Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Motion No. 444 because we absolutely need a national action plan to end violence against women and we need a public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls immediately. Our party, the Liberal Party, has been pushing very hard for both of these fundamental issues.
I am profoundly saddened that such a motion is even needed in this millennium, in the year 2015, and that such a motion is needed to make the current government act. The motion is indeed needed because the level of violence that women and girls experience in Canada has changed little over the past two decades; that is, the current response to violence against women and girls failed to significantly lower the levels of violence they experience. I thank the member for Churchill for bringing this forward.
Civil society, including the YWCA and the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses, has been clear. In order to build a Canada where women and girls are not subjected daily to violence simply because of their gender, our governments must take a new approach.
Canada needs a coherent, coordinated, well-resourced national action plan on violence against women. This will require the leadership of the federal government, along with the co-operation of provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, as well as on- and off-reserve first nation and aboriginal governments.
The process of constructing a national action plan will be key in determining the plan's success. There are many individuals, organizations, communities, and researchers working diligently to end violence against women. In my riding of Etobicoke North, I want to recognize the extraordinary life-saving work of Ernestine's Women's Shelter, a touchstone in our community, and all of those who work and volunteer for the organization.
The government must draw upon the diversity and depth of knowledge and experience offered by these communities, organizations, and individuals, and the final national action plan must clearly reflect the findings of those communities, organizations, and individuals.
Canadians should know that the rates of self-reported spousal violence in 2009 are the same as in 2004. We know from our daily lives that gender-based violence remains rampant. The facts support this conclusion: half of women in Canada—half—have suffered physical or sexual violence.
I do want to briefly touch upon sexual violence.
According to a 2013 Statistics Canada report that relied upon police-reported data, women aged 15 to 24 experience the highest rates of sexual violence in the country. Women reported 460,000 incidents of sexual assault to social service providers in 2009, but less than 10% were reported to the police.
I have asked the Minister of Status of Women to put the issue of sexual assault at Canadian post-secondary institutions on her next federal/provincial/territorial meeting agenda, as an estimated nearly one in five women are likely to be sexually assaulted as students.
In our country, on any given night, 4,600 women and their 3,600 children are forced to sleep in emergency shelters as a result of violence. On a single day, 379 women and 215 children were turned away from shelters in Canada, usually because they were stretched to capacity.
Exactly when did we, as a society, become accustomed to violence? Why do some men still respond angrily when the issue of gender-based violence is raised? Why does the government respond to a long-standing serious crisis in our country in a fragmented and piecemeal fashion?
Violence against women and girls is abhorrent. It is a human rights violation, with devastating and serious impacts that may last generations.
Each year in Canada, violence and abuse drive over 100,000 women and children out of their homes and into shelters. Women in Canada continue to outnumber men nine to one as victims of assault by a spouse or partner.
Girls between the ages of 12 and 15 are at the greatest risk of sexual assault by a family member. The human costs of violence are incalculable.
There are also economic costs. According to a study by the Department of Justice, violence against women costs Canadian society $7.4 billion each year, including $21 million in hospitalizations, visits to doctors and emergency rooms, as well as $180 million in related mental health costs.
On August, 2013, the Minister of Health spoke at the meeting of the Canadian Medical Association, or CMA, where she announced she would make ending family violence the theme of her tenure. She repeated a similar message at the most recent meeting of the CMA in April 2014. I know her work in this area, but Canadians are still waiting for a national action plan to end violence.
Under international law every country has an obligation to address violence against women. The United Nations has called on all countries to have a national action plan by 2015. Other countries have developed such a model, such as the U.K. and Australia.
Currently, Canada has no comprehensive national plan or strategy to deal with violence against women. Initiatives at the federal level lack co-ordination, rely too heavily on the criminal justice system, and fail to acknowledge the gender dimension and root causes of violence against women.
Although Status of Women Canada lists ending violence against women as a priority area of their funding program, the rates of violence have yet to change. Does this not lead to questions about the effectiveness of the funding models at Status of Women Canada?
This results in underfunded and inadequate services that do not reflect women's lived realities, or effectively prevent violence and reduce impact. National action plans provide a framework for strengthening the systems that respond to violence against women. They establish national standards and call for collaboration between all levels of government, civil society, survivors and service responders. They put women's knowledge, experiences and needs at the centre.
A national action plan in Canada would help ensure: consistency across and within jurisdictions in policies and legislation; shared understanding of the root causes of violence against women; consistent approaches to prevention of and responses to violence; collective pursuit of the most appropriate solutions; and co-ordinated, clear and effective services, and systems for survivors that respect and respond to diversity.
Other needs include: new commitments and clear targets; effective prevention mechanisms; universal coverage of response mechanisms for survivors; review of all justice mechanisms, including policing, prosecution and offender management practices; efforts to strengthen social policies that affect women's vulnerability to violence; support for reliable data collection; and I could go on.
The time has come that we no longer talk about reducing violence against women, but actually end emotional, financial, physical, psychological and sexual violence. To do this there needs to be a concerted and sustained effort to develop a national action plan to end violence against women and girls, with real consultation with those women who are fleeing violence, with shelters and support services, with the provinces and territories. We need a national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls immediately.
It is time for all of us to stand up and say that violence against women is not okay and that the time for action is now, so that no women will ever again face violence at the hands of a man.