WAWG Asks if Hamilton Candidates are #UpForDebate

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Hamilton’s Woman Abuse Working Group – a coalition of over twenty agencies working to end violence against women – asked eighteen Hamilton candidates in the federal election questions about issues facing women and only four responded.

Up for Debate is a non-partisan movement to keep issues identified by women on the political agenda during the federal election campaign.

Candidates who did respond

David Christopherson (NDP- Hamilton Centre) and Wayne Marston (NDP-Hamilton East-Stoney Creek) responded before the deadline. Instead of answering individual questions, Mr. Marston and Ms. Schmid-Jones sent a statement (below). The Liberal Party contacted WAWG to ask for an extension, following that Anne Tennier (Hamilton Centre) responded on September 20th, as did the Green Party’s Ute Schmid-Jones (Hamilton Centre).

Candidates who did not respond

Yonatan Rozenszajn (PC), Hamilton Centre
Diane Bubanko (PC), Hamilton East-Stoney Creek
Bob Bratina (Liberal), Hamilton East-Stoney Creek
Raheem Aman (Green), Hamilton Mountain
Allan Miles (PC), Hamilton Mountain
Shaun Burt (Liberal), Hamilton Mountain
Scott Duvall (NDP), Hamilton Mountain
Vincent Samuel (PC), Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas
Peter Ormond (Green), Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas
Filomena Tassi (Liberal), Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas
Alex Johnstone (NDP), Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas
David Sweet (PC), Flamborough-Glanbrook
Jennifer Stebbing (Liberal), Flamborough-Glanbrook
Mike DiLivio (NDP), Flamborough-Glanbrook

Questions and Answers

1. Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women

According to the RCMP, 1,017 women and girls identified as Indigenous were murdered between 1980 and 2012 — a homicide rate roughly 4.5 times higher than that of all other women in Canada. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called for “a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls.” If your party forms government, (a) will you pursue such an inquiry? (b) What are your short-, medium-, and long-term plans to address the crisis of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada?

David Christopherson – NDP Hamilton Centre

We believe one of the most urgent priorities of any government should be to put an end to the violence experienced by too many Indigenous women and girls. An NDP government will launch an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women within the first 100 days of taking office.

We will also work with women’s groups and Indigenous families, communities and organizations to establish a comprehensive National Action Plan to end violence against women and girls, with dedicated funding and benchmarks. The plan would encompass factors such as education and training on topics including human rights and gender-based violence, prevention initiatives, and intensive work with perpetrators.

We will also establish a new era in our relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis, creating a real nation-to-nation relationship and working to close the gap in funding and therefore in services to Indigenous peoples. We will also work in partnership with First Nations and other levels of government to implement the  recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This will ensure that more Indigenous peoples have access to the supports and services they need within their own community.

In the longer term, we will work to implement the recommendations of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Anne Tennier – Liberal, Hamilton Centre

A Liberal government will immediately launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. The process by which it is established will be fully inclusive, designed to find justice for the victims and healing for their families.

An inquiry would seek to recommend concrete actions that governments, law enforcement, and others can take to solve these crimes and prevent future ones. Not by ignoring uncomfortable truths, but by understanding and taking action to deal with the root causes of this national tragedy.

2. Sexual Violence

Many women do not report sexual assault. This includes women in the Canadian Forces, the RCMP, the government, and Corrections Canada. What will your government do to create better access to justice for all women, especially those working in male-dominated environments?

David Christopherson (NDP), Hamilton Centre

We believe that the federal government has a crucial role to play in combatting violence against women at all levels of our society. That’s why an NDP government will work with women’s groups and other stakeholders to create a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women that will include policies to prevent violence and to provide support to survivors. The National Action Plan will address measures to prevent, investigate, and remedy sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women in the workplace. We will also extend the important protections of the Canada Labour Code against sexual harassment to cover interns in federal jurisdiction.

An NDP government will also take steps to end the toxic culture of sexism within our military, beginning with implementing the recommendations of the Deschamps report.

Anne Tennier (Liberal), Hamilton Centre

The federal government must provide leadership to tackle these unacceptable threats to Canadians’ safety, mental and physical health, and economic well-being. The Liberal Party of Canada recognizes that Canada needs a comprehensive federal sexual violence strategy, one that puts forward constructive measures that aim to improve workplace safety, sexual assault, and harassment.

3. Violence Against Women

The United Nations has called on all countries to have a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women (VAW) by 2015. Currently, Canada has no comprehensive national plan or strategy to deal with violence against women. Without a plan, responses are largely fragmented and services are often inaccessible. If elected, will your government commit to creating a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women?

David Christopherson (NDP), Hamilton Centre

An NDP government will work with the provinces, territories, municipalities, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, women’s organizations, and other stakeholders to create a comprehensive action plan with dedicated funding and clear benchmarks.

The plan would encompass factors such as education and training on topics such as human rights, healthy relationships, and consent; prevention initiatives, including intensive work with perpetrators; support for research; tools to address new and emerging forms of violence such as cyberbullying; specific programming for communities with particular needs; and national public education campaigns on violence against women and girls.

Anne Tennier (Liberal), Hamilton Centre

Liberals firmly believe that the Canadian government must be an advocacy leader for the rights of women and girls. We must push for high international standards, not roll back on international agreements that we are party to, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Canada must provide strong leadership on women’s rights and must push for concrete steps that will provide survivors of sexual violence with the support and services that they urgently need.

4. Education

All young people need access to education on healthy relationships, sexual consent, equity, and inclusion. What will your government do to support provinces in establishing these important education programs?

David Christopherson (NDP), Hamilton Centre

Education is essential to eliminating violence against women. That’s why we will work with women’s groups, provinces and territories, and other stakeholders such as colleges and universities in developing our National Action Plan on Violence Against Women to ensure that it addresses the need for widespread education on human rights, healthy relationships, and consent.

Anne Tennier (Liberal), Hamilton Centre

Justin Trudeau is fiercely proud to be one of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who belong to the teaching profession, and his experiences have driven his belief that a key part of Liberal economic policy should be to make Canada the best educated country on Earth. Section 93 of the Constitution allocates responsibility for education to the provinces, and the Liberal Party of Canada respects and supports that division of power.

Our kids need positive and enriching environments in order to learn and grow, yet the tax system does not recognize out-of-pocket expenses that teachers and early childhood educators incur in order to set up their classrooms.

A Liberal government will invest in our children by giving teachers and early childhood educators a new tax benefit for school supplies they purchase to enhance our children’s learning. Like our educators, Liberals are firmly committed to investing in our children. Liberals will introduce a new Teacher and Early Childhood Educator School Supply Tax Benefit, accessible to all teachers and early childhood educators. This refundable tax benefit will be available regardless of income level, and will provide a cash benefit of up to $150 annually on up to $1,000 worth of school supplies and educational materials.”

5. Trafficking

The trafficking of women and girls is of growing concern to service providers and communities across Canada. How will your government (a) address the root causes of trafficking? (b) work with police and community service providers to ensure that trafficked persons receive timely, appropriate, and gender-responsive assistance?

David Christopherson (NDP), Hamilton Centre

New Democrats believe that human trafficking is a serious crime and an egregious violation of human rights. We believe that the federal government has a crucial role to play in combatting human trafficking, but the current government’s policies are too focused on blaming the victim, without examining the larger context or the root causes of trafficking. That’s why an NDP government will work with women’s groups and other stakeholders including police and community service providers to create a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women that will include policies to prevent trafficking and to provide support to survivors. We will also put an end to deportations of victims of human trafficking, which make it harder for vulnerable women to come forward and harder to achieve the conviction of human traffickers.

Anne Tennier (Liberal), Hamilton Centre

The global problem of trafficking requires a global solution and Canada can be part of this solution.

Ten years after the adoption of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, to which Canada is a signatory, significant efforts have been made to combat trafficking at the national, regional, and international level, by governments, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations. The emphasis, however, remains primarily on trafficking for sexual exploitation. Trafficking for labour exploitation is generally not considered as severe a crime as trafficking for sexual exploitation, and there is a high level of impunity for offenders. Victims of labour trafficking are often not identified as such, and instead are detained and deported from the country where the exploitation took place. Frequently, the unique needs and vulnerabilities of children are not taken into account. As a result, the majority of trafficked persons do not have access to assistance or to justice, and the traffickers remain free to exploit others. A Liberal government will take action in supporting the implementation of a National Action Plan to combat human trafficking and child exploitation around the world.

6. Commercial Sex

What is your position on the new prostitution law and what measures will you implement to increase the safety of women who engage in commercial sex?

David Christopherson (NDP), Hamilton Centre

The New Democratic Party believes that Bill C-36 provides another example of the Harper government’s attempt to circumvent the letter and spirit of a Court decision. C-36 was deeply flawed and failed to meet the Supreme Court’s standard. It will not improve women’s safety. At Committee, witnesses expressed almost universal disapproval of the government’s decision to criminalize women involved in prostitution, despite the Bedford ruling. The bill should have been sent to the Supreme Court for review. A New Democratic government will engage with sex workers and others to build a comprehensive strategy to better protect and support women.

Anne Tennier (Liberal), Hamilton Centre

On December 20 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) unanimously ruled that the Criminal Code impeded sex workers’ Charter Right to security of person and gave the government one year to amend the contested provisions.

Harper’s Conservatives responded by introducing Bill C-36, a bill that fails to comply with the SCC’s decision in the Bedford case, namely providing adequate protections for the health and safety of vulnerable people, particularly women. Some experts testified that the bill makes sex workers more vulnerable and prone to exploitation.

Further, the minister failed to produce any evidence that they sought legal opinions in drafting Bill C-36 and refused to submit it to the SCC to determine its constitutional validity. Bill C-36 is a fundamentally flawed bill, which is why the Liberal caucus opposed it.
We are supportive of the additional $20 million pledged in Bill C-36 to help sex workers transition to other work, but remain concerned that the money is insufficient and lacks clear guidelines.

7. Immigration

Since October 25, 2012, Citizenship & Immigration Canada has required that spouses or common-law partners in a relationship of two years or less with their sponsor, and who have no children in common with their sponsor, must cohabit with their sponsor for two years from the day on which they receive their Permanent Resident status in Canada. If they do not meet this two-year requirement, their permanent residency can be revoked. What measures will your government take to ensure that women experiencing violence in the home are exempt from this condition without risk of losing their immigration status?

David Christopherson (NDP), Hamilton Centre

Experts have been very clear that this rule is placing women at greater risk of abuse. An NDP government will eliminate the conditional permanent residency requirement and consult widely on alternative measures to ensure the integrity of Canada’s sponsorship program.

Anne Tennier (Liberal), Hamilton Centre

We will ensure that women experiencing violence do not lose their immigration status by working to provide them with permanent residence immediately in extreme situations.

Statements from Wayne Marston and Ute Schmid-Jones:

Wayne Marston (NDP), Hamilton East-Stoney Creek

Thank you very much for sending us your questionnaire. While looking over the questions, it became immediately apparent that the priorities of your two organizations are also the priorities of our campaign.

For example, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has promised that an NDP government will establish a national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls within our first 100 days.

We will also implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we’ll consult and act on the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

An NDP government will also create an action plan to end violence against women in Canada. We will work with women’s groups and Indigenous communities and organizations to create a comprehensive and coordinated national action plan to end violence against women. The National Action Plan will have dedicated funding and clear benchmarks. The plan will focus on women who are most vulnerable to violence, including Indigenous women.

We will restore the Shelter Enhancement Program ended by the Conservatives in order to expand access to shelter and transition resources for women and girls needing support so that no woman in need is ever turned away.

New Democrats will also eliminate the conditional permanent residency requirement, which increases the vulnerability of women in situations of spousal abuse. We would likewise consult widely on alternative measures to ensure the integrity of Canada’s sponsorship program.

New Democrats have long opposed sexual harassment anywhere, on all fronts. For us, this is not mere rhetoric, but an organizing principle. You may recall that during the sexual harassment controversy involving 2 Liberal MPs earlier this year, the NDP was the only party to propose a serious code of conduct for members.

As for sexual harassment in the military, we believe that the culture within the military itself must be changed and in government we will pursue policies that will affect that change.

Ute Schmid-Jones (Green Party), Hamilton Centre

It is shameful that Canada has no comprehensive strategy to address violence against women, when the majority of Canadian women and girls are victims of violence at some point in their lives. The Green Party supports a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women, which must:

  • Bring together all levels of government and stakeholders to develop a strategy
  • Educate the public about violence against women
  • Recognize the unique needs and risk factors for Indigenous women
  • Provide increased funding for women’s shelters and sexual assault support centres
  • Ensure appropriate services for women and children impacted by domestic violence
  • Revise laws to increase penalties for domestic violence, and support access to restorative justice processes for Indigenous Peoples
  • Establish a GLI, to ensure no woman is without the means to flee domestic violence
  • Establish a National Housing Strategy to end homelessness

With a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women, we can ensure victims and survivors are supported as we work to end gender-based violence entirely.

Our platform document Vision Green also states that Green MP’s will:

  • Reestablish funding for Status of Women Canada and other organizations that fund non-profit women’s groups and advocate for women’s rights;
  • Create better policies and programs to end violence against women;
  • Launch a full inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
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