Yesterday was the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
A small vigil organized by the BC Teachers Federation was held in Kitimat to remember the 1989 murders of 14 women in Montreal.
Kimberly Leighton-Santos helped organize the event.
She says it’s important to remember violence against women, regardless of background, still happens.
She has also written a letter to Skeena Bulkley-Valley MP Nathan Cullen.
In the letter she asks that he bring forth a motion for a comprehensive and long-term plan to tackle the issue of violence against women and girls, and against Aboriginal women.
The text of her letter to Nathan Cullen:
Dear Nathan Cullen:
As my Member of Parliament I call on you to bring forward and support the creation of a comprehensive National Action Plan on Violence against Women and Girls in Canada and highlighting Violence against Aboriginal Women and Girls.
My name is Kimberly Leighton-Santos. I am 23 year old Haida, Portuguese-Canadian women and I am from the Juus Xyadada clan. I have lived in Kitimat B.C. for 16 year and I have to say living in the North Coast has always been confusing for me. When I was little, before I moved to Kitimat, I could always tell that the First Nations were different from everyone else but I could never understand why. I felt proud to be who I was and loved sharing what I knew about my rich culture with others. Once I moved to Kitimat that quickly changed. My young peers were not as excited to learn about my culture as I was to teach it. I would often get back handed racial comments like “You’re First Nations?” with a very negative connotation. It was extremely difficult comprehending why I felt shame and isolation for being who I was. I often wondered why I would see some of the Aboriginal adults in my life drink so much and I began to stereotype my own people. My heart ached for my cousins and friends who came from these types of families. I never had the opportunity to understand exactly what had happened to the Indigenous community in Canada until I went to college. I was most shocked about how the last residential school wasn’t closed in Canada until 1997. Once I returned home it all made sense. The adults were drinking to forget, forget the horrible past that they had to endure. Everything that was once important to the Aboriginals were taken away and left them feeling like outsiders within their own homes.
I am now working as a First Nations Support Worker at Nechako Elementary School. I feel so lucky and privileged to be able to teach the aboriginal children from our community what it means to be First Nations and I am honoured to have the opportunity to teach all children it’s okay to be exactly who you are. At times my job can be difficult; my students have to endure very stressful realities. The effects of Residential schools are very prominent within our riding and it breaks my heart seeing the cycle of abuse continuing over and over again. I believe there needs to be a National Action Plan for Violence against Women and Girls to help better serve and protect all Canadian families in need.
One in 3 women in Canada will experience some form of gender-based violence in their lifetime. Not only does violence jeopardize the security and wellbeing of women and girls, it also has a large economic impact on Canada and survivors. Statistics Canada and others have estimated the cost of intimate partner violence and sexual violence at $7.4 and $1.9 billion respectively, including the costs of social services, healthcare, the justice system, and lost productivity.
The federal government’s current response to violence against women relies predominately on the criminal justice system and short-term funding for community-based projects through Status of Women Canada and other departments. At the provincial and territorial levels, a number of action plans related to specific forms of gender-based violence exist, including Ontario’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Action Plans, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Taking Action against Violence initiative, and others. However, a recent report issued by the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses demonstrates that Canada could be doing much more to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against women and girls, finding that many of the current policies, legislation, strategies and plans across Canada lack effective coordination, conflict with one another, and/or have unintended negative consequences.
A comprehensive, national, coordinated, multi-sector response that takes a long term vision and provides sufficient funding for implementation is required to effectively address the root causes of gender-based violence and to prevent all its forms. This is precisely what a National Action Plan on Violence against Women and Girls would outline.
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has urged every member state to develop National Action Plans based on the guiding principles of the UN Handbook for National Action Plans on Violence against Women by 2015. Several states, including Australia, have already begun implementing comprehensive plans. The Assembly of First Nations has also started developing a National Action Plan to End Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls, independent of the Government of Canada.
Learning from the experience of other states, and building on the progress made by provinces, territories, and indigenous communities, I call on you and your party to support the creation of a National Action Plan on Violence against Women and Girls, developed in collaboration with provinces, territories, First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities, as well as survivors, front-line workers and community organizations.
This is a very important issue to our community and our country, which I hope you address to the new government.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your reply.