Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 35

Wednesday, November 30, 2011
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, November 25 marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day also launched the 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

According to the World Health Organization, at least one out of three women around the world has been beaten, raped or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually being someone known to her.

Although violence against women is an issue that all women across Canada face, sadly, Canadian Aboriginal women are disproportionately affected. Canadian Aboriginal women are three times more likely than Canadian non-Aboriginal women to experience violent victimization.

Honourable senators, this is simply not acceptable. We cannot sit back and allow Canadian women to suffer in our own backyard. During the next two weeks, while we reflect upon eliminating violence against women, we should reflect upon ways in which we can help those who are the most vulnerable in our society.

Over the past few weeks, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights has been studying Bill S-2, which deals with matrimonial real property on reserves. During this study, the committee has heard about the exceedingly vulnerable positions that Canadian Aboriginal women are routinely placed in.

One witness who has been in my thoughts and prayers since Monday is a brave woman named Rolanda Manitowabi, who shared with our committee her personal stories and experiences. She opened up her wounds to the committee to help other Aboriginal women. She spoke of how she often felt scared and helpless when her relationship with her husband became stressful and strained. After five years, Ms. Manitowabi decided to end her relationship. Since she did not have access to the same resources that many of us often take for granted, she was forced to continue to live with her ex-husband, as this was a better alternative than being homeless.

After living in constant fear for six months under the same roof as her ex-husband, Ms. Manitowabi came home one day and found that her keys no longer worked. Ms. Manitowabi and her son were left with no place to go, helpless and scared.

Honourable senators, Ms. Manitowabi’s story is but one example of the dire situation Canadian Aboriginal women are placed in. As a country, we need to unite and provide resources for Canadian Aboriginal women. We need to invest in resources so Canadian Aboriginal women like Ms. Manitowabi can access justice. We need to create safe homes so Canadian Aboriginal women who have been victims of violence have a safe place to go.

Honourable senators, while we reflect on ways we can eliminate violence against all women, let us not forget our Canadian Aboriginal women like Ms. Manitowabi, who desperately need resources to help them run away from violence.