Women are vulnerable to violence at work

OFL calls for laws and enforcement to protect women from violence

Women should not have to fear for their personal safety or job security because of violence, said an Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) representative.

While Dec. 6 marked 16 years since gunman Marc Lepine killed 14 women at l'École Polytechnique in Montreal, not much has changed in terms of preventing violence against women, said Ethel Birkett-LaValley, OFL officer responsible for women's issues.

“We’ve heard a lot of talk these past 16 years about prevention programs, public awareness campaigns and the need for new laws and strong enforcement but the sad truth is women are still dying,” said Birkett-LaValley.

Women are being stalked by their intimate partners and killed in their homes, in parking lots and at work, she said. She added that the recent death of Lori Dupont at the hands of her ex-partner while she was working her shift at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor, Ont., is a wake-up call to governments, courts and police about the ever-increasing violence women face.

"We must have laws to protect women from predators in the home and on the job," Birkett-LaValley said.

After the death of Gillian Hadley at the hands of her estranged husband in 2000, the coroner's inquest recommended that all employment-related legislation — the Employment Standards Act, the Human Rights Code, the Occupational Health & Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act — be amended to ensure that violence is defined to include harassment, stalking and threats of violence.

"Violence against women is constant and unrelenting," Birkett-LaValley said. "As long as the issue of violence against women is not given priority and prominence, women will continue to live in danger."

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