The 45 feminist demands are inspired by and consistent with 99 Federal Steps To End Violence Against Women written by Lee Lakeman and endorsed by the National Action Committee on the Status of Women in 2003.
The quotes in this document are of the women whom we gathered and consulted with, in February 2021: women who were victims of rape and called us for support and advocacy with the Criminal Justice System, women who were victims to violence and control by their male partner and lived in our transition house with their children and women who, with our support, exited prostitution.
We also consulted with the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (AWAN), the Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers’ and Caregivers’ Rights (CDWCR) and Strength in Sisterhood (SIS).
“Being a part of the group, I clearly saw that this is happening, much more often than you think.”
“I was doing individual counseling, it was helpful, but I needed more, I felt really alone”
“In Rape Relief’s support group, I felt so secure, I was open to being more vulnerable after hearing other women’s stories and knowing that I wasn’t alone”
“I tried to go to church and family but I didn’t feel like it’s a safe place to talk about my experience.”
“I had a really hard time leaving my abusive partner. Connecting with women who were going through it or had recently healed from it was. I felt like it was really necessary for me.”
“When I first came to the Rape Relief transition home, I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was with my daughter. At that moment we needed to feel secure… we needed safety… we needed a home.”
“We needed safety and security and somewhere to get gather my bearings, and figure out what’s next.”
“When you are not from here…and you don’t have any status…and the language… it’s hard.”
“Rape Relief’s transition house is a place of sisterhood and love and trust.”
“When I entered in transition house and I saw the other women it was completely a shock for me and I was thinking: it’s not only me, there are many other women having the same problem like me.”
“For me transition house is a place where I really got support, where women treated me like a normal person like other women.”
“I was practically empty when I came to the house so I needed also support from the beginning to the end.”
“I wanted to leave but I didn’t know how to.”
“I was too scared to leave this man.”
“I just knew that this was not the life that I wanted for myself.”
“I needed a place to stay, I called Rape Relief and that was the beginning of getting help.”
“Lots of women who are on the streets being exploited are disowned by their families and feel like no one cares about them, they feel disconnected.”
“Women need a place where they can connect with each other and all come together.”
“Women need a lot of support.”
“I believe I can have a good and normal life – I just really need someone to talk to.”
Demand 1: Funding for independent of the state, women-controlled, women-only feminist rape crisis centres, transition houses, comprehensive prostitution exiting services and women’s centre in every community in the country [urban, rural, and remote]. Additional funds must be provided to ensure access across language and disability.
“This is unlike any other obstacle that you face in life.”
“After the event, I was overwhelmed with everything.”
“It was really stressful.”
Demand 2: Women victims of male violence must be allowed (even encouraged) to have a support person of their choice (including workers from rape crisis centres or transition houses) while they provide their statement to the police. The policy on this must be clear, explicit and easily available to women victims of male violence, advocates, and the general public.
“My initial experience with the police was really poor. The male police officer came to me right away but he was just not prepared for the situation so he had to call his supervisor, who was also a male.”
“It is so important for the police to be emotionally aware and sensitive to the women who are reporting because this is such a hurtful thing that’s happened to us, it gets so awful. It will be really helpful if they have trauma training.”
“I didn’t really know what they were doing. I just knew that they were investigating but I had no idea what that meant.”
Demand 3: Police officers (preferably female) interviewing women victims of sexual assault should be trained on trauma-informed policing that is consistent with the Department of Justice’s recommendations. They must also inform women of what to expect at each stage of the process.
“It ended up being ridiculous. They didn’t collect any evidence: they didn’t collect my medical records, they didn’t contact any witnesses from the bar, or the taxi company, they didn’t collect time-sensitive video surveillance, and they didn’t contact anybody that I had disclosed it to.”
“It took them over a year to identify the person who attacked me.”
“They reopened the case and assigned someone else after I complained, it still didn’t change anything.”
Demand 4: Police must investigate sexual assault reports diligently and collect all possible evidence in a timely manner, including: statements, footage, and forensics.
“I didn’t hear from the police for almost a year.”
“It just takes years of women’s lives.”
Demand 5: Police must update women victims of sexual assault about the stages of investigation in timely and respectful manner.
“Finally, after a few years of fighting with them back and forth, the Crown Counsel reported that they weren’t going to go forward with charges.”
“If you had told me at the beginning that this was going to be six plus years, I don’t know if I would have reported it.”
Demand 6: Establish a civilian oversight body for police investigations of sexual assault cases. The oversight mechanism should include front line feminist advocates, who will conduct a transparent and on-going review to ensure police carry out thorough investigations that result in appropriate charges.
“The Crown Counsel told me that my case shouldn’t have even gotten that far. Just hearing those words knocked me down a lot.”
“Court date was scheduled but it was cancelled.”
Demand 7: Set a standard threshold of “reasonable likelihood of conviction” for charge approval in cases of sexual assault across Canada.
“Because he wasn’t brought to justice, I didn’t feel like I got anything that I was looking for.”
“Based on my experience, I don’t know if I would recommend it [reporting to the police] to the women in my life.”
Demand 8: Enact due diligence in the prosecution of offences of male violence against women, as it is in the utmost interest of the public.
“He entered into a peace bond. They told me that the threshold for sexual assault wasn’t met.”
“I got a court date and then, it was cancelled. The Crown Counsel communicated with me that there wasn’t enough evidence. Even though there were texts messages and also the attacker recorded it on his phone.”
“It didn’t go to court because the Crown said there wasn’t enough evidence. I did have my friend who was a witness and the police recommended charges but then Crown Counsel didn’t approve it.”
Demand 9: Crown Counsel decisions to stay, or to not prosecute, cases of male violence against women must be articulated beyond the evasive jargon of “not enough evidence” or “threshold of conviction” and be made transparent to victims, advocates, and the general public.
“Why would you go report this if this is the way things are happening?”
“Rape, effectively, is legal in Canada.”
“I don’t think there is a consideration of the consequences of allowing a man who has raped a woman, or many women, to go free.”
Demand 10: All provinces must ensure that all judgements in sexual assault trials, oral and written, are transcribed and posted online so that judges’ decisions in sexual assault cases will be available for public scrutiny.
It is almost impossible for victims of rape to see the man responsible convicted in the criminal justice system due to the burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” We believe men can change. Men are not inherently violent. Men are violent because of the social construction of masculinity and manhood. Men can stop raping and beating women and children. Men can stop killing women. We believe men can change but as a whole, they have not. Until abusive men are held accountable, they are not likely to change.
Demand 11: Funding for legal representation for victims of rape so that they can use civil lawsuits to obtain justice and hold the rapist accountable through court.
“The violence was traumatic, but what was also traumatic was pretending to like my “job”. So many times I had to tell the same story over and over again about how much fun it was to be an escort and how much I loved it, even though I hated it and I hated all the men that came to see me. They disgusted me.”
“I never heard or seen that they arrest johns, men don’t really get caught for that.”
“I know that if someone is underage the police are supposed take it more seriously but even then they’re not really on top of what they’re supposed to do. Because a lot of underage females are being exploited, it’s a lot.”
“The guys who exploit should be arrested. They should be caught. Those guys are worse than you think.”
Demand 12: The Criminal Justice System must enforce the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. Police, Crown and Judges must uphold the law and criminalize men who buy, sell, and profit from the sexual exploitation of women in prostitution.
“I experienced rape and sexual assault multiple times during my time in the sex trade, and I experience ongoing anxiety and stress as a result of my experiences.”
Demand 13: The Criminal Justice System must enforce the laws that criminalize men who rape, batter, harass, and rob women in prostitution.
“The system doesn’t really seem to understand the plight of women and our children.”
“Dealing with family court was so frustrating. It seems like he has more than legal protection than I do. I wouldn’t have gotten what I want to know what I want out of that situation.”
“No one is holding him accountable to anything.”
“I still have flashbacks of it like all the going to see the mediator, just for her to say that I can’t use a mediator because it wouldn’t work. But I did it, I got a piece of paper and all that stuff. During the parenting after separation course, I spent hours online doing that course. The man can just sit there at home and do nothing, not show up to court not doing the parenting course, but you’re expected as the person who left who’s to do all these courses get out and do these things. It doesn’t seem fair.”
All family court orders must first, and foremost, secure women and children’s safety.
Demand 14: Male violence against women and children must be a deciding factor in court orders on access to and custody of children.
“One of my biggest problems is the amount of hours that you get for legal aid. I still need her [my lawyer]. I had my interim custody and the protection order and we got the peace bond from crown. But that’s all over. Those are all expired now, and it’s like there’s some days where the doorbell rings and then like he’s gonna be at the front door and I can’t do anything because I don’t have a peace bond or protection order anymore.”
“It was pretty difficult to get the legal aid at first because of my immigration status.”
“Concerning my immigration status, it was very difficult to get the legal aid and Rape Relief came through again.”
Men using “Legal bullying” in family court to punish women for leaving them. Court orders are poorly enforced and are never truly permanent, meaning women are often forced to return to court again and again to deal with their former male partner.
Demand 15: Funding for women (regardless of their immigration status) to have adequate legal representation in family court.
“The sponsor thinks I sponsor her, so she is my slave. It shouldn’t be like that.”
Demand 16: Sponsored women must be provided with information (in her own language) regarding her rights in Canada and local anti-violence women’s organizations.
Demand 17: Translation and interpretation must be available for women victims of male violence in all of their interactions with police and crown counsel.
“During the pandemic, temporary foreign care workers are struggling to stay afloat. Some have lost their jobs and are having a hard time paying for their accommodations and basic needs. They face immigration challenges of expired work permits, Social Insurance Numbers, and Medical Services Plans, and of not knowing whether they’ll be processed for PR status. On top of this, they have to find ways to continue to support their families back home.”
“Some temporary foreign care workers are required to live with their employers so ‘workers won’t get the virus from outside.’ As live-in caregivers, they are faced with increased vulnerability to abuse and exploitation but to keep their jobs they have to accept their employers’ condition to live-in.”
Demand 18: Permanent Resident status must be granted on entry for all migrant domestic and care workers. This will allow women workers to leave an exploitative job and make a complaint without fear of reprisal.
The proliferation of pornography further promotes men’s entitlement to women’s bodies. To end rape culture, we must abolish the industry of pornography that is based on, and profits off of, the degradation of women for male pleasure.
Women who call the crisis line tell us that their male partners who raped or beat them during sexual acts were frequent users of violent pornography. Also, these men “recreated” pornographic scenes with their women partners including acts of strangulation and anal rape. Women tell us that men explicitly say to them that the experience of violating and hurting them was “better than pornography.” Women tell us that former male partners blackmail them by threatening to distribute intimate photographs and videos. Taken consensually at the time, these images and videos are weaponized as an act of humiliation and control.
Demand 19: Funding for legal representation for women who’ve been directly victimized by pornography, so that they can use civil lawsuits to sue the producers, promoters, and distributors of that pornography.
Demand 20: Owners and executives of companies hosting pornographic content such as rape videos and “revenge porn” be held criminally responsible.
Demand 21: Companies hosting pornographic content such as rape videos and “revenge porn” to immediately release information about the individuals uploading this content, such as their IP addresses to the police, so that they can be held criminally responsible.
Demand 22: Funding for educational initiatives about the negative impacts of pornography, to be introduced via age-appropriate methods in primary and secondary schools. As well, implement sex education curriculum that is comprehensive and emphasizes mutually respectful sexual relationships.
Demand 23: Funding for feminist educational initiatives that discourage men from purchasing women and girls in prostitution.
“I got on Income assistance but one of the biggest things is the cost of living, very high cost of living. I struggled with remaining financially stable, being on income support and getting Child benefits. With those two incomes alone a woman still lives below the poverty line.. and it’s hard… it’s a really hard way to live… it affects my self esteem, my self confidence…my ability to parent… it affects my child… especially when dealing with traumas.”
“Now I have to choose between or do I pay the bill or do I buy my daughter a pair of shoes?”
“When you are on welfare, after you buy groceries, there’s basically nothing left. You just have to survive and not really be able to live it’s just a survival.”
“It gives men so much control power. I know so many women who have had to go back to their abuser because of that. If they can’t work, or they have a disability it just becomes like a really big problem for you, because you can’t afford it.”
“The $300 extra we got from the government because of COVID, it doesn’t seem like a lot but it made a big difference. That’s pretty sad that $300 makes all the difference.”
“[The extra COVID money] it’s weird because this is a pandemic so you would think like it’s horrible, but at the same time I feel like my quality of life went up like dramatically this last year, just because of $300 extra a month. It’s still not enough for sure, but it makes a huge difference.”
“I didn’t have any money at that time and I saw girls doing it.”
“I eventually said ok cause I needed money.”
“I started selling sex to be able to support myself.”
“I was only 19 years old when I started. If I could go back in time, knowing everything that I know now, I wouldn’t have done it. I would have chosen student loans. At the time I thought debt was the worst thing ever, but after all the horrible things I’ve experienced, I see that I was just a naive teenager back when I made my decision to sell sex.”
“I needed a place to stay. When I got out, I got on income assistance, but you know, assistance is not enough. So I was thinking of going back.”
“Women need money to get out, but just not money.”
Many women in Canada are living in poverty conditions. Poverty and violence against women are two powerful oppressive forces that feed off each other. Poverty, and the threat of it, forces women to tolerate male violence. Women return to, or cannot leave abusive relationships, because they are unable to adequately provide for themselves and their children while on welfare. Welfare systems are set up to control those who are in need and aim to give as little as possible, to as few people as possible. This punitive system of imposed scarcity must end immediately. All women must be protected from economic insecurity.
Demand 24: Provision of a Guaranteed Livable Income that meets adequate standards of living and allow for discretionary spending to enhance full participation in community life. It must be provided unconditionally (i.e. without a means test, without a job search requirement, without limitations on expenditures, without claw backs, without wait times or any other conditions). It must be given to all individual adults in a household regardless of marital status and provide for each child that is in the care of that adult. It must be easily accessible regardless of location (i.e. urban, rural, remote). It must be available to all who reside in Canada regardless of their immigration status (including temporary foreign workers).
Demand 25: All policy and plans to eliminate child poverty and food insecurity must address women’s economic position as they are the primary caregivers for the vast majority of children.
Demand 26: Ensure that everyone has nutritious and sustainably-produced food, regardless of income and geographic location.
Demand 27: Canada’s universal healthcare system must include pharmacare, dental and optical care
“When women decide to go to school is when they even need more support. It is a burden to manage having to do to work and when you have little kids you cannot leave home for so long, and you’re going to have to pay for after-school care or daycare. They need to support women who decide to go to school.”
Many women wish to pursue higher education in establishing their independence apart from men, however, having to hold down a job, pay expensive tuition fees, all while having primary care responsibilities for their children is prohibitive.
Demand 28: Eliminate post-secondary tuition fees to ensure that everyone can access higher education, regardless of their income level or immigration status.
“I was just on income assistance and it’s literally you cannot find somewhere to live on that amount, even on disability, you can’t, you must rely on getting into some subsidized housing or sleep in the car.”
“The struggle of my life is to find housing.”
“It’s really difficult. A lot of affordable housing like BC housing, housing for single moms or families, it’s hard to get into because of the waitlist.”
“And even I include my son’s benefits you just can’t pay rent.”
“I would not be able to rent an apartment on my own with income assistance.”
“I live with my three kids in a two-bedroom basement apartment, and the rooms are so tiny. I share a room with my daughter and the boys share a room and their room is so small so they have to sleep in a bunk bed.”
Housing must be available to women and their children after the crisis, if a transition out of the violent relationship is to occur. The vast majority of women who live in our transition house are priced out of market housing and rely on the availability of second-stage transition houses – with the hope that subsidized housing will be available afterward. The waitlist for BC Housing is years long and few women will ever get in.
Demand 29: Provide women with the means to have safe, affordable, and permanent housing.
“I couldn’t go to work because I didn’t have childcare and I couldn’t pay for childcare because I didn’t have work.”
“I couldn’t find work that would fit the hours that my children were at school and I couldn’t afford afterschool care.”
Demand 30: Ensure that safe, adequate, and affordable childcare is available to all woman.
Demand 31: Institute free public transportation in every community to allow women’s freedom of movement. Women in rural and remote communities must have the ability to leave their communities through frequent and safe public transportation.
“A lot of women are stuck in addictions and they need to feed that habit.”
“There was a big connection with my drinking cause seeing johns when I was sober wasn’t good.”
“You just become stuck and you get stuck in a cycle.”
Demand 32: Provide women with women-only detox and recovery services that are available on demand, have an understanding of women’s particular experience of addiction and its connection to male violence, and that enable mothers to continue their parenting responsibilities to their children.
Women deserve to be supported by women from the “outside” to ensure continued contact with community, an opportunity to speak her mind free from fear of retaliation, and to organize towards a better life for herself and the women “inside.” Security must not be used as an excuse to prevent women from having contact with the outside world.
Demand 33: Ensure that all women in prison have access to independent women’s organizations and advocates in the community.
Overwhelmingly, women in prison have historical experiences of sexual and/or physical abuse. This is particularly true for Indigenous women. As prisoners, women are routinely subject to invasive, violating strip searches by guards in contravention to the R v. Golden decision and the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners.
Male guards abuse the access and authority they are granted to sexually assault women in prison.
“The efforts to keep male guards out of prison was lost long ago because men’s employment human rights matter more than women’s substantive equality.”
Demand 34: Remove male staff from all frontline positions in women’s prisons.
Male-bodied prisoners are being transferred out of men’s prisons into prisons for women under Bill C-16 guidance. Some of these prisoners are in jail for crimes of violence against women and children. Though there has been little public discussion, there are accounts of these male-bodied prisoners targeting female prisoners for sexual harassment and assault. Additional to safety concerns, male-bodied prison transfers affect the programming and security classification in women’s prisons. The concerns of women prisoners have not been taken seriously by CSC thus far.
“Among other things, this individual [incarcerated due to sexual assault offences against young girls] followed me around, told me I was the reason they returned to GVI, and told me that I had a ‘young spirit.’ I could not escape this individual, became very fearful and spiralled into a trauma response with nightmares, sleeplessness and flashbacks [to previous sexual abuse].”
Demand 35: Conduct an external and thorough review of the impact on women of transferring male-bodied prisoners into prisons for women.
The federal government recently implemented Bill C-83 in an effort to end the brutal and dehumanizing practice of solitary confinement. However, many advocates worry about the Bill’s creation of Structured Intervention Units (SIUs), functioning as an expansion of solitary-lite conditions.
Demand 36: End solitary confinement/administrative segregation.
Women are cycling in and out of corrections. Women’s parole is routinely suspended at the whim and discretion of their parole officers in paternalistic ways. There is a clear differential treatment of women prisoners versus men.
“The whole parole system can be very paternalistic to women. A woman had her parole suspended which brought her back into the prison, the reason they suspended it was because she was with a man who they said was ‘not good for her’ and that happens a lot. It’s this paternalistic notion of protecting you by sending you into another abusive environment. Rather than empowering women, they rely on methods of social control. I see that way too often, that women are sent back to prison because they’re in abusive relationships or because circumstances in their life strain them and maybe they relapse and that’s a big reason why women are sent back, for administrative offences not for actual new crimes, they get very creative when they find breaches. It’s about the opinion of an individual parole officer, they’re granted a great deal of discretion”
Two-thirds of imprisoned women are mothers, many of whom have primary care of their children. They are separated from their children and if they don’t have any family members who can care for them, the children are taken into state care. For many children who are put into foster care, this contact with the child welfare system perpetuates the inter-generational cycle of incarceration.
“There’s a whole generation without a parent right now, I know personally at least 20 people who have died in the past year from drugs – many of whom are women. They had histories of childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, being in the child welfare system.”
“There’s not a lot of services for women. There are far more treatment facility beds available through CSC for men than there are for women. I had to wait in jail 10 weeks after being granted parole because there wasn’t a bed available, they only had 2 beds for women and the rest for men. The men are getting out before us because they have more options.”
Women in addiction do not have proper support inside or outside of prison. There are cases of women overdosing when they are released on bail into bail houses in the community. Women are staying in prison longer because there are not beds in treatment facilities to be released to when eligible.
Demand 37: Provide women with women-only detox and recovery services that are available on demand, have an understanding of women’s particular experience of addiction and its connection to male violence, and that enable mothers to continue their parenting responsibilities to their children.
Women’s unequal position in society, exacerbated by factors of colonization, racism, and capitalism are responsible for the imprisonment of women and the steady increase in overall numbers. In general, women prisoners do not pose a threat to public safety and can live in community.
Demand 38: Abolish prisons for women.
“Through colonization, patriarchal/misogynist attitudes have been imposed in our communities and women are being blamed for the violence they are the victims of. The only remedy is to get momentum with women’s groups started and to advance the position of women and to do it in radical way, confrontational ways against perpetrators.”
“I don’t understand why money for Indigenous women has to go through other organizations. They should just give it to Indigenous women’s groups directly. We are the Indigenous women and have that lived experience, we know what we need.”
Demand 39: Funding for grassroots Indigenous women’s initiatives independent of the state and band, to organize and challenge misogyny and men who commit violence against women in their communities.
“When I was working with my Band, I tried to get funding for an anti-violence worker, and they just said there’s no money. Sorry, we can’t help you, there’s no money. And I’m trying to say to them, look, there is gang rapes, there is women landing in hospitals, and I just ended up getting pushed out of my community because of what I was saying. I was speaking the wrong things.”
Demand 40: Funding for Indigenous women designed and controlled anti-violence services [rape crisis centres and transition houses] independent of the state and band.
“Women only spaces in women’s healing. I have been through that route myself. I went to a treatment centre when I first sobered up. I have been sober for 35 years now, and it’s hard to believe from where I came from with the drugs and alcohol that I did when I was young.”
The impact of drugs and alcohol has had a devastating impact on Indigenous communities. Frequently, drugs and alcohol are used as a coping strategy after experiencing violence.
Demand 41: Funding for on-demand addiction treatment facilities that are delivered by and for Indigenous women-only, and provide women the ability to continue to care for their children.
“We’re seen as disposable in Canadian society. Addressing racism has to be a factor in the prevention of the violence against Indigenous women and girls.”
“I have issues with it being ‘Indigenous-led’ and not ‘Indigenous women led.’ In saying Indigenous women, I mean Indigenous feminists who centre Indigenous women’s interests.”
Demand 42: Funding for grassroots Indigenous women’s initiatives independent of the state and band, to organize and challenge misogyny and racism in Canadian society.
“Canadian society give us no options. We’re forced into the poverty that we live in. We’re forced into the sexual violence that we experience right throughout our childhoods and into our adulthoods. Indigenous women experience a lot of sexual violence.”
“I think that the Indigenous women that are forced into that are – they’re not getting university degrees with the money that they gain. They’re not supporting their kids with the money that they’re getting out of it. It’s something completely different.”
Indigenous women must have options to prevent entry into prostitution and the ability to exit prostitution.
Demand 43: Provide Indigenous women with a Guaranteed Livable Income; the means to have safe, affordable, permanent housing; adequate childcare; on-demand addiction treatment facilities that are delivered by and for Indigenous women-only, and provide women the ability to continue to care for their children; and women-only, comprehensive, feminist exiting services that are available on request.
While Indigenous people are only 5% of the general Canadian population, Indigenous women are 42% of the population of federally sentenced women in Canada,. Indigenous women continue to be over-represented in federally sentenced women classified at a maximum security designation. Indigenous women have not realized the benefits of Gladue reports, which purport to recognize the affects of colonization and consider sentencing alternatives to jail, as the population of Indigenous women imprisoned is steadily rising. The application, and fear of, mandatory minimum sentences have contributed to this rise. The disproportionate representation of Indigenous and women of colour in Canadian jails and court rooms must be understood to reflect enforced poverty and violence heaped on these women. There must be release and deferment programs; even in circumstances of gross inequality, these women hardly pose a threat to the Canadian public.
Demand 44: Release all Indigenous women from prison. Utilize and financially invest in existing legislation under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to de-carcerate Indigenous women.
Demand 45: Collect, analyze and publish data about the prevalence and severity of male violence against women and girls, contributing factors to women’s and girls’ inequality and their vulnerability to male violence against women, criminal justice system and other institutional responses to male violence against women and girls, the direct impact on women and girls victims of male violence and the overall impact of male violence on women’s equality and liberty.
Data collection must distinguish between offenders’ biological sex and offenders’ self-identified gender.
Data collection must distinguish between victims’ biological sex and victims’ self-identified gender.
Data collection must include but not limited to the following:
Women in Prison
Latest news, upcoming events and blog posts