Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good morning, everyone. I would like to thank the committee for this invitation.
I will make a brief presentation about the Regroupement québécois des Centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel—or RQCALACS—and then focus on best practices. I would like to mention that I can answer your questions in French and English.
The Regroupement québécois des CALACS was established in 1979 and has 27 members in 16 different regions of Quebec.
We are involved in providing assistance and prevention among young people and the public through outreach activities. We provide information to the media, do research and are involved as representatives with governments. Our main concerns are the cross-sectional approach of discrimination, hypersexualization of the public space, the trivialization of sexual violence, prostitution and sexual violence on the Internet.
I will now address the issue of best practices. I would like to underscore the fact that the 27 CALACS members in our organization are themselves preventative measures for sexual violence and are examples of best practices. We provide an alternative to the legal system because we know that 75% of women do not file complaints. So it is essential to provide them with services that are rooted in their community that can provide them and their families with assistance.
The CALACS provide individual and group assistance services. They also provide accompanying services and can even accompany a woman through the legal system, if that is what she decides.
These centres came out of the women's movement in the 1970s. They developed a feminist approach to intervention that aims to give the power back to women. These centres view sexual violence as an act rooted in the inequality between men and women. They helped to broaden the definition of sexual violence. Now, this definition doesn't include just rape, but also sexual harassment, incest, online luring, sexual exploitation for the purpose of prostitution, pornography and sex trafficking.
However, I must point out to the committee that the CALACS are still in dire need of funding and that a few additional human resources would help us better respond to the demand, to prevent long wait times before women can get assistance and to eventually develop services in northern Quebec.
I would like to mention our second best practice. The CALACS work with young people in schools through sexual assault prevention programs. We talk about sexuality, power relationships, consent and hypersexualization.
We also work with the general public in local communities through lectures and public activities. We organize a day of action against sexual violence against women that is held every year on the third Friday in September.
In terms of other best practices, we have also developed training on preventing sexual violence against seniors. We have also created a guide for responding to hypersexualization. At the moment, we are working on developing best practices for cybercrime.
In addition to direct services and prevention activities, the CALACS have developed what we call a cross-sectional approach to better include aboriginal women, disabled women, immigrant women and women refugees to better take into account their unique circumstances and their vulnerability to sexual assaults. This project includes providing training to our members, but it is also open to other people. We can tell you today that four CALACS have developed expertise for working with aboriginal women.
This year, a contribution from Status of Women Canada has enabled us to create a francophone community of practice dealing with sexual violence that brings together organizations working in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick.
The purpose of the project is to create a virtual library of programs, projects and activities to ensure better sharing. The project also aims to provide a forum for discussing various concerns. We think this community of practices will have an impact on the ability of participant resources to intervene better.
In terms of promising practices for prevention, I would like to mention that Regroupement québécois des CALACS has made it possible to create the Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle, or CLES, which has done a significant amount of work on making legislative progress on prostitution in Canada.
The Regroupement québécois des CALACS is also involved in various research projects at the university level. We mention this as a best practice because it is essential. We are currently working with academics to focus on trafficking and sexual exploitation, which enables us to train 45 trainers who, in turn, provide this training to others.
We also have a research project that deals with the cross-sectional approach. We are also doing research that aims to document sexual violence in universities. We have seen this issue of sexual violence in universities on the rise recently in Canada. We are looking at the need to adjust institutional approaches to this problem.
We are also doing research on equipping the CALACS with a shared program on working with youth. Lastly, we are doing research on improving our data collection system to create a better profile of the women who use our services.
In recent months, during the “been raped, never reported” campaign, we have seen that many women need to talk about what has happened to them. It's an important step forward, but the current media treatment of sexual assaults must be better so that the effort the women are making to talk about what has happened to them does not fall on deaf ears.
We would like the government to invest in a sexual assault awareness campaign. We find that there is a gap in this respect. The government raises awareness about smoking and drunk driving, but there isn't enough discussion about violence against women. The government could explain what exactly sexual assault is and what constitutes consent. Our goal is to fight against the myths and bias to change people's thinking in the long term.
NGOs alone cannot invest in campaigns like this, which are very expensive. We would like to have men speak out during these campaigns, which should be rolled out on television, radio and on social media, as well as in print.
We can't just rely on social media or traditional media to boost awareness about sexual violence against women. We have to be able to reach out to a large audience. We absolutely must respond to the needs of women who spoke out during the “been raped, never reported” campaign. We must do so in a way that makes it possible to reach women in the regions who are not necessarily on Twitter. We must increase our support of prevention and public awareness activities.