Canada’s War on Women
Something’s wrong, seriously wrong, in peace-loving Canada. Actually the peace-loving label is bullshit, merely a stereotype constructed by those living in other countries, embraced by deluded Canadians who’ve yet to extract their heads from the ground. Canada has, like any country on this planet, its own sordid history. Witness Canada’s treatment of its indigenous peoples, still not properly addressed.
Yet in a contemporary setting Canada is at it again. This time the target is, and has been for decades, females. Canadians like to think of themselves as knowledgeable of world affairs (mostly an incorrect assumption); generous in giving (not really; Americans are more so); and intolerant of intolerance (sorry, but witness the vicious treatment across the country of visible minorities, especially Muslims).
When it comes to females in Canada something’s gone off the rails. One would think that in the 21st Century that sufficient progress has been made to ensure that institutions and the community at large has effectively wiped out any lingering notions of the acceptability of sexually assaulting females – and indeed eliminating societal ingrained misogyny. That would be a reasonable assumption. Then there’s reality, the unappetizing underbelly of administrative power, where cowardly, uninformed bureaucrats wield their power irresponsibly. Take a moment to read my recent post on sexual harassment in the RCMP
What’s most horrifying is that one of Canada’s revered institutions has been an idle observer of the ongoing treatment of women: Universities.
Witness the jaw-dropping story that emerged from Brandon University in the spring of 2016. Female students who have been the victim of sexual assault have been forced to sign “behavioural contracts,” which state that the victim must not speak to anyone about the assault except for counselors. Failure to abide by the contract may mean suspension or expulsion from the university.
In 2015, rampant misogyny at Dalhousie University’s dental school shocked the nation with the explicit denigration of female peers on Facebook. The university’s indifferent response eventually saw many of the male graduates securing employment as dentists.
And then there was the early 2016 criminal case of former CBC Radio star Jian Ghomeshi who was acquitted of sexual assault charges of three victims (a fourth case will be heard in June). With the focused criminal defense of one of Canada’s top lawyers (Marie Henein), combined with the imploding testimonies of the three plaintiffs, Ghomeshi figuratively gave the middle finger to the court.
According to Statistics Canada’s, sexual assault across Canada is of shocking proportion. Check out these stats:
• Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police
• 1 – 2% of “date rape” sexual assaults are reported to the police
• 25% of North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
• 11% of women have been physically injured from sexual assault
• 2 – 4% of all sexual assaults reported are false reports
• 60% of sexual abuse/assault victims are under the age of 17
• over 80% of sex crime victims are women
• 80% of sexual assault incidents occur in the home
• 17% of girls under 16 have experienced some form of incest
• 83% of disabled women will be sexual assaulted during their lifetime
• 57% of aboriginal women have been sexually abused
• 20% of all sexual assaults involve a weapon of some sort
• 80% of assailants are friends and family of the victim
Take a moment to read myths and facts on sexual assault.
There’s something fundamentally wrong with the values of a developed nation, one that’s a member of the G7, which continues to allow what has become the entrenched practice of turning a blind eye to sexual assault and rape. That those in top leadership positions appear to be extraordinarily stunned on this subject is shocking.
The closing story goes to my provincial member of the Ontario legislature: Jack MacLaren (Conservative) who, in early April 2106, belittled my federal member of parliament, Karen McCrimmon (Liberal), at an annual evening for men, which includes fund-raising for cancer. However, MPP MacLaren, renowned for his vulgar humor and abrupt personality, persuaded MP McCrimmon to come to the stage (she was tending bar for the “guys”).
MacLaren then launched into a sexually explicit joke which included McCrimmon’s husband, who was not in attendance. McCrimmon handled the incident professionally, and in the ensuing shitstorm that hit the media in the following two weeks she retained her composure, not seeking revenge. Indeed, the cowardly MacLaren merely sent her an email apology, which she accepted, but he refrained from apologizing to the organizers of the event.
No, this incident was not about sexual assault. But it reveals how Canadian society continues to depict women. And what was most repugnant was that an experienced male politician appeared to have no clue that such remarks and behavior aimed at a woman have no place in the 21st Century. Jack MacLaren is indeed an anachronism and an embarrassment to Ontario.
This is the state of the nation in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, where unsolicited sexual advances to female Members of Parliament have been made public in the past. Old habits die hard. And the entrenched history of Canada’s male-dominated power culture dies harder.
The light at the end of the tunnel may be the maturing of the country’s Generation Y (Millennials) when it comes to addressing the treatment of females. Let’s hope and pray.
I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.
– Angela Davis (African American political activist)
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