Opinion: Ending violence for new Canadian women

Immigrant women are not always aware of their rights under the Charter to live without abuse in Canada.

Violence against women is a worldwide problem. Within some cultures, it is the accepted and unquestioned norm. After immigrating to Canada, many women remain isolated; unaware of their rights and the services available to protect them.

Last month I was getting my hair done. During the laughter and gossip characteristic of us African women, I questioned one woman about her bruised face. She chuckled, as if it should have been obvious, “My husband did it.’’ My hairdresser laughingly responded, “Well that is nothing, when I was pregnant, my boyfriend broke my nose, kicked me in the stomach and then had sex with me.”

This was greeted with knowing laughter. The conversation continued with a sense of joking competitiveness as to who had been most severely beaten. It broke my heart.

In studying to become a new Canadian, I was proud that my new country was a place where, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights; therefore should  act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood,” as declared by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But because of cultural isolation, many immigrant women are unaware of their Canadian rights or are fearful of the inevitable reprisals should they choose to claim these rights.

Living in Canada has not decreased or eliminated the violence heaped upon these women. It begs the question: In Canada, is violence against immigrant women the accepted and unquestioned norm?

Until we all are ready to acknowledge its existence and stand on guard for these women, the answer is a shamefully resounding, “Yes!”


– Janet Marutawana writes and lives in Surrey

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