Need more than slogans to address domestic violence

This editorial appeared in the October 12, 2016 edition of the Interior News. You can read or download the original here.

The legislature was set to resume last week but the Christy Clark government cancelled the fall sitting. One of the questions I would have asked the Premier is whatever happened to her 2014 slogan of a “Violence Free BC?” Worthwhile slogan, with very little action backing it up two years on.

That point was brought home once again when I participated in the Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event in Gitwangak last week, part of an international campaign to give men the opportunity to raise public awareness around rape, sexual assault and gender violence. More than 30 men wore red, women’s highheeled shoes and walked from the Gitwangak community hall, along Highway 37 and out on Highway 16. It was using humour to highlight a serious issue – domestic violence – in order to make change. Afterwards, about 200 came out for a celebratory meal, fundraiser and then a candle light vigil for those missing and murdered indigenous women lost on Highway 16.

In 2014 more than 11,000 people came forward in B.C. to report that they were victims of domestic violence, but it is well known that up to 70 per cent of victims of intimate partner violence do not report the abuse that they are suffering. In northern B.C., many of our communities are in a high-risk category when it comes to domestic violence. 

Making change requires legislative and program initiatives.The fundraiser at the Walk A Mile In Her Shoes went to the Northern Society for Domestic Peace (NSDP) to hire counsellors for men on the Gitxsan territories. Similarly, the NSDP Mz Judged event Nov. 5 in Smithers raises money for men’s counseling. Stable funding for that type of programming was cut by the BC Liberals.

And real legislative change must go beyond partisan politics. It was very disappointing that when we introduced a private member’s bill in the legislature in April called the Employment Standards Domestic Violence Leave Amendment Act the Christy Clark government refused to support it. The bill would have guaranteed that those fleeing domestic violence had the ability to take a leave of absence from work, giving them the time that they needed to move their family to safety.

We need real, immediate and lasting change to address domestic violence in British Columbia. Slogans alone are simply not good enough.

– Doug Donaldson is the MLA for Stikine and the Official Opposition spokesperson for energy and mines.