On April 20, 2021, Jenny made a statement in the house about the need to address the root causes of gender-based violence, and the need for stable funding for the community organizations on the ground doing the work. The pandemic has been a giant wake-up call which should spur urgent and significant investments to address the core fundamental issues that Canadians struggle with. The government must come to the table with community advocates and develop an action plan to address violence against women and provide stable funding to NGOs on the ground. The lives and safety of women are at risk.
Madam Speaker, one year ago, my riding was shaken by the tragic news of a newborn infant found deceased in a portable toilet in the Downtown Eastside. That horrifying incident was followed by a horrendous video where a woman was violently assaulted in broad daylight and nobody did a thing to help.
Community advocates believe that there are numerous factors that led to these tragedies, some of which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but most of which had started long before. They call on the government to work collaboratively with advocates in the Downtown Eastside to develop an immediate action plan to end violence against women and to provide core funding to advocacy groups and service providers. Sadly, this has fallen on deaf ears.
Our social security net is woefully inadequate in meeting the needs of those most in need. Too many live below the poverty line. Too many do not have access to safe, secure, affordable housing. Too many cannot afford the medication that they need.
At the grassroots level, family and community members in the Downtown Eastside continue to lead the effort in locating women and loved ones who are still going missing without any government support for their efforts. Other grassroots and frontline organizations had to resort to crowdfunding when they could not access government funding.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these existing issues and pushed them to a breaking point, which has led to one horrific tragedy after another. There are many emergent issues that have been coined with the term “shadow pandemic” over the years. Rising violence against women is one and rising racism is another. There has also been a sharp rise in gender-based and domestic violence since the onset of the pandemic and quarantine directives.
Anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 700%. Homelessness continues to be a growing problem and in B.C., the opioid overdose continues to kill more people than the pandemic itself. Why is it that the federal Liberal government refuses to declare a national health emergency on the opioid crisis?
The housing crisis has been named time and again as one of the key contributing factors in violence against women, especially indigenous women. Access to washrooms, sanitization facilities and other safe community spaces for women in the Downtown Eastside have been inadequate before the pandemic and the pandemic has made the situation so much worse. Surely, the government recognizes that all of these issues are interconnected and require an urgent, comprehensive and intersectional approach.
On July 28, the YWCA and the Institute for Gender and the Economy released “A Feminist Recovery Plan for Canada”. The report identified that the COVID-19 pandemic is having disproportionate economic, health and social impacts on women. Economic precarity and housing precarity are intrinsically linked. Women workers are on the front lines of the pandemic as the majority of women workers are concentrated in the essential occupations that cannot be done remotely, including health care, cashiers, restaurant workers, cleaners and clerical functions.
As a result, COVID cases and deaths have also been experienced disproportionally by women and 63% of pandemic job losses were experienced by women. For every three months of lockdown, there has been a 20% to 22% increase in domestic violence and the majority of victims of anti-Asian violence have been women.
The pandemic should have been a giant wake-up call that spurs urgent and significant investments to address the core fundamental issues that Canadians struggle with. The government must come to the table with community advocates and develop an action plan to address violence against women and provide stable funding to NGOs on the ground. The lives and safety of women are at risk.