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Roundtable with Justice Minister Lamatti

On Friday October 16, MP Pam Damoff hosted a Zoom round table discussion on justice issues with Minister of Justice David Lametti and his assistant Morgan McDougall.  Her guests were MP Hon. Anita Anand, Alma Arguello of SAVIS, Andrew Tyrell of the Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton (CCAH) and three members of the Advancement of Women Halton (AWH), Bonnie Brown, Daniela Jansson and Tina Agrell.

Bonnie introduced AWH.  Daniela spoke with passion about the over representation of black and indigenous people in Canada’s jails and urged Minister Lametti to implement the recommendations of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Tina asked that the Mandatory Minimum Sentences, which have been a costly failure, be completely eliminated.

Andrew Tyrrell, CCAH president, discussed the overrepresentation of Blacks in the criminal justice system.

Other discussions included human trafficking and inappropriate sentencing of the Indigenous community within the criminal justice system.

AWH POST-PANDEMIC VISION

One thing is certain; we do not want to go back to the old normal.

This experience has exposed the gaping holes in our systems and institutions.

We believe that now is not the time to cut education, social and health services, ease environmental regulations, or relax labour laws in the name of austerity to help the economy “bounce back”.

Now is the time to reimagine the social, economic, and ecological environment in which we want to live.  If we are really “All in this Together” then there must be a systemic change.

It is time to empower governments to intervene on behalf of citizens.  Our governments have shown that they have the capacity to respond to crisis.  Canadian citizens have shown that they have the capacity to co-operate and to care for each other.  We have the tools and the will to respond with common purpose.

In recent decades, we have seen racism targeted towards many minorities.  We have seen the steady rise in insecure and low paid work, which has left many individuals and families one pay cheque away from disasterWe have seen the devastation to our long-term care homes, and the neglect of our vulnerable elderly.

We have seen how women are suffering disproportionately, most especially where gender intersects with age, race, poverty, and disability.   

Work as the vehicle for the distribution of wealth has turned out to be a shaky foundation for a life of dignity. It has also become apparent to everyone that the essential work of providing food, water, and care for the vulnerable has been grossly undervalued.  We know now that service jobs are essential to society and deserve to be paid accordingly

We need a new vision where the wealth and resources of this nation serve all our people not just a few.

We must reform Medicare.

We must strengthen our income support system and include some form of universal basic income.

We must create a robust social safety net which includes improved labour rights and decent work.

We must ensure a fair taxation system that treats taxes as national treasure to be used in the service of a well-functioning society. 

We must  focus on caring for the planet, safeguard our democracy so that it is one in which all voices are heard and where people are not marginalised because of their race or gender expression. 

We must invest in women by developing universal childcare and public transit, by providing affordable housing and ensuring safety from violence.

We must consciously acknowledge and speak up for the importance of equal human rights for all.

AWH STATEMENT ON RACISM

We publicly recognize the ongoing tragedy inherent in Canadian society where systemic racism exists.
 
Racism is part of our history and, therefore, creates the conditions of the present.  We must work to eliminate its root causes.

White privilege is rooted in centuries of racism and woven into the fabric of our society.  Changing this will require a whole-of-society response.  The voices of those who have suffered racism must be central to bringing about change.  All of us however, have a responsibility to act now in support.

Systemic racism operates through self-perpetuating, reinforcing systems in health care, housing, education, employment, welfare, and criminal justice.  It is incumbent on us all to educate, speak out, support and protest in any way we can.  We recognize that visible non-violent protest is more likely to bring change.

We aspire to be allies.  AWH, as a feminist organization, will always be conscious of the unique oppression of women and girls at the intersections of race who experience both sexism and racism.  We pledge our solidarity with those struggling to address racism in all its forms in Canada and to turn that pledge into concrete actions in our own work.   

Black Lives Matter Everywhere

We recognize the existence of systemic racism in our society and we are committed to eradicating it.  We believe in the power of protest.

At every opportunity, speak out against racism.  Don’t let silence be your stance.

Letter to Attorney-General asking for much needed support for sexual assault services.

The Honourable Doug Downey, Attorney General

Dear Minister Downey,

AWH is a non-partisan coalition of community groups located in the Region of Halton, which seeks to promote the advancement of women by developing and supporting social, political, cultural and economic strategies to achieve gender equality municipally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

As you will know the #MeToo movement has meant that the number of women who feel safe enough to disclose rape or sexual assault and seek support and counselling has increased worldwide.  This includes women living in the communities of Halton.

In September 2019 Statistics Canada released its findings of Incident Based Crime Statistics.  They reported that sexual assault in Ontario rose from 7,434 incidents in 2016 to 10, 634 in 2018.  (These numbers are underestimates, as many rape and sexual assault survivors do not come forward and engage in the criminal justice system.)

In Halton SAVIS (Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Service) offers walk-in/drop-in services, short term crisis support and short-term counselling and partners with community social services to create new and increased frontline resources.

In 2019, recognising the situation of rape and sexual assault survivors, the Ministry of the Attorney General allocated $1 million dollars in one-time funding, distributed to 42 sexual assault centres across Ontario.  This funding (roughly $25,000 per centre) made an enormous difference to the service SAVIS was able to offer, allowing them to hire additional part-time counsellors and reduce wait times for survivors.  However, the one-time funding  comes to an end on March 31st, 2020, with no additional resources.  SAVIS estimates that, as a result, their waitlist for services to survivors will increase to 10 months.

We are concerned that women who are raped and sexual assault survivors will not be given the opportunity to heal and, ultimately, to participate in making this a better community for all.

AWH urges you to:

  • Annualize the $1million in additional one-time funding to sexual assault centres initiated in 2019.
  • Provide stable core funding for community based sexual assault centres that meets the needs of survivors of sexual violence in a timely and effective way
  • Invest in community-based primary prevention.

Sincerely,

Tina Agrell, Chair Advancement of Women Halton