Archive for Features

PART 2: Improving Sexual Assault Response in PEI

April 11, 2017

Recent events have focused the attention of many Canadians on sexual violence and how survivors of sexual violence are treated in the justice system. A review of how sexual assault cases are handled must go beyond determining what cases were labelled “unfounded” (baseless) and under what circumstances. We need to examine how sexual assault of adults is treated from the time of reporting all the way through to sentencing and learn what can be done better.

Much discrimination and pain results from widespread belief in rape myths. There are many examples of harmful myths: that women often lie about sexual assault out of spite or revenge or to get attention; that only young or “sexy” women are sexually assaulted; that women are most likely to be assaulted at night, in dark places, and by strangers; that men don’t get sexually assaulted. These myths are false, but, what’s more, they are barriers to justice for survivors of sexual violence.

What are some practical things we can do to battle these myths and improve sexual assault response?

Police officers of all genders and all backgrounds need to be well trained to respond to sexual violence. From the first contact between a victim and a first responder, the victim needs to feel believed and the next steps need to be trauma-informed. A trauma-informed response in the justice system means that all persons who work with victims or survivors understand the science of how violence, abuse, and trauma affect the brain and behaviour. As trauma expert Dr. Lori Haskell explains, the effects of trauma on the brain “interfere with the way… victims seek safety, process information, and remember details.”

Victims who go to hospital for treatment need to have access to nurses, nurse practitioners, or doctors who are trained in sexual assault response, such as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. Timely and respectful service by well-trained healthcare workers could go a long way to improving outcomes for victims.

There is clearly a need for better training for all people working in the justice system, including for judges. This should include education on the evidence that refutes rape myths, as well as the science on how survivors process assault and how trauma affects memory. Recently, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould praised a project in the U.S. that invites external advocates to help with reviews of sexual assault cases. There are also precedents in many U.S. courts for including expert witness testimony in sexual assault cases.

In the courts and among the general public, there is a clear need for better definition and better understanding of what constitutes sexual consent. This education needs to begin with children and youth, so they learn about healthy relationships and respecting themselves and others.

As members of the public, we can counter rape myths when we hear them repeated. We can stand up against the stigma sexual violence survivors face and stand up against victim-blaming. We can practice consent in our own relationships and model healthy relationships for children and youth.

Most of all, we can believe survivors when they tell us they have been harmed. We can listen without judgment. We can say that what happened to them was not okay. We can tell them that the violence is not their fault. We can help connect people with services and supports if they want them. We can advocate for more resources and supports for front-line services for sexual assault response, through sexual assault nurse examiners, Victim Services, and the Rape and Sexual Assault Centre.

We can all play a role in helping survivors of sexual violence achieve justice.

Mari Basiletti is the Chairperson and Jane Ledwell is the Executive Director of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

Journal Pioneer article, April 11, 2017

PART 1 – Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Leave a Comment

PART 1: Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault

April 10, 2017

A number of recent developments have brought sexual assault into the headlines, and little of it has been good news. A Globe and Mail investigation showed that, on average, 19% of sexual assaults reported to police in Canada get classified as “unfounded,” meaning baseless. Here in PEI, the police forces that reported their statistics had an even higher rate of cases coded “unfounded”: 27%, more than a quarter of all reported cases. Sexual assault cases are declared “unfounded” at a far greater rate than any other crime.

In Nova Scotia recently, a Halifax taxi driver was acquitted after a judge ruled that “clearly a drunk can consent” to sex. Last month in Newfoundland, a police officer was acquitted of sexually assaulting a woman he was driving home while he was on duty. Both cases brought to light rape myths that persist in society and the justice system, including understanding the laws and the meaning of consent.

In better news, Justice Robin Camp recently resigned and apologized before being removed from the bench. During a sexual assault trial in his court in 2014, he had asked the complainant why she didn’t keep her “knees together.”

It’s reasonable for women to expect that a judge will examine their evidence without their judgment being clouded by victim-blaming and prejudice. It’s reasonable for women to expect that they will get home safely in a taxicab or a police vehicle. It’s reasonable for women to expect that their reports of sexual violence will result in thorough investigations as often as other crimes.

Sadly, blaming victims for sexual violence is rampant not only in courts, but across society: so much so that we have to talk about rape culture and all the attitudes and myths that contribute to it.

Statistics suggest only one in ten sexual assault cases is reported to police in the first place. Charges are laid in only one-third of cases reported, and, when charges are laid, only one in ten cases results in a conviction.

To achieve justice for survivors of sexual violence in PEI will take concerted action. The province has called for all police services to review the cases they labelled “unfounded” from 2014 to 2016. This is a good first step, but a review of police services by police themselves is not enough. Who will clarify how the cases got labelled “unfounded” and by whom? Will the same officers that handled the cases be reviewing them? What are the benchmarks for an objective review? At a minimum, these reviews should seek input from community services that work with victims and survivors, such as the Rape and Sexual Assault Centre or provincial Victim Services.

The Globe and Mail investigation showed that police services with more female officers had fewer unfounded cases. Working towards gender parity and greater diversity in PEI police forces is also very important, so that survivors see themselves reflected back in the services meant to “serve and protect” them, and so that police officers with a greater variety of backgrounds and life experiences – including experience of sexual violence – can spread compassion and understanding for women and diverse groups’ experiences.

There are many ways the response to sexual assault could be improved in Prince Edward Island. Tomorrow, we will suggest some additional specific ways to achieve justice for sexual assault survivors.

Mari Basiletti is the Chairperson and Jane Ledwell is the Executive Director of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

Comments (1)

Women in Canada: 50 Years of Change

final-revised-women-in-canada-study-group-posterPlease check back for any updates/bi-weekly reminders.

Final Study Group Next Week:  

Thursday, April 27, 2017
12:00 noon to 1:00pm
Discussion of the years 2007-2017
and Closing Ceremony

Fifty years ago, on February 16, 1967, the historic Royal Commission on the Status of Women was launched. Using this landmark Royal Commission as a starting point, the Advisory Council on the Status of Women and the Aboriginal Women’s Association will host a study group on women in Canada. The group will meet bi-weekly in March and April to consider women’s equality decade by decade, from 1967-2017.

The study group will ask: What was particularly relevant for women during each 10-year period? How has women’s equality advanced in the last 50 years? Which women were left out of consideration and remain underrepresented in decision-making today? 



Organizers and participants pose for a photo at a recent Study Group at the Confederation Centre Public Library.

The group will launch Thursday March 2, from 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm. The first session will focus on the years 1967-1977. The study group will be held at the Confederation Centre PublicLibrary in Charlottetown. Kendi Tarichia will bring the perspective of Black Islanders to the first study group discussion.


Mark the dates March 16, and 30; and April 13 and 27 for future study groups in the series. Hosted by Aboriginal Women’s Association of PEI, PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women and the PEI Public Library Service.For more information, contact 902-368-4510 or or visit

Comments (1)

Women’s History Month Celebrates Inspiring Forebears


PEI Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Paula Biggar and Chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women Kelly Robinson.

October is Women’s History Month across Canada, and this year the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women and PEI Interministerial Women’s Secretariat celebrated the month with a gathering to remember inspiring women of the past. More than fifty people took part in the celebration on October 20 at St. Peter’s Cathedral Hall in Charlottetown.

Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Paula Biggar recognized the ways local Prince Edward Island women have contributed to the greater equality women in Canada enjoy today.

Said Minister Biggar, “People’s contributions have made a difference, and some of this work was completed by women who would never have considered themselves leaders. Some of this work was a collective experience, in which no particular person stood out, but was through the efforts of many working together in solidarity.”

A memorial circle at the celebration invited all those present to share a memory or a memento of an inspiring woman who touched their lives and is no longer with us. The ceremony brought to mind participants’ extraordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts, neighbours, and friends, as well as more widely known leaders in the arts, in labour, in sport, or in politics.

Specially remembered and honoured was social worker, counsellor, and advocate Diane Kays, who died in March 2015 while she was serving as the Chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

“We will honour their efforts by continuing to work for progress,” said Minister Biggar.

Kelly Robinson, Chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women, acknowledged the 40th anniversary of the Advisory Council and expressed hope that “In the next 40 years, we will build on the work of our forebears to meet the goals women continue to reach for to attain full equality in all aspects of life.”

Women’s History Month and is celebrated with events in many communities across Canada. This year’s theme was “Her Story, Our Story: Celebrating Canadian Women.” Women’s History Month encompasses October 11, the UN-declared International Day of the Girl, and October 18, Persons Day, which marks the date in 1929 when Canadian women were recognized as “persons” under the law.


Minister Responsible Biggar and Chairperson Robinson with Doreen Kays, sister of past Chairperson Diane Kays.

Leave a Comment

Honouring our Feminist Forebears ~ a Women’s History Month Celebration

feminist-forebearsJoin the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women and the PEI Interministerial Women’s Secretariat in celebrating Women’s History Month. We will be remembering women leaders no longer with us, who’s legacy lives on in our lives and work. You are welcome to bring a photo, memento, or memory of one of your feminist forebears for the Memorial Circle.

Casual Reception with a Memorial Circle at 5:00

Tuesday, October 20th, 4:00 – 6:00 pm
St. Peter’s Cathedral Hall (corner of Rochford and Fitzroy)

Light refreshments provided ~ no admission fee ~ all are welcome!

Leave a Comment

National Coalition of Advisory Councils / La Coalition nationale des conseils consultatifs

National Coalition of Provincial and Territorial Advisory Councils on the Status of Women launches Voter Card during 2015 Election

Statusofwomen - Sept 17-medium

Linda Ross, NL, and Jane Ledwell, PEI, with the Voter Card produced by the Coalition.

Halifax, Nova Scotia – The National Coalition of Provincial and Territorial Advisory Councils on the Status of Women held its annual meeting in Halifax on September 17th and 18th, 2015. It was hosted by the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women and was again an opportunity to reinforce the work being done, while also sharing resources and best practices.

“The Coalition is a national voice for women,” said Linda Ross, President/CEO of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Advisory Council and current Chairperson for the Coalition. “Together, we can work to increase equality between women and men, and increase governments’ awareness about women’s issues. While all the Coalition members are effective in their jurisdictions, collectively we can address the national dimensions of the work we do towards advancing gender equality”.

The Coalition of Provincial and Territorial Advisory Councils on the Status of Women consists of provincial and territorial advisory bodies from across the country dedicated to advancing women’s issues within their individual regions but who come together in the interest of women on a national level. It was formed after the federal government eliminated the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women in 1995.

During the meeting, the Coalition launched a Voter Card with pertinent questions regarding the status of women that can be used to kick-start conversations when talking to candidates before the 2015 Federal Election. The questions cover issues such as inaccessible housing, uneven availability of affordable child care and the growing economic inequality and income gap between genders.

“As a supporter of the #UpForDebate Campaign, the Coalition is extremely disappointed with the cancellation of the federal debate on women’s rights and gender equality issues. This voter card is our way of stating that the issues are still out there and they need to be discussed,” said Linda Ross.

To view or download the Voter Card, please visit your local Advisory Council website or follow @CPTACW on Twitter.

La Coalition nationale des conseils consultatifs provinciaux et territoriaux sur le statut de la femme lance un outil pour les électrices en vue de l’élection fédérale 2015

Statusofwomen - Sept 17 - medium

Quelques membres du Coalition, Septembre 2015.

Halifax, Nouvelle-Écosse – La Coalition nationale des conseils consultatifs provinciaux et territoriaux sur le statut de la femme a tenu sa réunion annuelle à Halifax les 17 et 18 septembre 2015. La Coalition a été accueillie par le Conseil consultatif sur le statut de la femme de la Nouvelle-Écosse. La réunion annuelle a été à nouveau une occasion de souligner le travail accompli, tout en partageant les expériences et les meilleures pratiques.

« La Coalition est une voix nationale pour les femmes », a déclaré Linda Ross, présidente et pdg du Conseil de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador, et présidente de la Coalition. « Ensemble, nous pouvons travailler à accroître l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes, et à sensibiliser les gouvernements aux questions touchant les femmes. Alors que tous les membres de la Coalition travaillent sur des enjeux spécifiques dans leurs provinces et territoires, nous pouvons collectivement aborder les dimensions nationales des questions préoccupantes afin de faire progresser l’égalité des sexes ».

La Coalition nationale des conseils consultatifs provinciaux et territoriaux sur le statut de la femme est composée d’organismes consultatifs provinciaux et territoriaux à travers le pays, voués à la promotion des questions relatives aux femmes au sein de leurs régions respectives mais qui se réunissent dans l’intérêt des femmes à l’échelle nationale. La Coalition s’est formée lorsque le gouvernement fédéral a éliminé le Conseil consultatif canadien sur la situation de la femme en 1995.

Lors de sa récente réunion, la Coalition a lancé un outil pour les électrices et les électeurs comportant des questions pertinentes sur les enjeux féminins. Ces fiches peuvent être utilisées pour amorcer des conversations avec des candidates et des candidats avant le scrutin. Les questions portent sur des sujets tels que le le coût élevé du logement, l’accès inégal à des services de garde abordables, l’inégalité économique croissante et les différences de revenus entre les femmes et les hommes.

« En tant que partisane de la campagne #Placeaudébat
(#UpforDebate), la Coalition est extrêmement déçue de l’annulation du débat fédéral sur les droits des femmes et les questions d’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes. Cet outil pour les électrices est notre façon de dire que les problèmes sont toujours là et qu’ils doivent faire l’objet d’une discussion », a déclaré Linda Ross.

Pour afficher ou télécharger les fiches pour les électrices , visiter le site Web de votre Conseil consultatif local ou suivre @CPTACW sur Twitter.

Leave a Comment

Bienvenue Yvonne!

L-R: PEI Status of Women Executive Director Jane Ledwell, Council member Yvonne Deagle, and Program Coordinator, Michelle Jay, in Summerside recently.

L-R: PEI Status of Women Executive Director Jane Ledwell, Council member Yvonne Deagle, and Program Coordinator Michelle Jay, in Summerside recently.

Le Conseil consultatif sur la situation de la femme de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard est heureux d’accueillir un nouveau membre du conseil!

Yvonne Deagle de Miminegash a été nommé par le gouvernement pour siéger au Conseil pour les prochaines années. Yvonne est le vice-présidente d’Actions Femmes. Elle vit avec son mari et elle a deux enfants adultes et cinq petits-enfants. Elle possède une expérience en tant que conseillère municipale et administratrice municipale et elle a travaillé en comptabilité. Actuellement, Yvonne travaille pour la Commission scolaire français et est un bénévole actif de nombreux d’organismes communautaires acadiens et francophones. Elle a beaucoup d’énergie et un vif sens de l’humour. Nous ne pouvons pas attendre de travailler avec Yvonne sur les questions qui sont importantes pour les femmes de l’île et leurs familles.


The PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women is delighted to welcome a new Council member!

Yvonne Deagle of Miminegash was appointed by government to serve on the Council for the next several years. Yvonne is the the vice-chairperson of Actions Femmes. She is the mother of two grown children and grandmother of five. She has a background as a municipal councillor and municipal administrator and has also worked in accounting. Yvonne works for the French School Board and is an active volunteer on numerous boards of Acadian and Francophone community organizations. Yvonne has great energy and a sense of humour. We can’t wait to have her work with us on issues that matter to Island women and their families.

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »