“Gender-based violence refers to harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. It is rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms. It disproportionately impacts women, girls, and Two-Spirit, trans, and non-binary people."
Gender-based violence can take many forms. Abuse can be:
It can include name-calling, hitting, pushing, blocking, stalking/criminal harassment, rape, sexual assault, control or coercion, threats, and manipulation, some of which are considered criminal offences under Canadian law.
Gender-based violence can occur anywhere. People can be targeted at work, in an intimate or familial relationship, or between friends, acquaintances, and strangers. It most often occurs in private settings between people who know each other. Women are more likely than men to experience gender-based violence. Some groups are more at risk than others, such as:
Women living with disabilities
Young women and girls
LGBTQ2 (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Two-Spirit) people
People in these groups who are experiencing homelessness or precarious housing, whose jobs are unstable, and those who live in northern, rural, and remote communities face even more chances of experiencing violence. For them, support from social service providers and other resources is harder to access.
Gender-based violence does not stand alone. There is a link between women’s intersecting identities (such as those listed above) and gender-based violence experiences, risks, and vulnerabilities. Understanding the layered and complex social factors that put people at risk for gender-based violence is critical to recognizing the full scale of the problem and developing appropriate solutions.
Many causes of violence are historically rooted and deeply ingrained. For example, the ongoing colonization in Canada and its legacy have created both visible and invisible holes in our social safety nets.
Key underlying issues include:
Unequal Gender Roles & Job Access
Women are more likely than men to have childcare or other care duties. This reduces the time they have for their education, training, and personal development. Careers, flexibility to take different kinds of jobs, and the ability to access support are limited. They are also more likely to participate in part-time work or have unpaid work. As a result, women are more isolated, especially in rural and remote areas. Isolation increases their reliance on men’s/partner’s and/or other incomes, increasing their chances of staying in a violent relationship or taking on jobs that are typically unsafe for women+, such as in mining camps where there is a greater risk of gender-based violence (Dale, Maki & Nitia, 2021).
Low Income Inequalities
People with low incomes often can’t afford to pay lawyers, court registration, processing fees, or other expenses involved in their recovery and justice journeys, resulting in fewer cases being reported. Compounding these barriers, there is often an inability to take time off or away from work, particularly in part-time, precarious positions (Canadian Women’s Foundation; Dale, Maki, Nitia, 2021).
Patriarchal Norms, Values, & Beliefs
Patriarchal norms, values, and beliefs place men, in particular white men, in positions of greater privilege and power in society. Systemic racism, misogyny, discrimination, inequalities, and racialized sexism are engrained in such norms, values, and belief systems (Ozaki, Otis, 2016).
Lack of Monitoring & Evaluation
There is a lack of appropriate, efficient mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating gender-based violence policies and practices, leading to a gap between policy and its implementation (Dale, Maki, Nitia, 2021).
Lacking Priority within Systems of Support
Gender-based violence is often not considered a severe health risk. That means it is given fewer human and economic resources within our healthcare, legal, and social systems. We end up with fewer nurse practitioners, therapists, women’s shelters, law enforcement, legal aid services, and community centres, partcularly in rural and remote spaces. Funds are slow to arrive and systems are hard to navigate for victims of violence (Dale, Maki, Nitia, 2021).
Persistent Stigma and Culture of Rape
Social stigma, victim-blaming, and persistent rape culture mean people who are targets of gender-based violence are less likely to come forward about their experiences for fear of repercussions or not being believed (Arnold, Clark, and Cooley, 2011; Moorcroft, 2011 ).
Majority of Cases Go Unreported
Across Canada, the majority (83%) of incidents of sexualized assault are not reported to the police (Department of Justice, 2019). Many women in the North, particularly Indigenous women, have deep-seated distrust in the RCMP and in other formal protective/justice structures. They may not report incidents of abuse for fear of not being believed or taken seriously., having had prior experiences of being blamed for their abuse. They may have lacked family support or felt ashamed, or embarrassed. They may have not believed that formal reporting routes would adequately address or improve their situation, or worried that they would not receive the assistance they required, and/or may have been unaware of when or how to report abuse (Department of Justice, 2019; Northcott, 2013; Arnold, Clark, & Cooley, 2011).
Lowest Conviction Rape of Violent Crimes
Sexualized assault cases have the lowest conviction rate, whens compared to other charges that reach the courts (Department of Justice, 2019; Johnson, 2012). Critics have noted that low conviction rates contribute to the perpetuation of myths related to sexualized assault, namely that women lie (Johnson, 2012).
Arnold, A, Clark, P, & Cooley, D.Sharing common ground final report - Review of Yukon's police force. 2011,
Dale, A, Maki, K & Nitia,R.A Report to Guide the implementation of a National Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Gender-Based Violence. 2021.
Department of Justice. Just facts - Sexual assault. 2019.
Johnson, H. Limits of a criminal justice response: Trends in police and court processing of sexual assault. In: Sheehy, EA. Sexual assault in Canada. University of Ottawa Press Series. Ottawa, ON; 2012.p. 613-634
Moorcroft, L. If my life depended on it. Submission to Review of Yukon‟s Police Force 2010. 2011.
Northcott, M. A survey of sexual assault survivors. Victims of Crime Research Digest, 6: 12-19. 2013.
WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE YUKON?
Violence Against Women is Higher in the North
In 2011, the Yukon had four times the national rate of violence against women and 3.5 times the provincial average for sexual offences against women. Trans-identified folks also experience higher rates of gender-based violence (Canadian Women's Foundation, 2021). Reasons for higher northern rates include: - Impacts of systemic discrimination against Indigenous people through residential schools and colonization - A younger average population and a high proportion of people self-reporting Indigeneity in the North than in the South - Lower educational attainment (Status of Women, archived Statistics Canada report, 2012).
Issues of Confidentiality
In small communities confidentiality can be difficult or impossible, further complicating women’s access to justice and safety (United Nations Office of the High-Commissioner for Human Rights 2019).
Rural life and Lack of Transportation and Services, including Daycare
There are fewer options and resources in rural communities, with most services centred in Whitehorse. A lack of safe transportation within the city and between communities reduces people’s mobility, leaving them stuck in Whitehorse without adequate social safety nets. This can mean they become homeless, experience gender-based violence, are targeted by drug traffickers, or experience sexualized exploitation (United Nations Office of the High-Commissioner for Human Rights 2019).
More Firearms Use in the North
More firearms use in the North plays a role in increased incidences of gender-based violence (United Nations Office of the High-Commissioner for Human Rights 2019).
Lack of Disaggregated Data
Unavailable information and lack of disaggregated data hamper advocacy organizations’ ability to assess trends, target interventions, and evaluate progress toward reducing gender-based violence in the territory (Yukon Women’s Coalition, 2021).
Canadian Women's Foundation. Facts about gender-based violence. 2021
Status of Women, (archived Statistics Canada report, 2012). Violence against women in Canada's territories. 2016.
United Nations Office of the High-Commissioner for Human Rights. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its causes and consequences – Visit to Canada. Report no. A/HRC/41/42/Add.1. 2019.
Yukon Women’s Coalition. Taxi safety report. 2021.
Impacts of violence are generally greater for women than they are for men. In Canada, every six days, a woman is killed by her intimate partner (Statistics Canada, 2019). Women who have been a victim of violent crime (this includes victims of spousal abuse and non-spousal abuse) may also experience:
more fear of crime;
elevated daily stress levels;
pronounced emotional impacts and long-term mental health challenges such as fear, depression, anxiety, and anger, often resulting in increased use of medication, alcohol or other drugs to cope; and
physical injury, disruptions to their daily lives and fear for one’s life.
Gender-based violence impacts the individual and causes ripples throughout the community. Children witnessing violence in the home are twice as likely to develop psychiatric disorders than children from non-violent homes (Bender, 2004). Gender-based violence costs lives and financial estimates suggest that it costs $7.4 billion to cope with the aftermath of spousal violence alone (Department of Justice, 2009). Ending violence against women is not only a moral imperative and a human right, but is critical to economic justice, world peace, and sustainability (United Nations).
The level of gender-based violence in the Yukon is alarming and unacceptable. The territories consistently record the highest rates of violence against women in the country, a trend that upholds the idea that in the Yukon, we accept sexualized assault as a normal part of life in the North (Rudachyk, 2010).
More must be done.
CALLS TO ACTION
Adopt an anti-oppression approach to systems analysis, policy and practice
Disaggregate data to reflect an intersectional view of the issues impacting women
Regular monitoring and evaluation of gender-based violence policies
Consistent resources for gender-based violence service and system organizations
Uphold and respect people’s voices when they have the courage to come forward with their stories of having been targets of gender-based violence
RECENT ACTION & PUBLICATIONS
(2002 - 2004 / 2013 - 2015) The Court Watch Yukon Program
The Court Watch Yukon program involved observing court cases that involve spousal violence and sexualized assault in Whitehorse and a number of Yukon communities and making recommendations to improve women's experiences of the legal system.
(2010) Yukon Sexualized Assault and Male-violence Against Women: Gaps in Services report
The Yukon Status of Women Council released the Yukon Sexualized Assault and Male-violence Against Women: Gaps in Services report. What the study found were that many gaps in services existed for Yukon victims which made it hard for women to effectively navigate the legal system and report crimes. This report was the impetus for reinstating the Court Watch Yukon program in 2014.
(2011) Sharing Common Ground
Access the report
The report outlined several recommendations to improve citizens' experiences with the RCMP, especially women.
(2015) Together for Safety Protocol
Together for Safety Protocol was signed between the RCMP and women’s advocates across the territory to establish cooperative and productive ways of working together to promote women's safety.
(2018 - 2020) Yukon Advocate Case Review
The Yukon Advocate Case Review was initiated to examine the trajectory of sexual assault cases reported to the RCMP. The aim was to influence stakeholder policy and program changes and share best practices in order to reduce the number of misclassified sexual assault cases and sexual assault charges not taken to court and to critically examine the reasons for low conviction rates and the increasing rate of successful appeals in the Yukon.
(2021) Taxi Safety Report
Taxi Safety Report was released by the Yukon Women’s Coalition which outlined the high rates of violence people reported whilst taking taxis in Whitehorse and listed a number of recommendations for the Taxi Companies, Bylaw Services, RCMP, City of Whitehorse, and Yukon Government.
(2021) Never Until Now
Never Until Now report was released by Liard Aborigional Women’s Society in collaboration with the Yukon Status of Women Council. The report described Indigenous and Racialized Women's Experiences Working in Yukon and Northern British Columbia Mine Camps. The project was a response to calls from Kaska Elders, advocates, community members, service providers and women mine workers as well as the linkages drawn in the final report from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls National Inquiry (MMIWG 2019) between the ‘man camps' that emerge from extractive industry activity and the increased dangers posed to Indigenous women at the camps and in neighbouring communities.
(2021 - 2023) Gender-Based Violence Assessment Matrix
Gender-Based Violence Assessment Matrix is being developed as a response to the Never Until Now project to enhance mechanisms of accountability in Yukon’s extractive industry through the Yukon Environmental and Social Assessment Board (YESAB) process.
Gender-based violence: Sexual and physical assault in Canada’s territories, 2018
End Violence Yukon
Canadian Women's Foundation
Women and Gender Equity Canada
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner
Learn about other key issues impacting Yukon women.
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We gratefully acknowledge the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta'an Kwächän Council on whose traditional territories we reside and do our work. We respect each nation's sovereignty and the long history of land and community stewardship and knowledge that shapes this beautiful place.
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