In Canada, a law says workplace has role in fighting domestic violence

June 6, 2017
Article Source
The Christian Science Monitor

Like her mother, Michelle Gawronsky spent several years in an abusive marriage. One night, after an especially brutal fight, she packed up her four young children and drove to her mother’s house in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

"I just looked at my kids and said they should not be going through this, especially not my daughters," she recalls. 

Also like her mother, the late Kathleen St. Godard, Ms. Gawronsky escaped her marriage safely and found support within her community. But her road was easier, and a key difference was how her employer treated her. 

She explains that when Ms. St. Godard left her home and moved her children to a women's shelter in the late 1980s, she asked for time off from her job as a teaching aide so she could find safer, more permanent housing. She was subsequently fired and spent 18 months living on social assistance.  

Years later, Gawronsky's boss gave her a week of paid time off so she could move and go to court to get a restraining order. She continued work as a health care aide and, with her employer's support, sought out family counseling and eventually put her marriage back together.

Now, as president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union, Grawonsky is part of a movement of provincial legislators and unions, in Canada and abroad, advocating for measures to guarantee paid leave and job security for victims of domestic violence. If they succeed, the new rules would be a groundbreaking addition to resources already in place to help such victims. 

Proponents argue that such benefits help increase transparency around what has long been treated as a private issue. Furthermore, they say, surer economic footing clears away a major obstacle for people trying to move on from abusive situations. 

"It will give [the victim] time to make the move, to get things together and assess what to do next," says Anuradha Dugal, director of violence prevention for the Canadian Women's Foundation, a lobby group that helps raise funds for women's shelters. "While she's doing that, she needs to know she has a job to go back to," she says.

Read more: In Canada, a law says workplace has role in fighting domestic violence