BLOG: Winnipeg Whiteout – An Opportunity to Change the Perception

IPAC Chat is a monthly series prepared by members of the board of the Manitoba regional group of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada.

This month’s post is prepared by IPAC Manitoba Board member, Laurie Monk. Laurie holds a Masters in Public Administration and is the manager of the Lighthouses Program with Manitoba Justice.

“Violence against women and girls is one of the most systematic and widespread human rights violations. It is rooted in gendered social structures rather than individual and random acts; it cuts across age, socio–‐economic, educational and geographic boundaries; affects all societies; and is a major obstacle to ending gender inequality and discrimination globally”. (UN General Assembly, 2006).

April is an important month in Manitoba, as we use that time to acknowledge and raise awareness of sexual violence throughout the province. But violence and sexual violence are not limited to the 30 days of April, and the timing could not be better to continue this important conversation into the month of May.

For the first time in many years, the Winnipeg Jets are in the Playoffs. While the downtown whiteout is drawing Winnipeggers in record numbers, the combination of sports, crowds and alcohol create the perfect storm for victimization under the guise of celebration. Winnipeg has the distinction of becoming the first North American city to join the United Nations Safe Cities. The Winnipeg Safe City Committee, comprised of representatives from community, government and law enforcement, collaborates on initiatives designed to reduce violence against women and non-binary folks in public spaces. A scoping study undertaken by the Committee brought groups of diverse women together for a series of conversations about the prevalence of violence and sexual violence against women and girls within their communities, and in public spaces in Winnipeg.

What we learned is that:

* In Canada, the single greatest risk factor for experiencing sexual violence is to be a woman or girl or be perceived as feminine.

* Women living with disabilities are three times more likely to experience sexual violence than women not living with disabilities.

* Indigenous women are 2.5 times more likely than non-Indigenous women to experience sexual assault.

* Immigrant and newcomer women who arrive in Canada traumatized by war or oppressive governments are significantly less likely to formally report physical or sexual violence.

* Estimates suggest one in four women attending university or college have experienced sexual assault or attempted sexual assault on campus.

* The majority of women who have experienced sexual assault are under the age of 35.

* Women from diverse backgrounds and communities in Winnipeg shared that they actively avoid certain areas of the city because of their experiences with sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence.

* One locally-produced survey found that more than two-thirds of women experienced sexual harassment in public spaces at least once a month, while more than one-third experienced it at least once a week. (Winnipeg Safe City Scoping Study, 2016)

Winnipeg has the great fortune to have a hockey team in the playoffs. It is a time for celebration and revelry, and to gather together in a show of unity and support behind our team. Our international reputation is changing – we’re being seen more and more as a viable tourist option…but it shouldn’t just be during hockey season. Let’s work together to make sure our city is safe for all – long after the last puck drops.

One thought on “BLOG: Winnipeg Whiteout – An Opportunity to Change the Perception

  1. Excellent article Laurie. Your mention of being female as the number one risk factor is sexual violence resonates; the Canadian Women’s Foundation study on the sex industry found the same, that the number one risk factor in being enslaved in the sex industry is being born female–– a finding of my research into sexual exploitation as well. We need to change the discourse around sexual harassment and violence, to make it unacceptable in any form, starting at a young age to teach our boys/future men values around respecting women and all people.


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