BY KAREN JACKSON
It’s important that we do everything we can to eliminate incidences of domestic violence in Prince Edward Island and Canada. The numbers are significant. According to the results of the 2014 General Social Survey, released in 2016 from Statistics Canada, more than three quarters of a million Canadians reported having been physically and/or sexually abused by their partner in the previous five years. And for those affected, the challenge of escaping domestic violence is very difficult.
One of the keys to being able to leave an abusive relationship is financial security. Without this security, a person’s options are significantly reduced. For example, if a person is unemployed, or does not have access to paid leave from her/his employment, it’s much less likely that they will be able to leave the relationship.
Provinces with paid leave provisions for domestic violence include Ontario and Manitoba. British Columbia has proposed amendments in place for paid leave as well, and New Brunswick is considering similar legislation and will be holding public consultations. Governments are recognizing that the legal establishment of paid leave provisions in their respective Employment Standards Acts will help those who are victimized at home.
Victims of partner violence need time away from work to look after their physical and mental health, to find suitable accommodations for themselves and their children, and to obtain legal assistance in regard to separation. Paid leave makes this possible because it ensures that the victim will be able to continue to provide for themselves and their families while they seek necessary assistance, and that their job will be there for them when they return to work.
The progress that has been made in other jurisdictions, and the compelling evidence that supports implementing paid leave for victims of domestic violence, it’s reasonable to conclude that our own province should consider making necessary changes to the Employment Standards Act. Many Islanders are counting on support being in place for their families so that we can reduce domestic violence in P.E.I.
- Karen Jackson is president, Prince Edward Island Union of Public Sector Employees