March 29, 2016
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam to moderate Salon 27 panel discussion.
Toronto Women Speaking Up: Life in The City
Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Location: Ryerson Student Learning Centre Amphitheatre (341 Yonge Street), Ground Floor
Accessibility: Location is accessible
Women are subjected to discrimination and violence every day; yet many will stay silent in fear of further violence, not being believed. The experiences of gender-based bias in health care, the workplace, and law enforcement is compounded by cultural insensitivity, racism, and ablism.
The Muslim community, in particular women wearing head coverings, are targets of Islamophobic violence in our city and in Canada. Anti-Black racism is an ongoing and systemic issue directed towards members of the Black community. Incidents of race-based violence remain largely underreported.
Many believe the criminal justice system does not meet the needs of sexual assault survivors leaving the majority to experience further victimization. Sexual assault is common in public spaces including TTC properties. Most female TTC riders are not aware of what the term "sexual assault" legally covers. Therefore many incidents will go unreported.
Aboriginal women are at a greater risk of violence and racism than non-Aboriginal women in Canada. The rising number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is alarmingly high and disproportionate with no resolution in sight despite a national inquiry underway.
Toronto is not a fully accessible city for people living with disabilities. Sadly, 60% of women with disability experience some form of violence in their life time. According to Statistics Canada women with severe/very severe disabilities also experience poverty and unemployment at higher levels than their male counterparts.
It is 2016 – we still have not achieved wage equality. Currently in Ontario women earn 74 cents on the male dollar. Pay equity remains an illusionary aspiration.
Tonight, Councillor Wong-Tam will be moderating a panel with four inspiring women for a night of uncensored discussion about their experience and life in the city. Salon 27 creates an opportunity to have a frank and inclusive discussion about Toronto women's equity, safety and civic participation.
Caitlyn E. Kasper – Staff Lawyer, Aboriginal Legal Services
Terri-Lynn Langdon – MSW, RSW, disAbled Social Worker and Social Justice Activist
Abigail Moriah - Associate Development Manager, Regent Park Revitalization, Toronto Community Housing and Civic Action diverse City Fellows
Jessica Mustachi – Safety Program Coordinator, Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC)
Melissa Wong, Director, Policy, and Operations
Office of Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, Ward 27
Today in one of the most followed cases of the year, Mr. Ghomeshi was found not guilty on all charges related to sexual violence. Before anything, I would like to speak to the survivors of this case and all women who have been subject to sexual violence. While I respect the rule of law and the legitimacy of our criminal justice system, I recognize that sometimes the difference between the legal guilt and factual guilt is pronounced. Therefore, I am of the firm belief that today’s result shall not in any way undermine or repudiate the reality of what has happened to you. We believe you - and we thank you for inspiring us with your courage by coming forward to tell your story and to fight for the belief that no matter how many years have passed, or how wealthy or well-respected the abuser is, sexual violence will not be tolerated in Canada. Thank you for leading the way.
The significance of this trial goes well beyond any conviction or acquittal. Mr. Ghomeshi’s case has sent us all a clear message that there are serious flaws in the way that we deal with sexual assault cases. And of course the problem does not only lie within our criminal justice system. Let us not forget that our criminal justice system is founded upon the principles of fundamental justice as enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. We firmly believe in the presumption of innocence as it is a fundamental human right and indispensable for preventing wrongful convictions and upholding justice. However, it is the time to acknowledge that if our criminal justice system does not adapt itself to the reality of cases like this, its legitimacy will be undermined in the eyes of Canadians. Our justice system gains its legitimacy by being effective and fair; and fairness needs to extend to both survivors and offenders.
This case clearly showed us that our system is not easy to navigate for the survivors of sexual assaults, who already feel traumatized by the experience. We should ask ourselves: How much support and information is provided to the survivors during the process? Are the survivors usually aware of the realities of an adversarial system? Do sexual assault survivors understand what a true cross-examination entails before being subject to vigorous questioning? Do they fully appreciate the Crown’s duty of full disclosure? Or the high standard of beyond reasonable doubt? We cannot expect the survivors to trust our system of justice if it is not easily accessible to them; if they do not know how to use it; and if they do not know who to turn to when they are in need.
Do we need more resources to support and educate survivors? Should we move away from our adversarial system? Do we need to lower the standard of proof? Should the accused be compelled to testify? These are all questions where the answers are not easily attainable. One thing though is certain; the status quo is not good enough and the numbers attest to that.
- 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
- Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police
- Only 1 - 2% of "date rape" sexual assaults are reported to the police
- 83% of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
- 57% of Aboriginal women have been sexually abused
The numbers are alarming. Now, we all have a duty to bring change and our duty goes well beyond the criminal justice system. We have a duty to empower survivors. We should work to overcome the obstacles that prevent survivors to talk freely and openly about sexual assaults. We have to create a culture that allows women to speak up without the fear of being judged by a society that is still filled with stereotypes. We need to instill confident in survivors. They should be able to stand up and talk - not just in courtrooms, but in police stations, campuses, schools, and workplaces. Mr. Ghomeshi's case is just a beginning for us. We should all act.
In the words of the Honourable L’Heureux-Dubé: "Violence against women is as much a matter of equality as it is an offence against human dignity and a violation of human rights."
This week there is an occupation at the Toronto Police headquarters on College Street. While this protest may be new, the call to action certainly is not. Black Lives Matter, community outreach workers, and our own mental health agencies have been telling us for some time that something is wrong. The message is clear to me: Black, Indigenous and racialized minorities, especially those suffering from mental illness, too often die as a result of their interactions with authorities.
We are regularly reminded of the gaps in our system and Toronto needs to work with the communities affected to do its part in making change happen. We can only improve the systems that are intended to serve and protect us by involving everyone in the solution-making. In the hopes of creating the space for this, I invite the Black Lives Matter organizers to meet with City Councillors, Chief Mark Saunders, and members of the Toronto Police Services Board, and representatives from provincial agencies working on mental health issues for an honest conversation at City Hall on how Toronto polices its citizens and how we can do better to save lives. My office and I stand ready to facilitate this focused and face-to-face meeting.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam
City of Toronto Cautions Residents about Responding to Misleading Communications – Toronto Water does not Conduct Door-to-Door Sales
The City of Toronto is receiving complaints from residents who are being given notices such as flyers from independent contractors using door-to-door sales tactics. The notices are designed to appear as if they are City communications about programs and services associated with Toronto Water.
Toronto Water does not conduct door-to-door sales of any kind and does not sell, partner with or endorse any products or services. The public should be wary of any companies offering health-based testing of Toronto's drinking-water quality or claiming to be working on behalf of the City, or notices saying mandatory City programs require the purchase of services or equipment.
Residents are also advised to exercise caution when solicited for any service and when sharing personal information with people unknown to them. Elderly people are often most at risk for these kinds of solicitations. Anyone suspecting fraud should call the Toronto Police Service at 416-808-2222 or the Ministry of Consumer Services at 416-326-8800.
Residents who have a concern or question about Toronto Water's programs and services can call 311 or visit http://www.toronto.ca/water. Residents can also submit certain kinds of water-related service requests online at http://bit.ly/1rUMhZe
Hey Toronto! It's time for some spring cleaning. Gather your friends, neighbours, co-workers and classmates to clean a park, laneway or any other space that needs your help.
Friday, April 22 is the Corporate & School 20-Minute Makeover, and Saturday April 23 & Sunday April 24 are the Community Clean-up Days.
Here's to a cleaner, greener Toronto!