Nixing Violence Against Women program derails safety

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A provincial government that asserts its leadership by scrapping valuable social policies without any replacement endangers its population. 
 
Last week, the Ontario Conservative government disbanded  the Liberal-founded Roundtable on Violence Against Women without any replacement. Since 2015, the volunteer-run organization has advised the province on strategies to diminish violence against women—and its unexplained dissolution has drastic consequences. 
 
Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod announced the termination on the heels of the Ontario government’s roll-back of most social-assistance changes implemented by the former Liberal government. Though the minister claims to reaffirm her government’s commitment to eliminating violence against women, its cancellation of the roundtable says otherwise. 
 
Violence against women is a rampant issue. On average, one woman in Ontario is killed by femicide every 13 days. Gendered abuse is a fatal problem, and our provincial government shouldn’t wait for it to get worse before they establish a new solution. 
 
Particularly in a mobilizing era that champions women’s voices, Ontario’s removal of a cost-effective and progressive social program is an example of the government’s inadequate provisions for women.
 
The Conservatives campaigned on “effective government,” or reduced public expenditure. But the Roundtable on Violence Against Women was almost entirely volunteer-run, with only its co-chairs earning a small stipend. The cost of cutting this roundtable is greater than any financial savings attached—it’s far too great to be justified. 
 
The non-partisan roundtable was led by specialists with experience advocating for Indigenous women, racialized women, immigrants, LGBTQ+ people, older women, and sex workers. It gave valuable advice that protected groups impacted by systemic violence in Ontario. 
 
The government’s roundtable scrap leaves women across the province unheard and indicates their issues aren’t at the forefront of this government’s concerns. 
 
In the meantime, the responsibility to advocate for marginalized groups will fall upon already-burdened community leaders. From university students to activists, mobilizing voices are impactful—but if their words fall upon deaf ears in the government, their power is limited. 
 
As the Ford government continues to crusade indiscriminately against a glut of past Liberal programs, they bring on a social cost. Women’s safety is anything but an ideological battle—it’s the entire province’s safety. It’s the government’s prerogative to recognize that and provide a safe place for all its citizens.
 
Adversarial change for the sake of change reduces our province’s ability to protect its people’s safety. As the new government strives to leave its mark, it enforces the idea that women’s wellbeing is political, and—more importantly—negotiable. 
 
If the Progressive Conservative government wishes to live up to its progressive title and enforce pragmatic standards, it must recognize the value of past provincial governments’ programs. Policy-making can’t be cyclical—it needs to involve long-term and continuous strategy. 
 
Disbanding an expert panel to end violence against women doesn’t just derail past progress—it sends a message to women across the province that their welfare doesn’t matter.
 
 

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