November 25, 2010
Vancouver Sun - Written by Kathy Corrigan
(Special to the Sun)

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. On paper, women's equality is enshrined in the Canadian Constitution; at first glance we have a criminal justice system that should protect women and girls from violence.

But the stark reality is that thousands of violent acts, including murder, continue to be committed against women, overwhelmingly by men.

The numbers speak for themselves: 83 per cent of domestic violence victims are women.

Twelve per cent of all homicides in British Columbia were related to domestic violence. And domestic violence cases constitute the second-largest case type for Crown counsel, after impaired driving. So what do we need to do? …

The B.C. Coroner's Service recently conducted a death review panel that looked at a number of domestic violence murder cases, resulting in several important recommendations. These include better collaboration between domestic-violence responders, improved information-sharing among government ministries and domestic violence prevention and response agencies, and the closer coordination of Crown counsel, civil and family courts, and legal practitioners.

While government accepted the recommendations, there is concern about commitment to implementation. As Child and Youth Representative Mary-Ellen Turpel Lafond pointed out, "These issues require leadership. They require resources. They require improving policy and systems in British Columbia where they don't exist."

Further, government's avowed acceptance of the report does not square with its actions, including the recent cutting of several highly regarded domestic violence programs, including the Langley Domestic Violence Program, the New Westminster Domestic Violence Response team and the VGH Emergency Department Domestic Violence Program.

We need strong leadership on this issue to ensure the recommended changes are put in place and maintained, and we're not getting it right now with the B.C. Liberals.

New Democrats are calling for measures that address the root issues of violence and our system of protection in B.C., including a legislated poverty reduction plan with targets and timelines, a rise in the minimum wage, establishing regional and provincial domestic violence units, and a move to fully funding dedicated domestic violence courts.