#VoteWithSurvivorsMB – Manitoba Election 2019

SFCC has compiled a list of 5 recommendations for candidates/policy makers in the upcoming 2019 Manitoba Provincial Election. Each ask is central to current sexual-violence related issues in Manitoba, such as MMIWG, sex-Ed curricula, training for provincial judges, and more.

#1: End the silence on sexual violence and allow survivors to know the outcomes of workplace and institutional investigations by updating relevant provincial legislation.

Over the past few years, public dialogue about sexual violence and sexual assault has increased in Canada, and numerous organizations and institutions across the country are looking to develop and strengthen their internal response mechanisms to sexual offences within their institutions. This being said, while public awareness has increased, the rates of sexual violence within institutions (in particular post-secondary institutions) remain high. Statistics show that as many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted while obtaining a post-secondary education. 

Student advocates and experts in anti-violence work across the country agree that campus sexual violence policies should be survivor- and healing-centered, which includes guaranteeing that survivors have the right to be informed of the outcomes of their investigations, including any disciplinary action. Many students also rely on employment during their post-secondary studies in order to pay for tuition, rent, and other living costs, meaning that workplace safety standards must also include this principle in order to prioritize the rights and well-being of survivors. 

Due to this, SFCC is calling on the Manitoba government to update the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the Workplace Safety and Health  Act (more specifically the Workplace Safety and Health Regulation) and update current sections in order to allow for post-secondary institutions and workplaces to inform survivors of the results of sexual violence investications, as well as any disciplinary action that may result.

#2: Review the K-12 Sexual Education curriculum and commit to implementing a comprehensive, science based and intersectional curriculum.

Manitoba’s sexual education curriculum has not been updated in over 12 years, yet society has changed rapidly in that time. Common understanfings of important concepts such as sex and gender, the availability of technology to youth, and scientific research and advancements in sexual healthcare have changed dramatically. The current rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) in the province are alarmingly high, and Manitoba has the fourth highest adolescent pregnancy rate in Canada. 

Young people are also unaware of important concepts such as consent and have false beliefs about sexuality and sexual activity when they enter post-secondary institutions. A recent survey from the Unviersity of Manitoba (U of M) revealed that nearly 50% of participants identified as experieceing some form of sexual assault prior to attending the U of M, and sexual violence myths (such as “women lie about sexual assault to get back at men” were most strongly endoresed by first year students. This points to a gap in education within the current K-12 sex-ed curriculum. 

Based on the above, SFCC is calling on the Manitoba government to open and review Manitoba’s sexual education curriculum to introduce the concept of consent, include more information on gender identify, sexual orientation, and different types of family units, include more comprehensive information on birth control, safer sex tstrategies, and STI preventuon, and introduce information on common sexual violence myths. 

#3: Commit to Calls for Justice put forward by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that are relevant to Manitoba’s jurisdiction.

While an exact number of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) is not available due to a variety of barriers in reporting and police investigation, it is known that the rate of homicide of Indigenous women is nearly six times higher than non-Indigenous women. The prairies have a higher police-reported homicide rate of Indigenous women than the overall rate in Canada, with Manitoba having the highest percentage of violent crimes against Indigenous women. While the National Inquiry into MMIWG revealed many gaps that require government and collective action, the Final Report called on the Manitoba government specifically, as well as territorial governments, to fund further inquiries into the relationship between resource extraction and instances of sexualized violence and racism perpetrated against Indigenous women at hydroelectric projects in northern Manitoba. Numerous studies from organizations such as Amnesty International, the MMWIG Inquiry, and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada report a correlation between resource-extraction and development projects and the impacts of projects on the safety and security of Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTTQ2IA* people with increased rates of drug- and alcohol-related offences, sexual offences, domestic violence, and gang violence, as well as sex-industry activities. Additionally, 62% of First Nations children in Manitoba live below the poverty line, compared with 15% among non-Indigenous children, identifying one area of persistent poverty and inequality faced by Indigenous communities.

In order to further steps towards reconcilation, and end the ongoing genocide against Indigenous women in Canada, SFCC is calling on the Manitoba goverment to acknowledge and implement all recommendations of the MMIWG-Manitoba Coalition to the National Inquiry, as well as any relevant Calls to Justice identified by the National Inquiry Final Report. This includes entering into partnerships with provincial Indigenous groups and Assemblies to deliver and develop Indighenous child welfare services, work with police to develop an integrated strategy to provide culturally appropriate policing services,  address poverty and inequality faced by Indigenous communities in accessing all levels of education, family supports, and health care through a holistic, cross-ministry action plan, and create legislated standards for meaningful consultation practices and mechanisms for ongoing consent between natural resource extraction industries and Indigenous communities.

#4: Commit to mandating that provincial judges complete sexual violence, social context and sensitivity training. 

Statistics Canada data shows that from 2009 to 2010, 4,092 sexual assault cases went to trial. Of that number, only 1,751 cases received a guilty verdict. In these numbers, we can see that only 0.6 per cent of sexual assault reports moved forward to trial, and only 0.2 per cent of reported sexual assaults arrived at a guilty verdict in court. Additionally, Manitoba has the second-highest rate of police-reported violence against girls and young women in the country, and Winnipeg posted the third-highest rate among Canadian cities, according to figures released by Statistics Canada. Despite the high numbers of sexualized violence and harassment against women and girls within the legal system, Manitoba judges are not mandated to receive social context training or sexualized violence education and sensitivity training.

Currently, non-mandatary sexual violence training is offered to judges by the MB Provincial Court Education Committee and the National Judicial Institute. The training offered is not developed by, or in consultation with, survivors of sexual violence or those who work in the field of sexual violence, and remains optional for judges. A wide range of stereotypical expectations about how the ‘ideal victim’ should act before, during, and after assault persist in the reasoning of some judges, regardless of the requirement that they remain impartial. As judges are vested with tremendous authority in the legal system and in society, their reliance on myths about sexual assault can reinforce and normalize discriminatory attitudes that are already culturally prevalent.

Due to this, SFCC is calling on the Manitoba government to mandate sexual violence training for judges working within Manitoba, prior to hearing cases. Additionally, training should be developed in consultation with local experts in sexual violence in order to develop a curriculum that includes social context, sexualized violence information, and sensitivity training.

#5: Recognize the intersections of surviving sexual violence and accessing affordable healthcare by re-instating international students’ healthcare.

In March 2018, the Government of Manitoba decided to repeal international student healthcare coverage in March 2018 in an attempt to save $3 million. This action affected nearly all 18,000 international students in Manitoba, including the 19% at the University of Manitoba and 5% at the University of Winnipeg. As a result, beginning September 2019, international students at the University of Manitoba will be paying premiums as high as $864 ($288 from Sept. 1st– Dec. 31st, 2019, and $576 from Jan. 1st– Aug. 31st, 2020).

International students face a large number of barriers and risks when attending post-secondary institution outside of their home country. Many international students are also at an increased risk of experiencing sexual violence, which can result from language barriers, experiencing a new culture and social activities, living on their own for the first time, and not having the same sexual education. Healthcare is not only a basic human right, but an essential one – especially in cases of sexual violence. After surviving any such violence, it is evident that the next crucial step for the survivor is to access proper, timely healthcare of any sort they may need. The recent cuts by the government to International student health coverage reduce international students’ access to sexual and reproductive health care, due to the lack of coverage and expensive costs. 

As a result, SFCC is calling on the Manitoba government to reinstate international student healthcare, in order to ensure equal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, and ensure that international students have access to the supports necessary to heal should they experience an incident of sexual violence.