Three years ago, I was on the bus from Windsor, Ontario that traveled to the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, DC. In 2018, I attended the Women’s Convention in Detroit. This past Thursday, I left work a little earlier than normal so I could attend the cross-border vigil dedicated to missing women and victims of violence that was organized by the participants of the 2017 Women’s March.

Guess who was my bus driver.

Journalist Anne Jarvis wrote of the event in her piece, ‘We have a lot of work to do‘ and added this context:

Only one woman was elected to Windsor city council last fall. The Caboto Club last year still wasn’t allowing women on its board. The community still hasn’t adequately addressed the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report two years ago ranking Windsor the worst city in Canada for women, she said.

“Nobody’s saying there aren’t successful women in Windsor,” said Papadeas. “But we’re talking about poverty, economic inequality and other issues that need to be addressed,” she added, pointing to the 24 per cent of women in Windsor live in poverty compared to 15 per cent of men.

We have a lot of work to do‘, Anne Jarvis, Windsor Star, January 18, 2019

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Making Women Count project “measures the size of Canada’s gender gap and offers solutions to the inequalities that persist between women and men in Canada”. In 2014, they released their study by Senior Researcher Kate McInturff, which ranked “Canada’s 20 largest metropolitan areas based on a comparison of how men and women are faring in five areas: economic security, leadership, health, personal security, and education.” Their results: Québec City was the best place to be a woman and Edmonton the worst. Windsor ranked 18 out of 20.

In 2015, CCPA released their second study in which they ranked the gender gap in Canada’s 25 largest cities. This time Windsor placed 22nd.

On October 16th, 2016 the CCPA released their third annual ranking of the best and worst cities to be a woman in Canada. Windsor was ranked as the 25th of 25.

In 2017, Victoria kept its ranking as the best city in Canada for women for the second year in a row. Also for the second year in a row, Windsor was ranked as the worst city in Canada for women.

There was no Making Women Count report in 2018 because on July 27, 2018, CCPA Senior Researcher Kate McInturff passed away. She had been diagnosed with cancer three years prior.

Kate’s work has been instrumental in raising and continuing the conversation about the quality of life of women in this country. While it won’t be possible for me to continue her index, I thought I would try to pull out the measures she outlined in her reports to at least answer the question, are things getting better for women in Windsor?

And keeping in mind the vigil that I attended last Thursday, I thought I would start with the sub-index of personal security.

Personal Security

This gender equality index is modelled on global measures of gender equality produced by the World Economic Forum and the United Nations. Where possible, it captures the gap between men’s and women’s well-being rather than the overall wealth or health of a community. It also includes measures that capture the levels of gender-based violence experienced by women, and women’s access to health care services.

“The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2017: The Gender Gap in Canada’s 25 Biggest Cities”, Kate McInturf, CCPA, 2017, p. 83.

In 2017, Windsor ranked 20 out of the 25 examined cities when it comes to personal safety.

The score for personal security is calculated based on three indicators: rates of criminal harassment, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence. The data for all three indicators comes from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR). The UCR is compiled by Statistics Canada from police-reported data. Police-reported data is used here in the absence of self-reported data, which is much more accurate. Statistics Canada estimates that 95% of the incidents of sexual assault and harassment and 70% of the incidents of intimate partner violence are never reported to the police. Further, differences in how police forces record incidents and charge perpetrators can create differences between recorded levels of violence that have nothing to do with the actual levels of crime. However, the only current survey of self-reported incidence of sexual assault and intimate partner violence is the General Social Survey on Victimization, which is only performed once every five years and which does not sample a sufficient portion of the population to provide estimates at the municipal level or at the provincial level.

“The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2017: The Gender Gap in Canada’s 25 Biggest Cities”, Kate McInturf, CCPA, 2017, p. 84.

“The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2017” used custom data sets from the Statistics Canada, Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey to generate the Personal Security Index. There was not enough information in the methodology section that went into detail of how one could duplicate these custom sets, so I looked for comparable published tables from Statistics Canada.

Rates of Intimate Partner Violence

From Table 2.8: Victims of police-reported intimate partner violence, by victim sex and census metropolitan area, 2017 and Table 3.7: Victims of police-reported intimate partner violence, by sex of victim and census metropolitan area, 2016 . Rates are calculated on the basis of 100,000 population aged 15 and older.

Compared to 2016, the number and rate of female victims of police reported violence increased while the rate and number of male victims decreased.

Rates of Sexual Assault

From Table 2: Victims of police-reported sexual assault, by quarterly #MeToo period and census metropolitan area, Canada, 2016 and 2017

To put the above statistics into context, please read Statistic Canada’s Police-reported sexual assaults in Canada before and after #MeToo, 2016 and 2017 by Cristine Rotenberg and Adam Cotter.

Rates of Criminal Harassment

I wasn’t able to find a published Statistics Canada table that had already broke down this reported data by city. Someone with access to the microdata of CAMSIM should be able to extract this information.

“Say her name”

At last week’s Women’s March Windsor vigil, there were several elected officials present: Ward 3 Councilor Rino Bortolin, Ward 9 City Councilor Kieran McKenzie, Amherstburg Councilor Donald McArthur, Windsor West MP Brian Masse, W-T MP Cheryl Hardcastle, Essex MP Tracy Ramsey, as well as School Board Trustees Jessica Sartori, Julia Burgess, Alicia Higgison, and Sarah Cipkar.

If you were politically naive, you may have expected Drew Dilkens, the mayor of Windsor, to have been present at the vigil in light of the fact that the mayor personally led a walk in October of 2017 in support of a 75-year-old woman who was brutally assaulted on the Ganatchio Trail. Anne Widholm passed away December 17th, 2018, just a month prior to the Women’s March Windsor vigil.

When I read the articles about that October 2017 walk, I noticed that the mayor makes it a point to say that despite the attack, the parks of Windsor are safe. He also stated that the attack could have happened anywhere.

“This walk is being held to show our support for Mrs. Widholm and her family, to reassure each other that our community stands together as one in times of distress, and to reaffirm that our community’s parks and trails are safe.”

Mayor calls for Ganatchio Trail walk to support assaulted woman, Craig Pearson, The Windsor Star, October 13, 2017

Dilkens says it’s “a terrible, tragic, unfortunate event” but he also notes the attack could have happened anywhere. “This was a random unprovoked attack, it could have happened in Riverside, South Windsor it could have happened in Sandwich Town or Downtown. There is no correlation between the location or where it happened and the actual attack itself,” said Dilkens.

Community gathers in support of 75-year-old woman assaulted on Ganatchio Trail, CBC News, October 15, 2017.

Let us not forget that there are correlations between location and the personal safety of women. Some cities in Canada are safer than others.

Rather than insisting – despite the evidence before us – that the city is safe, let us work together and find ways to make the investments and develop the policies to make Windsor safer for all.

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