OPINION – Ann Davis Transition Society – LOCAL DEBATE – Candidates Answers on Issues that Impact Women and Children

Patti MacAhonic / Ann Davis Transition Society

Chilliwack (Patti MacAhonic/Ann Davis) – As women are half of the population and voters in Canada, and domestic violence numbers have risen during COVID, Ann Davis wanted to provide information on how candidates if elected would represent women and the important issues they face. Patti MacAhonic, Executive Director says, “We are happy to be a part of the democratic process and commend each candidate for standing up for nomination”. Ann Davis Transition Society asked each candidate 5 questions regarding violence against women, a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and ensure access to affordable housing for women fleeing violence as well as coercive control.

Ann Davis received answers back from 4 of the 5 candidates and have provided their answers below.

DJ Pohl (New Democratic Party):

  1. What will you do to help end violence against women? Do you know how often a woman is killed by a current or former intimate partner in Canada?

    On average a women or girl is killed in Canada every 2.5 days – of that (averaging to one every 6 days) this is at the hands of a current or former intimate partner. COVID-19 has seen these numbers increase. The NDP party has a long history of advocating for justice for all marginalized people including women. In 2015, the NDP announced we would create a comprehensive and coordinated National Action Plan to end violence against women and re-instate the Shelter Enhancement Program ended by the Conservatives. Before it was cancelled, this program was vital to expanding access to shelter and transition resources for women and girls needing support so that no one in need is ever turned away. In 2015, we also committed to launching a full inquiry into the large number of missing and murdered indigenous women. Today we remain committed to the implementation of the 231 recommendations in the 2019 MMIWG report and to implementing a national action plan and a Shelter Enhancement Program.

On a local and personal level, I have been advocating for the end of violence against women within the labour movement, criminal justice system and community for many years. Local organizations, not for profits and initiatives are key to addressing this issue in our communities and there is a lot of work to do to create the space necessary to be able to tackle the underlying reasons violence against women is happening. This work must continue. 

  1.  Do you support the National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Gender-Based Violence? Why or why not?

Yes, because justice is a core priority for me. I studied criminal justice academically in school and I understand the large amount of intersectionality in the topic of Domestic Violence. With so many different pieces, I can’t see how anything less than a National Plan could cover the full scope of the issue. Additionally, the NDP have been calling for one for many years and their commitment to action on this topic is a large reason I’ve aligned myself politically with them in the first place. Working in the criminal justice system and with community organizations I know a one size fits all approach will not have success across the country. The plan must be robust and able to include and address all circumstances and compounding factors such as poverty, addiction and mental health. It must also include strategies based in prevention and harm reduction and reparation so we can address the underlying reasons why this violence is occurring and stop it before it starts.

  1. How will you ensure that more safe, accessible, and affordable housing is available for women fleeing violence?

The NDP affordable housing commitments (Making life more affordable for everyday people « Canada’s NDP ) will help as will providing women sufficient job-protected paid leave from work to actually seek out those housing options. Additionally, I will advocate for better, more available transitional, supportive housing by calling for the re-instatement of the Shelter Enhancement Program and working with local, First Nations and provincial governments to ensure our local need is being met so no one is left behind. The National Strategy would also be helpful here in identifying what the barriers to access safe, accessible, and affording housing for women fleeing violence are and how to address them. Though the need for local emergency shelters are dire locally, we must also work to ensure we have the supports and resources necessary to assist moving to stable, secure, supportive housing past the emergency situation.  

  1.  Do you support the addition of coercive control to the Criminal Code of Canada?

Yes. As I mentioned above, the NDP party’s progressive stance on these topics is one of the reasons I’m running as a candidate for them. I was proud when this bill was tabled by NDP MP Randall Garrison in April of this year and I very much agree with his comments at the time stating that physical violence and femicide is almost always preceded by some act of coercive control. In this way I see its incorporation into the Criminal Code of Canada as pre-emptive deterrence to violence against woman. If these behaviors can be addressed prior to escalation to violence we will prevent significant harm and trauma.

  1. Will you commit to increased, long-term funding for women’s rights and gender justice organizations, including grassroots advocates, to carry out their critical work?

Yes, absolutely. If elected, I will do all that I can to secure stable and ongoing funding for our local organizations doing this important work in the community. The health of our community and safety of many depends on it. I appreciate the inclusion of grassroots advocates on the list this is often the path to get the most direct insight and information on what is happening in the community, and it is a path to amplify the voices that need to be heard.  I am familiar and supportive of this work happening locally and in addition to fighting to secure federal funding I would look to assist in working across all levels of governments and first nations communities to support this critical work. This includes opening communication and building relationships to identify the needs and opportunities to support.

Arthur Green (Green Party):

  1. What will you do to help end violence against women? Do you know how often a woman is killed by a current or former intimate partner in Canada?

    l had to engage my wife on these stats as she was also an Ann Davis employee as well as the Drug Addiction Nurse in a Canadian Federal Penitentiary. The only thing I can tell you is these numbers are nothing to be proud of, and obviously more has to be done. I suppose the best we can do, is doing what you are in making our Federal politicians want to be aware of it.. 
  1.  Do you support the National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Gender-Based Violence? Why or why not?

I totally support the concept of the National Action Plan on Violence. Of course every civilized being would. Though I did find it vague in its interpretations. I really believe we need more concrete actions to curb violence and unequal treatment of all gender based abuse.

  1. How will you ensure that more safe, accessible, and affordable housing is available for women fleeing violence?

We definitely need to support and finance groups like Anne Davis, but we need to do it hand and hand with all government agencies. Some of these issues are also related with other issues such as housing, security, and child care.

  1.  Do you support the addition of coercive control to the Criminal Code of Canada?

I maybe a little confused on this issue, as I’ve always understood coercive control as something used by the perpetrators of violence to keep their victims on edge, how this would work on the government’s behalf, I’m not sure.

  1. Will you commit to increased, long-term funding for women’s rights and gender justice organizations, including grassroots advocates, to carry out their critical work?

All government agencies and institutions not only need more funding, but also a real hands on approach. This attitude has been missing ever since the mid 70’s when our provincial government decided to downsize and privatize its crown corporations.

Mark Strahl (Conservative Party):

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address the growing problem of gender-based violence.

Gender-based violence continues to be an urgent issue. COVID has accelerated this trend. Statistics Canada reports that cases of domestic violence increased by over 54% between mid-March and early July last year. According to the Canadian Femicide Observatory of Justice and Accountability at the University of Guelph, in Canada in 2020 a woman or a girl suffers a violent death every 2.5 days.

Canada’s Conservatives believe that Canadian women deserve a real plan for a healthy, safe, and equal opportunity to secure their future. We will take action to end gender inequality and protect the fundamental right to personal safety for all women.

Canada’s Conservatives will protect victims by:

  • Amending the Criminal Code so that it is an aggravating factor on sentencing for assault where the victim is in a domestic or dependent relationship with the person.
  • Adding a provision to the Criminal Code that specifies the offence is an indictable offence and provides for a mandatory minimum penalty of two years where the Crown can show that an offence of assault, assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, or aggravated assault is part of a pattern of conduct with the victim, with the Crown required to give notice before trial of its intention to seek this elevated sentence.
  • Prohibiting those under peace bond or the subject of a protective order from possessing a “firearm, crossbow, prohibited weapon, restricted weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or explosive substance, or all such thing”.
  • Enacting Clare’s Law so that when police investigate a complaint of alleged domestic violence, they are required to notify the victim of the suspect’s relevant criminal history.
  • Making it easier for women fleeing domestic violence to hide their new location from their abusers.
  • Expanding the Canada Child Benefit by $500 per month per child for the first year and $250 per month per child for the second year for women with children living in women’s shelters to help them transition to more long-term housing.
  • Creating a fund to incentivize educational institutions and private sector organizations to partner with women’s shelters to provide career training for the women they serve.
  • Supporting pet owners fleeing violence by working with the sector to ensure that there are better options for women to leave abusive homes without having to abandon their pets.

As dismal as the statistics on violence against women are, we know that they are even worse for marginalized women. Recent reports, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, have identified significant gaps in opportunity and outcome between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

On June 3rd of this year, I had the opportunity to speak in the House of Commons virtually to address the profound, lasting, and damaging impact residential schools have had on Indigenous people, their culture, heritage, and language.

To learn more about Canada’s Conservative’s commitment to gender equality, please visit:

Rob Bogunovic (People’s Party of Canada):

  1. What will you do to help end violence against women? Do you know how often a woman is killed by a current or former intimate partner in Canada?

The People’s Party of Canada wants to ensure that there is a tolerable administration of justice. We will support and empower law enforcement through extra-staffing, enhanced training, incentives, and reforms, so that they can better serve and protect all Canadians. We want to reform the courts to make justice move more swiftly, and we want to empower people to have the means to legally advocate for themselves without a reliance upon lawyers. As for the second question, I believe that of the approximately 650 murders in Canada in a typical year, about 25% are women, and about half of these come at the hands of a current or former intimate partner. 

  1. Do you support the National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Gender-Based Violence? Why or why not?

I support many aspects of the plan and believe that many key parts need additional funding. As I have said, a very high priority of the People’s Party is improving policing and securing justice. I do regard some aspects of the plan to be ill-conceived. Canada has very tough gun control laws, and most gun-violence does not involve assault-style firearms, or even legally purchased firearms. Though I have never owned or fired a gun, I have examined closely the arguments of both sides of this debate and have found the arguments supporting gun-bans and gun-seizures to be quite unconvincing. Naturally, I support interventions when individuals demonstrate that they are a danger to themselves and to those around them, but I think these issues are best addressed through enhanced policing-measures.

  1. How will you ensure that more safe, accessible, and affordable housing is available for women fleeing violence?

We would ensure that more safe, accessible, and affordable housing is available for all people fleeing violence. There are about 8000 beds available for women/children fleeing domestic violence, with over 6000 beds filled on any given night. I know that the system sometimes has a surplus of empty beds, and sometimes a drought of them. There are almost no beds for men fleeing domestic violence, even though they constitute 35% of victims and almost 40% of those requiring medical attention. Youth are also underserved in this regard. By creating additional shelters for youth, women and men, we can equitably support more victims and create additional capacity and flexibility. 

  1. Do you support the addition of coercive control to the Criminal Code of Canada?

In principle, yes. England and Wales have already done so, and I will be interested in studying the findings of the national task force when it issues its report. Police need to be able to bring forward protective measures when they know they are dealing with potentially dangerous situations.

  1. Will you commit to increased, long-term funding for women’s rights and gender justice organizations, including grassroots advocates, to carry out their critical work?

I will work tirelessly to defend the rights of all Canadians and will support measures to strengthen law enforcement, but I won’t be offering any blanket promises regarding specific organizations. The People’s Party of Canada is three years old and is in the midst of its second election. It has not yet presented policies to address how it would approach funding such organizations or advocates. The People’s Party recognizes that it must be diligent in how it manages its fiscal resources, and it is hesitant to interfere in areas of healthcare and welfare because these fall under provincial jurisdictions. Criminal justice and the criminal code fall under federal powers. Programs properly existing within the federal jurisdiction must be assessed, and where these programs are highly effective in meeting their mandates, they will be supported and promoted. Not all organizations are created equal. Regarding programs properly belonging under provincial, municipal, or band-council control, we will work to transfer to these levels of government tax-revenues that they can directly collect and control, increasing the accountability and adaptability of such efforts.

Ann Davis Transition Society provides education, prevention and support services to those affected by abuse or violence. Our vision is to see communities free of violence and abuse. For more information contact Patti MacAhonic, Executive Director at [email protected]  or call 604-793-5003.  www.anndavis.org like us on FB.FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://www.facebook.com/AnnDavisTransitionSociety

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