Councillor launches plan to end gender-based violence in Edmonton

Coun. Bev Esslinger introduced a motion Tuesday to improve the safety of women and girls in Edmonton.
Coun. Bev Esslinger introduced a motion Tuesday to improve the safety of women and girls in Edmonton. Global News

Coun. Bev Esslinger believes there is enough data out there that can demonstrate the best ways to improve the safety of women and girls in Edmonton. City council unanimously passed her motion that comes on the heels of the UN Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls International Conference.

“I am working on gathering the data to understand where the problems are,” Esslinger told reporters Tuesday. “There’s a lot of apps out there that says women can say, ‘I don’t feel safe here because…’ or they can look at the data and make better decisions on how to improve that.”

She said part of that data is already available from Edmonton police and other city sources. The goal is to implement formal data-sharing agreements related to safety-related incidents, that capture sexual harassment, verbal harassment and sexual assault.

“There are places where women and girls are choosing not to go at certain times or to certain places because they don’t feel safe,” Esslinger said. “Whether it’s a lack of lighting, or when there’s a construction worker shift change, late at night at transit, so they’re making choices which is limiting their options in life.”

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Information sharing will lead to dot after dot, on a city map, and eventually, Esslinger said that data can inform city decision-makers on the best ways to provide programs and services.

“They can look on a map and see there are all of these red dots where women don’t feel safe. And they don’t feel safe because it’s isolated, there’s no lighting or police presence. Those are practical things we can look at.”

“The other is about changing attitudes of men and boys around women. Catcalling downtown — is that acceptable? I know women are avoiding some of them [construction sites] when there’s a shift change because they don’t want to deal with it.”

“We know that sexual harassment, sexual assault, are on a continuum. Let’s stop it before it happens. So that’s why we’re now saying, ‘It’s got to stop.'”

A report with answers to the motion will come forward to council in early 2019, and Esslinger said the plan is to use that information to help make better financial decisions for the second year of the four-year budget, in the fall of next year.

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“We have the second highest city in Canada for sexual assault rates. We have work to do.”

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