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Toronto, ON – A new poll from the WomanACT in partnership with Angus Reid Group shows that experiences of harassment are common on public transit in Toronto. While 86% of transit riders have experienced some form of harassment, it was more common among women, especially experiences of sexual harassment. Women (59%) were more likely than men (22%) to have experienced unwanted sexual looks or gestures, as well as sexual comments (experienced by 50% of women and 19% of men). 

The survey of 1550 people in Toronto also found that feelings of safety are impacted by gender and race. 27% of people said they feel unsafe taking public transit. Women were more likely to feel unsafe (30%) than men (23%). This was further impacted by race. Racialized men were more likely to feel unsafe (26%) than white men (19%). Racialized women were more likely to feel unsafe (28%) than white women (23%).  

The mode and time of travel also impact how safe a rider feels. The subway was the type of transit where people felt most unsafe when compared to streetcar or bus. Riders also felt more unsafe when travelling in the evening or at night. At night, 57% of men felt very safe or safe, compared to 39% of women. 

Public transit riders use various tactics to cope with feeling unsafe, and women are more likely than men to do so. Women said they were often on high alert (59%), used their phone to avoid unwanted attention (46%), avoided public transit in the dark (38%), got off at an earlier stop (37%), traveled with others (32%), or decided not to take a trip at all and stay home (16%) to avoid harassment or feeling unsafe.  

The proportion of Torontonians who don’t feel safe taking public transit is alarmingly high,” says Demetre Eliopoulos, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs at the Angus Reid Group, “The fact that women are adapting their travel behaviour in so many ways, to the point where some are just opting to stay home, indicates that there is a fundamental accessibility issue at play here.” 

Most of the public transit riders (82%) were optimistic and felt that public transit could be much safer with the correct investments and safety measures. When asked about which proposed safety measures would help end sexual harassment on transit, good lighting, security features such as a cameras and request-stop programs topped the list.  

“Tackling sexual and gender harassment requires change at system, organizational and behavioural levels. This is no different when addressing sexual harassment on public transit.” Said Harmy Mendoza, Executive Director of WomanACT. “In addition to transit policies, services and infrastructure that promote safety, it is critical that transit employees and riders can identify harassment and intervene when safe to do so.” 

While the majority (95%) of survey respondents said that it was important to have information on how they can intervene, only 56% of respondents reported that they would know how to intervene if they saw someone in danger on public transit.  

Other survey findings:  

Access the report with key findings here

About this survey: 

In partnership with WomanACT, Angus Reid Group conducted an online survey among a representative sample of n=1550 adults in Toronto. The respondents are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, this sample plan would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.  

About WomanACT: 

For over 30 years, WomanACT has been working closely with governments, organizations, and communities to eradicate violence against women through research, policy, education, and community mobilization. WomanACT uses research to promote public dialogue, transform practice, and shape policy to advance women’s safety and gender equity.  

About Angus Reid Group: 

Angus Reid is Canada’s most well-known and respected name in opinion and market research data. Offering a variety of research solutions to businesses, brands, governments, not-for-profit organizations and more, the Angus Reid Group team connects technologies and people to derive powerful insights that inform your decisions. Data is collected through a suite of tools utilizing the latest technologies. Prime among that is the Angus Reid Forum, an opinion community consisting of engaged residents across the country who answer surveys on topical issues that matter to all Canadians. 

Toronto, ON: Today, WomanACT and The Society for Canadian Women in Science & Technology (SCWIST) are pleased to announce partnerships with three employers who are dedicated to creating workplaces free from sexual harassment: Chandos Construction, EllisDon, and TandemLaunch. The Department of Justice has funded WomanACT and SCWIST to provide custom support to STEM and trade employers to improve company-wide prevention and response measures that address gender-based and sexual harassment. 

On the importance of these partnerships, WomanACT Executive Director Harmy Mendoza says, “Our 2021 survey found that 4 in 10 Canadians experienced some form of harassment in the workplace—a rate significantly higher for women (50%) than men (33%). That is why these cross-sectoral partnerships are critical to ending sexual and gender-based harassment. We are heartened by these three companies’ investments to create a culture of safety, and we are committed to supporting them to improve workplace policies, procedures, and practices.” 

SCWIST President Dr. Khristine Carino reinforces this project by explaining, “As the voice for women in STEM for 40 years, we understand first-hand the impacts of discrimination, gender-based and sexual harassment in the workplace. Addressing these behaviours can decrease stress, improve productivity and motivation, and improve retention rates for women.” 

As to why this work is important to them, Chandos Construction and EllisDon shared: 

“Harassment of any kind shouldn’t exist in any workplace. Period.” says Tim Coldwell, President, Chandos Construction. “We will do whatever is needed to ensure that every employee is part of a pleasant and comfortable working environment. We support WomanACT and SCWIST. Their values align with our own, and we look forward to collaborating with them, and being forces for good, together.” 

“Empowering our employees to prevent and respond to gender-based violence is not only an important step for EllisDon’s safety practices and culture but is crucial to advance our industry as a whole,” says Geoff Smith, President and CEO of EllisDon. “It’s no question that we are a male-dominated industry — we need to be doing everything possible to attract and retain women in our workforce, while providing safe and respectful workplaces to build meaningful careers.”   

About WomanACT: WomanACT has been providing planning and coordination in Toronto since 1991. Today, we are a charitable organization working collaboratively to end violence against women and advance gender equity through education, policy and community mobilization. For more information, please visit www.womanact.ca.  

About SCWIST: SCWIST is a leader in programs, partnerships, mentoring and networks across Canada for women and girls in STEM. Through innovative research, capacity building and collective advocacy, SCWIST has advanced women and girls’ participation and leadership in STEM since 1981. For more information, please visit www.scwist.ca.  

About Chandos: Chandos Construction is the first and largest B Corp Certified national technical builder in North America. We are 100 per cent employee owned, and a pioneer in integrated project delivery (IPD) and collaborative construction. Please visit www.chandos.com.  

About EllisDon: EllisDon is an employee-owned, $5 billion-a-year global construction services company. With over 3,000 salaried and hourly employees across fifteen national and international offices, EllisDon has become a leader in every sector and nearly every facet of the construction industry. Please visit www.ellisdon.com.  

About TandemLaunch: TandemLaunch creates, incubates and accelerates early-stage technology start-ups based on inventions from the world’s top universities in the areas of artificial intelligence, computer vision, IoT, audio and advanced sensors. Having successfully executed over 50 technology transfer agreements, TandemLaunch is a spinout foundry with an international scope, producing high-impact, IP-focused companies with an unprecedented rate of success. Please visit www.tandemlaunch.com.  

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