Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Sexual Violence and Harassment

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses (RN), nurse practitioners (NP), and nursing students in all roles and sectors across Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contributions to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. RNAO appreciates the opportunity to provide feedback to the Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment.

RNAO thanks the many Ontarians who have bravely shared their experiences to inform and give urgency to ongoing provincial efforts to address sexual violence including, It's Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment released in March 2015.

Sexual violence can and does happen to anyone: people of every age, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, physical appearance, and across the ability/disability spectrum. While anyone can be a target of violence, it is important to understand that within people's complex and multi-dimensional lives, different factors and social dynamics can operate together to increase vulnerability. From an intersectionality perspective, inequities are "never the result of single, distinct factors" but are the "outcome of intersections of different social locations, power relations, and experiences.

Summary of Recommendations:

  • RNAO urges the governments of Ontario and Canada to respect, support, and fund Aboriginal communities and organizations in the implementation of the Aboriginal Sexual Violence Action Plan.
  • Respond to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women's report on Canada's failure to protect and prevent the murder and disappearance of Aboriginal women and girls by implementing their comprehensive recommendations as a whole including: the establishment of a national public inquiry and plan of action; improving the socio-economic conditions of Aboriginal women; taking measures to overcome the legacy of the colonial period and to eliminate discrimination against Aboriginal women; and improvements to policing, access to justice, victim services, and attentiveness to the needs and situation of those involved in sex work.
  • Update and strengthen Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy with a detailed implementation plan, complete with targets and timelines, accompanied by substantive public investment.
  • Improve access to affordable housing and stimulate job creation in the process by investing one per cent of Ontario's budget to address the backlog of existing affordable housing units in need of repair and to create new affordable housing stock.
  • Raise the dangerously low social assistance rates to reflect the actual cost of living by setting up an expert panel that includes people with lived experience.
  • Increase the minimum wage to $14 per hour in 2015 and ensure fair working conditions by expanding protections for precarious workers.
  • As those who have experienced trauma "are at risk of being re-traumatized in every social service and health-care setting," it is critical that providers, organizations, and systems become informed about and implement trauma-informed care
  • Provide protected, substantive and sustained funding so that the hospital-based Sexual and Domestic Violence Treatment Centres have the staffing and other resources to provide 24/7 care that is "excellent, appropriate, timely" and "consistent with best international practices and standards of care."
  • RNAO recommends implementation of the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions' overarching recommendation that a new umbrella organization, Mental Health and Addictions Ontario, responsible to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, be created. Similar to Cancer Care Ontario, the Committee envisioned a single body "responsible for designing, managing, and coordinating the mental health and addictions system" in order to assure "that programs and services are delivered consistently and comprehensively across Ontario."
  • Implementation and ongoing revision of the 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum is critical to enable systemic, generational change.
  • RNAO supports investment in "a creative engagement fund to provoke discussion of challenging issues-such as rape culture, consent, gender inequality and social norms-through funding projects by Ontario artists."
  • As part of the larger initiative to transform rape culture, particular attention should be given to improve how the media report on sexual assault through such resources as Reporting on Sexual Assault: A Toolkit for Canadian Media.
  • Although the Occupation Health and Safety Act does include wording prohibiting reprisals by an employer, explicit and strong language to protect whistleblowers concerned about incidents or potential incidents of violence and harassment and other threats to the health of the public would strengthen our health-care system.
  • The Ministry of Labour should review the Occupational Health and Safety Act to include "safety from emotional or psychological harm, rather than merely physical harm" as part of the mandate of the Ministry.
  • As part of strengthening health outcomes, quality of health-care services, interprofessional care and addressing power imbalances, RNAO advocates amending the Public Hospital Act to replace Medical Advisory Committees with Inter-Professional Advisory Committees.
  • It is critical to identify how and why the woman assaulted twice on the steps of Street Health, Zahara Abdille, Lori Dupont, and many other Ontarians fall through gaps in our system and make sure that no others are lost through these preventable tragedies.

Get the full submission below.

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