual exploitation, and again, it is regardless of where people live. It used to be that people would move to the small towns to get away from the big bad crime and things like that, but now with the Internet it can happen to anyone anywhere, even in the most remote communities.
Disrespectful behaviour towards women and girls is so prevalent in our society. We see it on TV. We see it in movies. We see it in social media. Now we're even seeing it in politics. It's a scary time.
On one hand, it's a wonderful time because we're here talking about sexual violence, and that thrills me, and on the other hand, it's a scary time because we are fighting so much to get to a place where this no longer exists, but we're fighting what almost sometimes feels like a losing battle.
I think that we have to decide as a country that this is not going to be the reality for our women and girls. We need to engage men and boys, as everyone here has said. This is a huge piece of what we need to be doing.
As was mentioned, all men and boys are not committing sexual violence. It is some who are committing the sexual violence. We need to engage those who want to help out and do something to stop it.
Poverty is a whole conversation. I know that another standing committee is looking at poverty issues.
Poverty really keeps women trapped. When women are trapped, it makes them vulnerable. When women are trapped and then objectified and seen as valuable primarily for their bodies, that poverty keeps women in extremely vulnerable situations.
When we're looking at who lives in poverty, we're looking at racialized women, indigenous women, and women with disabilities. We're looking at women who have a really tough time breaking out of the poverty they grew up in, accessing education, or after education, accessing the kinds of employment they need in order to have economic independence. That's one of the factors that keeps women trapped very often.
I'm going to tell you a story.
Two of our staff did a workshop for Mount Saint Vincent University on girls. They were sitting in the cafeteria at the library in Halifax. They overheard a conversation of two high school girls sitting beside them. The girls were being offered money for sex, and the conversation was about what an insult is. Twenty dollars is an insult, so at $20 you're not validated. It's kind of a blow-off, a comment about who you are. The higher the offer of money is, the more you're validated. These are high school girls.
There is story after story I could tell you about some of this stuff, but that is an everyday casual conversation girls are having that was overheard. That's some of what we're dealing with. That's on your question about poverty, but it really is a very clear marker of the way in which women's sexuality has been attached to some kind of access either to men with wealth or to other ways of trying to earn an income. It's a really big question, Sean.
I'd like to speak to the waiting list. As I said, I get a lot of calls at my office. We have a list of all our member centres, and we can dispatch depending on where the women live. I know which of my centres have waiting lists. Most of them are in big centres like Montreal, Quebec City, or Sherbrooke. Most women that call me are from Montreal, and I'll be with them for an hour on the phone. I'm not a counsellor and I'm not trained to be one. I do more of the advocacy work. It's heartbreaking after an hour. The woman had been waiting for months and it took all her courage just to pick up the phone and call. I'm trying to send her to one of my centres, and I know very well that when she calls the centre, she'll get a message on the answering machine saying that they will call her back, but presently they have a six-month waiting list. You can guarantee that woman will never call back and will live with whatever she is going through for a very long time. That's the first impact.
It's been happening more and more because, like I said, in Quebec, it's been in the media a lot lately, so we're getting more and more calls. Right now, our provincial government is in an austerity mode, so they're not financing anything that's community-based. We haven't seen a rise in our funding for 10 years now, which is a huge problem.
Quebec is a huge province. In the whole north of Quebec where there are a lot of first nation communities, there are no services whatsoever. They get little bits and pieces here and there. Our native association would be better versed in telling you exactly what their situation is. I know that even for non-native women, there are no services in the north of Quebec.
In other regions, we have two workers that have about 1,000 kilometres to cover. They don't have the money for transportation to reach the communities that are out there. They don't have the money to be able to go into all the schools, as I mentioned, as much as they would like to.
When we are able to deploy our prevention program, our centres will be scared of being the victims of our success because it's going to be a stellar program; I can guarantee you that. They're terrified because they don't have the resources, and they're afraid that there's going to be too much demand and that they won't be able to go into all the schools. That means all those young people won't have access to those workshops. As we said, it works on their self-esteem. It works on being critical about the images and the messages they receive. It goes with all of that. If they don't have access to that kind of information....
Regarding the question that was asked before about the role of the parents, yes, parents should be role models, but unfortunately, not all parents are the same. Some have a lot of baggage. It's a lot of pressure to put on them and it's a lot to expect from all parents. We don't have the same backgrounds. Some of us had it harder than others. Ideally, parents would be role models. They would be in an equal relationship, where both parents have the same roles and the same respect, but unfortunately, that's not reality. Schools have a big role to play, and that's why we need more funding. It's so we don't have to tell those women that they have to be on a waiting list. It's also to help our youth to question the images and hypersexuality which they are bombarded with and which is in their faces every day.