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It has been well documented that the COVID-19 Pandemic has had a disproportionately negative impact on women. Whether economic or job losses, female lead businesses shuttering, and most, unfortunately, a noticeable increase in violence against women. Canada has historically high rates of domestic violence. In Canada, a woman is killed by her intimate partner every week. The Pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have amplified these issues and the need for sustainable solutions.

These issues came to my full attention in May 2020, when my sister fled an abusive relationship. She was left deeply traumatized, without a home and unable to work due to injuries at the hands of her former fiancé.

In July 2020, my sister-in-law was out walking in her neighbourhood in Whitby, Ontario, when an unknown assailant knocked her unconscious, dragged her into the woods where he sexually assaulted her, beat her savagely, and left her for dead. In the span of a few months, two of the most important women in my life were left incapacitated by acts of violence, acts that I would categorize as hate crimes. [Cobourg News Blog report on rally in Cobourg]

This election is crucial for women. We need to ask ourselves which party and candidates are committed to ending gender-based violence, sexual assault, and exploitation.

After the events of 2020, I reached out to MP's and MPP's regarding these crucial issues for women and our society. I have been encouraged by the engagement of Liberal MP's who have supported my family, specifically, former MP Kim Rudd, Minister Maryam Monself, MP Ryan Turnball.

A strong commitment from all levels of government is necessary to tackle GBV and VAWAG (Violence Against Women and Girls). Playing out in Parliament in the form of amendments to legislation and judicial reform. For example, the Liberal government introduced legislation to ensure that Justices receive additional training regarding sexual assault and the impact on survivors and their families.

The budget tabled this past year provided funding to respond to the need for economic and social supports to allow women to recover, recoup and thrive post-pandemic.

Many will be concerned about these added costs. But I would counter by saying that the current state of GBV and VAWG is cost-prohibitive. Annually, Canadian taxpayers spend 4.8 billion dealing with the fallout from these despicable crimes. We need a government engaged with finding real and sustainable solutions to this crisis.

Given how high the stakes are for women, it is concerning that our local MP Philip Lawrence voted in favour of a private member's Bill that would strip women of their reproductive choice. In February 2020, Mr. Lawrence and 97 of his 119 CPC colleagues voted "Yea" on Bill C-233, an Act to Amend the Criminal Code (sex-selective abortion).

What MP Lawrence and his colleagues failed to see is that this Bill contravenes the Charter on two counts 1) denying access to abortion and 2) explicitly targeting minority communities in the application of said legislation.

This September, Canadians have two choices: vote for the candidates that value women and their rights as persons under the law - or vote for candidates that want to deny the full scope of those rights - and a party that fails to mention Violence Against Women in its mandate.

For me, it's an easy decision.

Catherine Dunphy
Cobourg resident

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