Foreign Policy Blogs

How We Have Failed Survivors

A displaced Iraqi girl from the Yezidi community holds a piece of bread Aug. 11 near the Iraqi-Syrian border. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom)

Various incidents that occurred a few doors down from the largest news team in Canada could be claimed to be the first spark of the MeToo era. A publicly funded radio star in Toronto was using his position to seduce women, and had a tendency to beat them up when alone with them. Despite many of the women also being members of staff and his union, and working in a government agency that has the added human rights protections under Canada’s Constitution, these incidences were known to have occurred for years. The women that accused him of these abuses actually lost in court and the accused, Ghomeshi, was declared innocent under Canadian law.

While there have been many convictions since the Ghomeshi era supposedly ended, it seems as if the perception of progress in protecting women has not evolved as much as was initially thought. Recently I have been made aware of a case where a man sought to attack a woman on her own in the same area of Toronto, Canada where people were targeted in a mass murder using a rental van last spring. The mass murderer who committed the crimes seemed to have issues with women, and in 2018 he killed many women and men. Despite the attack occurring a few short months ago, it seems as the woman who escaped her attacker in that area recently was given no effective assistance or help and that there is no safe area she can go to or security to depend on when she asked officials where she can go to be safe. She had also been told by many what her perception of what happened to her should be, interpreted by those who were not there and who did nothing to help her. With violence acts against women taking place for years in silence a few doors down from some of Canada’s top journalists because they didn’t listen to women who asked for help, it seems as if the Ghomeshi era perhaps never truly ended. With the mass murder in that same area targeting women, asking for help should not be subject to interpretation when her safety is involved. Let it be clear, attempted assault and harassment is a violation of Criminal Law in Canada, but despite a recent act of mass murder it seems as if there is no security in that area and no one wants to act to provide it in an appropriate manner.

We have failed women also on a massive scale in 2018. Recently the United States signed into law The Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act 2018. For years, minority cultures have been put into a modern Holocaust, one where women from these cultures were actually taken as children, used as sex slaves multiple times a day and eventually executed in the most brutal of ways, many being burned alive. To even find information about the new act is difficult, and it flows from the severe lack of information on the Yazidi and minority genocides taking place in Iraq and Syria. For minorities from these regions, even when they have escaped, they are still harassed by the same men who raped, abused and killed their family in Iraq and Syria. Back in Canada itself, a Yazidi refugee was told to not speak up when her ISIS abuser found her and started harassing her in a small Canadian city. Almost no media reported on the events, and today there is no discussion or realisation that these abuses still occur. Yes, what he does to her in Canada is a crime. Despite varied official explanations on why those who fought for ISIS cannot be prosecuted in Canada, a long tradition coming from the Nuremberg trials, to the case of Klause Barbie to trials for war crimes that took place in Bosnia and Rwanda demonstrate that committing crimes against humanity is deeply illegal, in all countries and communities. Anyone who tries to justify the opposite have deeply failed women. There is no positive side to anything that has occurred in these examples above, and they take places all over the world. We have failed the most oppressed, and when public officials cannot simply keep their own small community safe by way of parsing the experience of a woman asking for help, the failure continues to grow in our own hands. This has been the legacy of 2018 and it is a reflection of our era.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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