Information on the open letter to federal politicians from Ontario's Violence in the Media Coalition re failure to protect girls and women from hate propaganda


Criminal Code omission endangers girls and women 

News release
Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario

Attention News Editors:

TORONTO, March 6, 2008 /CNW/ - On March 8 during International Women's Day Canadian women will be among those who will be demanding that their governments act to protect them against hatred and violence. "It is a national scandal that the safety of Canadian girls and women continues to be compromised by Canada's Criminal Code," said David Clegg, President, Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario. 

Clegg is referring to an omission in the Criminal Code provisions on Public Incitement of Hatred that results in the complete exclusion of girls and women as a group entitled to protection from such crimes. The omission puts the Criminal Code at odds with Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which specifically mandates that equal access to the protection of Canadian laws be granted to girls and women. Currently, the Criminal Code provisions on Public Incitement of Hatred only protect those identified by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin, and sexual orientation.

Clegg pointed out that public incitement of hatred is prohibited in the Criminal Code because it is an acknowledged contributing factor in encouraging violence and discrimination against a target group. Omitting girls and women from the list compromises their safety, he said. 

"During its appearance before the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women last month, the Canadian government indicated it is taking a 'more focused approach' to achieving equality between women and men with the goal of 'achieving real and measurable results'. These will continue to ring as hollow words until Canada acts to revise the Criminal Code so it affords Canadian girls and women the protection they deserve," Clegg said.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario represents 73,000 elementary public school teachers and education workers across the province and is the largest teacher federation in Canada.

For further information: David Clegg, President, ETFO, (416) 962-3836 (Office); (416) 948-1592 (Cell); Larry Skory, ETFO Communications, (416) 962-3836 (Office); (416) 948-0195 (Cell)

Click here for a pdf version of this news release


Protection for females demanded

March 5, 2008
Toronto Star
By Kristin Rushowy, Education Reporter

A coalition of students, academics and educators is appealing to federal politicians to change the Criminal Code so females are protected under hate laws.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and opposition party leaders Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe released yesterday, the Violence in the Media Coalition urges them to "address a vital public safety issue affecting half of the population of Canada that can no longer be ignored."

Currently, the hate law covers individuals by colour, race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

"Omitting girls and women from the list compromises their safety," the letter says. "There is no justification for it. It is a stark piece of `unfinished business' and one has to seriously wonder why it is taking so long to deal with it."

Peter Jaffe, of the University of Western Ontario and the group's spokesperson, said the coalition has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get politicians' attention.

"We wrote the open letter to the federal leaders hoping that they'd work together on this."

Jaffe said two recent reports on the sexual harassment and assaults that young females encounter in Ontario's high schools is a sign of the negative impact hateful images can have in the media.

"Whether you are looking at video games or music videos or if you look at pornography ... there are more violent images" and you begin to think these are acceptable ways to treat women, he said.

In 2007, the coalition – which includes the province's elementary and secondary teacher unions, both public and Catholic, student trustees, school boards and the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness – held a news conference to say children are being exposed to too much violence and to ask for limits on violent programming on television after 9 p.m., among other things.

The group says current federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, as Ontario's attorney general, supported adding women to the Public Incitement of Hatred provisions.

Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne has asked a group of experts to study ways to prevent sexual harassment, gender-based violence and homophobia in schools. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reports one-third of female high school students it polled were victims of unwanted sexual touching at school.

Saturday is International Women's Day.


Open Letter to the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe

Attention News Editors:

TORONTO, March 4, 2008 /CNW/ -

Gentlemen:

As your parties examine policy positions and determine platforms in anticipation of the next Federal election, we urge you to address a vital public safety issue affecting half the population of Canada that can no longer be ignored. We are referring to the omission in the Criminal Code provisions on Public Incitement of Hatred that result in the complete exclusion of girls and women as a group entitled to protection from such crimes. This puts the Criminal Code at odds with Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which specifically mandates that equal access to the protection of Canadian laws be granted to girls and women. Currently, the Criminal Code provisions on Public Incitement of Hatred only protect those identified by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin and sexual orientation. 

Public incitement of hatred is prohibited in the Criminal Code because it is an acknowledged contributing factor in encouraging violence and discrimination against a target group. Omitting girls and women from the list compromises their safety. There is no justification for it. It is a stark piece of "unfinished business" and one has to seriously wonder why it is taking so long to deal with it. Despite our longstanding advocacy in this area we have yet to hear a rationale, plausible or otherwise, from any political party for the reluctance to take action. 

In his book Race Against Time, Canadian humanitarian Stephen Lewis wrote, "I would argue that this is what always happens where the rights and needs of women are concerned: an inexplicable willingness to let things slide, an inescapable drift to inertia."

Will Canada continue to let this slide? The next Federal government has a unique opportunity to right an egregious wrong. Making this change to the Criminal Code sends a strong message that we as a society will no longer tolerate this failure to protect half of our citizens.

As a cross-sectoral coalition of organizations concerned with media violence including the mistreatment of girls and women in the guise of "entertainment," we urge you to make a public commitment to amend the Criminal Code so that women and girls, as a group, are included in the provisions dealing with public incitement of hatred.

We request a written response from each party leader outlining what action they will take on this issue if they form the next government of Canada.

We have identified our member groups below as well as groups that are on record as advocates for this legislative change.

Respectfully submitted,

Violence in the Media Coalition

Members of the Violence in the Media Coalition:

- Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness
- Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario
- Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association
- Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association
- Ontario Federation of Home & School Associations
- Ontario Principals' Council
- Ontario Public School Boards' Association
- Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation
- Ontario Student Trustees' Association
- Ontario Teachers' Federation

Adding women to the Public Incitement of Hatred provisions of the Criminal Code has been recommended and/or supported by:

- Polish Canadian Women's Federation (2007)
- Canadian Teachers' Federation (2007)
- Ontario Federation of Labour (2007)
- Liberal MPs Yasmin Ratansi, Don Valley East (Ontario), Chair, Status of Women Committee, Judy Sgro, York West (Ontario), Past Chair, Status of Women Committee, Sue Barnes, London West (Ontario), Past Critic Public Safety, Sukh Dhaliwal, Newton-North Delta (BC), Lloyd St. Amand, Brant (Ontario), Omar Alghabra, Mississauga-Erindale (Ontario), Critic for Citizenship and Immigration (2007)
- Bloc MP Nicole Demers, Laval (Quebec) (2007)
- Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Etobicoke Centre (Ontario), introduced Private Member's Bill C-254 (2006, 2007)
- James Flaherty, Progressive Conservative, Attorney General of Ontario (2000)
- Michael Bryant, MPP, Ontario Liberal Party Attorney General Critic (2000)
- Senior Legal Counsel, B'nai Brith League for Human Rights (1994)
- Raymond Hnatyshyn, Minister of Justice (1987)
- Law Reform Commission of Canada (1986)
- Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women (1985)
- Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution (1985)
- National Action Committee on the Status of Women (1983)

For further information: Jeff Sprang, OPSBA Communications, (416) 340-2540; Larry Skory, ETFO Communications, (416) 962-3836 (office), (416) 948-0195 (cell)

Click here for a pdf version of this letter.  More information on the Coalition can be found at this link.