As the nation prepares to observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we emphasize the critical importance of this day in shedding light on the heartbreaking issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. WomanACT, a non-profit organization dedicated to gender equality and anti-violence against women, recognizes the urgent need to address this issue as part of our commitment to social justice and equity.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation serves as a solemn reminder of our collective responsibility to confront the truth of our history, including the tragic legacy of violence against Indigenous communities, particularly Indigenous women. The day provides an opportunity to reflect on the systemic issues that have disproportionately affected Indigenous women, including the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Indigenous women have endured unimaginable suffering, with their lives tragically cut short or forever altered due to violence and systemic inequalities. This is a deeply disturbing reality that demands our unwavering attention and action. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation compels us to acknowledge and reckon with these injustices, fostering a society where all women are valued, protected, and empowered.

WomanACT stands in solidarity with Indigenous communities and organizations advocating for justice and accountability for missing and murdered Indigenous women. Our mission aligns with the imperative to address violence against women from all walks of life. We recognize that the fight for gender equality and social justice cannot be fully realized without addressing the unique challenges faced by Indigenous women, and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation serves as a platform to amplify their voices and experiences.

As we observe this day, let us remember the lives lost and commit to taking meaningful action. We must work collaboratively to dismantle systemic barriers, promote healing, and ensure that the voices of Indigenous women are heard and respected. By acknowledging the truth and seeking reconciliation, we move towards a future where all women can live free from violence, discrimination, and fear.

Harmy Mendoza

Executive Director, WomanACT


WomanACT is a Toronto-based non-profit organization dedicated to advancing gender equality and addressing violence against women. We strive to create a society where all women are empowered, safe, and valued.

Connect with and support Indigenous Organizations:

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Donate – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) 

Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls (MMIWG) | ONWA

Indigenous Resources – Native Child and Family Services of Toronto

WomanACT’s submission for the National Housing Council’s Review Panel on the Financialization of Purpose-Built Rental Housing.

Financialization is a growing trend toward the use of housing as an investment to acquire wealth. Financial firms develop housing with a goal of maximizing returns rather than providing affordable homes for the community.

In January 2023, the National Housing Council launched a review panel on the “financialization of purpose-built rental housing.” The Council has invited individuals and organizations to address topics such as the impact of financialization on the human right to adequate housing, especially for communities that experience marginalization. Respondents may outline the actions and inactions by the federal government that have exacerbated the negative impacts of financialization. The panel would like to hear suggestions on how Parliament could address financialization and protect the right to housing. WomanACT prepared the following response.

Survivors of gender-based violence face unique challenges to housing. These include landlord discrimination, poor rental histories and economic insecurity. Survivors require a range of housing options when leaving violence. Financialization of purpose-built rental housing is an obstacle for survivors to remain safely in their private rentals or move to a new private rental, due to limited availability, accessibility and affordability of tenure.

In 2022 WomanACT conducted primary research with survivors on their housing needs and preferences.  In this study, affordability emerged as a key consideration for accessing housing—and ultimately acted as a barrier for many participants. Survivors often mentioned that their housing search was restricted due to finances. Moving expenses alone were prohibitive for some. Survivors faced various economic challenges such as insufficient social assistance rates, financial abuse that affected their credit scores or eligibility for income supports, and the inability to work due to trauma and harassment carrying over into the workplace. These challenges were exacerbated by the broader context of a housing crisis in which rents were becoming less affordable in general.

Survivors did not have one common housing trajectory when leaving a violent relationship. In the most prevalent experience, reported by 58% of participants, survivors left the shared home and their partners stayed. Survivors most often went to an emergency shelter (35%) or stayed with family (22%) or friends (18%). Some survivors initially remained in the shared home without their partners (14%). No participants reported moving to a new home in the private housing market immediately after separation; they had to choose inadequate accommodation options. Overall, 80% of participants reported first accessing a housing option that involved relocation. Many participants endured life disruptions after separating from their partners. At least half of the participants experienced a loss of control over their housing options, the risk of harm from their partner, and disruptions to their social and family relationships.

Impacts of the financialization of purpose-built rental housing on the right to housing

The financialization of purpose-built rental housing significantly impacts the housing system, by prioritizing short-term profits and driving up the prices of the most affordable housing.  This further marginalizes women and survivors of gender-based violence. In 2022, WomanACT researched survivors’ experiences in the private rental market in Toronto; our study shed light on these impacts and highlighted how financialization exacerbated the challenges faced by these individuals.

WomanACT found that most respondents (77%) experienced core housing need, where affordability standards were unmet. Rising rental housing costs made it increasingly difficult for women and survivors of gender-based violence to access and maintain affordable housing options.

Financialization can perpetuate discrimination and create additional barriers in the rental housing market. With the focus on maximizing profitability, landlords favour the most privileged tenants who, they assume, have higher and more stable income.

Our research revealed that 64% of respondents experienced discrimination from landlords during the rental application process, based on income source, family and marital status, or race and ethnicity. This discrimination limited the housing options available to women and survivors of gender-based violence, exacerbating their housing insecurity.

Financialization contributes to housing instability, which disproportionately affects marginalized groups. The research showed that almost one-third of respondents received eviction notices or were evicted from their rental units. Factors such as overdue rent payments and renovictions were cited as common reasons for eviction. The instability caused by financialization disrupted the housing stability of women and survivors of gender-based violence, making it difficult for them to find safe and secure housing.

The research highlighted that survivors relied on various supports and services, such as food programs and social support networks, to maintain their private rental housing and enhance their safety. The lack of affordable and adequate housing options caused disruptions  in accessing food and other vital needs. It compelled survivors to constantly rely on social support mechanisms which often were limited.

These impacts demonstrate that the financialization of purpose-built rental housing deepens the existing systemic issues within the housing system. It reduces housing affordability, reinforces discriminatory practices, increases housing instability, and limits access to vital needs for women and survivors of gender-based violence.

What could the Government of Canada do to address the impacts of the financialization of purpose-built rental housing, and advance the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing?

There has been a lack of robust policy, investment in affordable and social housing, commitment to the Right to Housing, and implementation of the right in federal and provincial policies. Also, actions such as Federal withdrawal from social housing provision in the 1990s, deregulation of rent control and policy support for the securitization of mortgages catalyzed the forces driving financialization. As a result, financialization has limited the access to safe and affordable housing for all Canadians, including women and survivors of gender-based violence.

To specifically address the impacts of financialization on women and survivors of gender-based violence, while advancing the right to housing, the Government of Canada could do the following:

Adopt gender-responsive approaches that recognize the unique challenges faced by survivors in accessing adequate housing. Incorporate a gender lens into housing policies and programs to ensure that survivors’ specific needs are addressed.

The National Housing Council’s Financialization Review Panel is a good opportunity to look at the impact of a significant economic trend. In the research conducted by WomanACT, women and survivors of gender-based violence have shown how financialization marginalizes them further. There are important actions that the government can take to advance the right to adequate housing for communities left behind in the rush to economic growth.

Today is Equal Pay Day.

Equal Pay Day raises awareness of the gender pay gap and acknowledges how far into the year the average woman must work to earn what the average man earned in the previous year.  In Canada, Equal Pay Day is on April 12th symbolizing that on average, a woman must work 15 and a half months to earn what a man earns in 12 months.

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap describes the average difference between the wages for women and men who are working. Women earning less than men is a pattern that is seen globally.  The global gender pay gap is estimated at around 20%, meaning women earn 77 cents to every dollar men earn for equal value of work.[i] At this rate, it will take between 135 – 202 years to close the gender wage gap globally.[ii]

Canada ranks 24th out of 156 countries in the gender pay gap.[iii] In Canada, women earn on average .89 cents to every dollar a man earns. Ontario reflects this national average as well. When compared with other provinces, Ontario ranks 6th for its gender wage gap.[iv]

Does the gender pay gap impact all women equally?

It is important to note that the gender pay gap impacts women differently based on race, age, gender identity, and disability. For example, racialized women in Canada earned .59 cents to every dollar a man makes compared to non-racialized women who made .67 cents in 2015.[v] The average annual income for LGBTQ women in Canada is significantly lower than heterosexual men[vi] and women living with disabilities make an average annual income of $3,630 less than women living without disabilities.[vii]

What causes the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is caused by a number of factors.  Women are more likely to be in part-time employment and take time away from employment for childcare responsibilities industries.  Women are also more likely to be pushed into certain industries and occupations through discriminatory practices. Women often excluded from occupations that are seen as more lucrative, such as STEM industries. Instead, women are over-represented in occupations that are traditionally seen as women’s occupations such as the care economy.[viii] Work in male dominated industries is seen as valued at a higher rate compared to work in female dominated industries. According to the ILO, in addition to these factors, the gender wage gap is further caused by the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions.[ix]

It is calculated that these factors account for one third of the gender pay gap.[x] The rest of the gender pay gap is generally attributed to discrimination.[xi] This reinforces the point that the gender pay gap is very much an active form of oppression.

Why does the pay gap matter?

The gender pay gap has significant impacts on women’s economic wellbeing, especially for those women most marginalized. The long-term consequences of pay inequity mean that by the time women retire, they can be in a precarious economic position with limited pensions, or living in poverty.

For Canada, closing the pay gap could earn .6% incremental GDP growth to Canada, and between +0.4–0.9% for each province annually.[xii] We are currently losing on a large part of our labour market and potential for growth.

The gender pay gap also has an impact on women’s safety. Poverty can increase women’s risk of victimization and also trap women in violent situations. The lack of access to income and housing is the key barrier to women leaving abusive relationships. Having access to financial resources can significantly improve women’s access to housing, health care and legal supports.

What is the social cost?

The gender pay gap is an intentional form of discrimination and oppression against women. It is a visible sign of the value we place on women’s work and time. Ultimately, the gender pay gap perpetuates gender inequality, which is the root cause for gender-based violence.

What can be done? The Equal Pay Coalition works around the year to close the gender pay gap. The Coalition has 4 easy actions that you can take to help tackle Ontario’s gender wage gap.

[i] United Nations Women. ‘Equal pay for work of equal value’. https://www.un.org/en/observances/equal-pay-day

[ii] World Economic Forum (2021). ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2021’. https://www.weforum.org/repo`rts/global-gender-gap-report-2021

[iii] OECD (2022). Gender wage gap https://data.oecd.org/earnwage/gender-wage-gap.htm

[iv] Statistics Canada (2022). Average and median gender wage ratio

[v] Block, S., Galabuzi, G., and Tranjan, R. (2019). ‘Canada’s Colour Coded Income Inequality’. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. https://policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/canadas-colour-coded-income-inequality

[vi] Lourenco, D. ‘Researchers confirm substantial income disparities among lesbian, gay and bisexual Canadians’. Published Aug. 13, 2021. https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/researchers-confirm-substantial-income-disparities-among-lesbian-gay-and-bisexual-canadians-1.5546857

[vii] Burlock, A. (2017). ‘Women with Disabilities’. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14695-eng.htm

[viii] Moyser, M. 2019. ‘Studies on Gender and Intersecting Identities: Measuring and Analyzing the Gender Pay Gap: A Conceptual and Methodological Overview’. Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/45-20-0002/452000022019001-eng.htm

[ix] ILO. (2019). ‘Understanding the gender pay gap’. https://www.ilo.org/actemp/publications/WCMS_735949/lang–en/index.htm

[x] Pay Equity Office Ontario. The Gender Wage Gap: It’s More Than You Think. https://www.payequity.gov.on.ca/en/LearnMore/GWG/Pages/default.aspx#fn1

[xi] ILO, 2019

[xii] McKinsey Global Institute. (2017). ‘The power of parity: advancing women’s equality in Canada.’ https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/gender-equality/the-power-of-parity-advancing-womens-equality-in-canada

“I was left with two options that didn’t work for me and I had to choose the lesser evil, instead of having to think about what would really work for me and what would facilitate healing.”

This quote tells a story we’ve heard from survivors again and again: there is something missing from the housing options that we offer women experiencing violence.

In 2021, WomanACT conducted research with 74 survivors of intimate partner violence to better understand their housing experiences and preferences when separating from an abusive relationship. We explored the housing options currently available to survivors, what the ideal housing situation would look like when leaving violence, and what survivors would want in place to feel safe and comfortable in independent housing. Across our research, one message became abundantly clear: it’s time to change our expectations about women leaving home in order to be safe.

We know that housing instability when leaving an abusive relationship is a common experience. Survivors often find themselves moving between precarious housing options that don’t meet their needs. The participants in our research were no different. 80% of the survivors we surveyed relocated from their housing when fleeing violence – most often to shelters or staying with family or friends – and 58% reported a loss of control over their housing options at that time.

That’s where Safe at Home programs come in. As a housing model already used in countries around the world, Safe at Home enables survivors to remain in their home with the perpetrator removed or move directly to independent housing through a range of supports that reduce risk and maintain tenancies. Program components include legal orders, home security measures, and service referrals.

Armed with this program blueprint, we set out to learn more: Would this housing model address the gaps we were hearing from survivors? If so, how could this program be designed to best support their needs?

We asked and survivors delivered. We heard that Safe at Home would allow them to stay in a place already suited to their needs and community connections. That Safe at Home would prevent disruptions to their everyday lives. That with the right supports, it would have been their preferred housing option at time of separating from their abusive partner. Justice, control, security, stability. These were just some of the words used to describe the feelings that Safe at Home could provide.

But the housing model wasn’t without concerns. There was the risk of harm from their partner when living alone, having access to only short-term supports when they had long-term needs, and the limited justice system responses that had failed them before. And the biggest concern of all? Affordability. It was no surprise that safe, stable, independent housing simply had too high a price tag for survivors.

Where some see barriers, our participants saw opportunities. We worked with survivors to envision the design of an ideal Safe at Home program, one that could take their concerns and turn them into solutions. The ideas were endless: easily accessible emergency funds, a case manager to coordinate all their needs, trauma-informed housing providers, new home décor to limit reminders of the abuse, education on the right to housing, the list goes on. This told us that with the right supports in place, Safe at Home could be the answer to survivors’ calls for safe and affordable housing. That’s why 86% of participants who did not have Safe at Home available to them would have wanted it as an option to choose from when leaving violence.

WomanACT is ready to bring these ideas into action. Over the next two years, we’ll be working to assess and strengthen the foundation of public policies, funding streams, and social norms that are needed to make Safe at Home a reality.

It’s time to shift our expectations about survivors leaving home to reach safety. It’s time for bold, rights-based solutions that put survivors first. It’s time for Safe at Home.

The Safe at Home project conducted community-based research into policies, programs and practices that support women to remain in their own home or independent accommodation when leaving a violent relationship. You can read our full set of findings in our research report “A Place of My Own”: Survivors’ Perspectives on the Safe at Home Housing Model

WomanACT is proud to partner with Uber Canada as part of Uber’s Driving Change initiative, a global commitment to support and partner with leading sexual assault and domestic violence organizations to prevent, address, and respond to gender based violence and advance women’s equity around the world.

In 2021, Uber announced $2.6 million (USD) for organizations working to end gender-based violence. This included $190 thousand (USD) for Canadian organizations.

Working alongside national and local partners, Uber’s Driving Change initiative will build tools, policies, develop innovative safety features, support programs, and educational materials for drivers, riders, and customer support agents to promote awareness and stop assault, harassment, and violence against women.

WomanACT works collaboratively to eradicate violence against women through community mobilization, coordination, research, policy and education. We are committed to working across sectors to create systemic change. We believe that raising awareness and engaging in national conversations on violence against women is key to getting at the root of the issue. 

Together, WomanACT and Uber Canada, have the opportunity to reach millions of drivers and riders across Canada to raise awareness, prevent gender-based violence, and promote safety within the rideshare community and throughout Canada. 

In January 2021, the Canadian government announced a commitment to develop a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence. Leading up to the development of the Plan, WomanACT undertook consultations with community organizations and survivors on what they wanted to see in the Plan. The consultation process was supported by Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) and YWCA Canada.

WomanACT held 4 consultations in February 2021 and engaged over 100 survivors and 50 community organizations. The key themes we heard across the consultations included the need to improve the pathways to justice for survivors, the lack of housing and income supports for survivors and the need for greater support and investment into the prevention of gender-based violence. The need to rethink our justice system, including creating alternative community-led responses to violence and developing new and restorative justice models was a key point of discussion.

Survivors and community organizations were asked their views on the priorities and opportunities for the Plan. Participants shared a range of ideas and solutions including:

Participants across the consultations shared the need for the Plan to address systemic issues and be paired with substantial investments into prevention and response strategies. The need for accountability and evaluation measures was also a common theme across the consultations. Participants asked that survivors are given decision-making and leadership roles in the development and implementation plan.

You can review our full What we Heard report here

In 2019, Canada committed to supporting the most vulnerable communities in accessing affordable and quality housing through the National Housing Strategy. The strategy identified women and children fleeing intimate partner violence as a priority community.

Over the last six months, and in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of safe and affordable housing for women and children fleeing violence has become a front-facing issue. The “stay home” protocol implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19, meant that victims of intimate partner violence were confined with their abusers and had dwindled access to resources and supports for safety. Women and children fleeing violence continue to face unique barriers in accessing safe, affordable and quality housing and the current global pandemic has exacerbated the urgency for action.

On September 21, 2020, the Honourable Ahmed Hussen announced new Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) to help address the urgent housing needs of vulnerable Canadians by rapidly creating new affordable housing. This strategy is described as a step forward in stimulating the economy, and supporting vulnerable communities. WomanACT applauds the minister on this announcement, and on the development of this new initiative.

To remain in alignment with Canada’s National Housing Strategy, we recommend that the Rapid Housing Initiative adopts a gender equity perspective including:


The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the housing challenges and crisis that exists. Housing remains one of the top barriers faced by women experiencing violence and the services that support them. Violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness and housing instability among women and their dependent children. It can lead to devastating impacts on a woman’s economic security, preventing them from leaving abusive situations because they are unable to secure safe and affordable housing. The Violence against Women sector in Toronto has experienced an increase in demand in the needs for services and supports by survivors during the pandemic.  

We strongly believe that pandemic recovery housing strategies must adopt an intersectional gender approach. We also need to see collaboration across all three levels of government in addressing the housing needs. We support the City of Toronto’s Housing and People Action Plan and the COVID-19 Interim Shelter Recovery Strategy and want to see long term, affordable and permanent housing solutions for women fleeing violence across the City.

We also welcome the recommendation that SSHA and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services collaborate to coordinate approaches to serving women and their children fleeing domestic violence, including coordination between the VAW system and the City-operated housing opportunities. Over the last 6 months, the violence against women sector has collectively and rapidly mobilized to adapt to emerging issues and needs. We have embraced change and used this time to reflect on how we can do things differently and better serve women experiencing violence from diverse communities with housing insecurity. We must start implementing measures and solutions that address women’s housing needs in the long term to provide safety and stability. 


Today we celebrated International Women’s Day at the Keele Community Hub with our York South-Weston Community.

Caring for our Communities, Caring for Ourselves focused on the importance of non-profits in our community. The event was kicked off by local MP Ahmed Hussen who welcomed everyone to the event and spoke to the importance of celebrating International Women’s Day as well as further advancing policy and programs that support women in our communities.

We then hosted a panel discussion on decent work for women in non-profits with speakers discussing the importance of workers’ rights, diversity on boards and valuing women’s work.

The event had a turn out of over 50 local agencies and community members from across York South-Weston.

Yesterday the Violence against Women Coordinating Committee held a training event on how to become a trauma informed organization.

The event welcomed 62 participants representing 38 organizations from across the city of Toronto.

The event heard from Dr. Ramona Allagia, from Factor-Interwash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto and Dr. Sarah Morton, Director of Matter of Focus and Honorary Fellow at the University of Edinburgh.

Dr. Sarah Morton spoke to the challenges of capturing outcomes across our sector and telling stories and having numbers to share impact. Dr Morton also shared information on OutNav, software to help organizations manage their evaluation and outcomes and demonstrate impact.

The event also welcomed speakers from Elizabeth Fry Toronto, YWCA Toronto, Toronto Harbour Light and the Child Development Institute.