More than 5 paid days needed to escape domestic violence, say advocates

Government of Nunavut offers 5 days paid, 5 days unpaid for family abuse leave

Human Resources Minister Margaret Nakashuk, left, and Nunavut Employees Union president Jason Rochon sign a new collective agreement in August between the GN and the union at the legislative assembly in Iqaluit. The six-year agreement provides 10 days of family abuse leave for employees — five days paid and five days unpaid. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)

By Madalyn Howitt

The Government of Nunavut is caught up with the rest of Canada in offering family abuse leave, and while some experts applaud the move, they say more support is needed for survivors in the territory.

The territorial government implemented the policy, which consists of five days paid and five days of unpaid leave, for its employees in August.

Nunavut is the last Canadian jurisdiction to make domestic violence leave available to government employees, following the Northwest Territories in 2020. It is now on par with other provinces and territories, most of which offer some paid leave. British Columbia and Alberta offer domestic violence leave, but it is all unpaid.

Nunavut is also one of the jurisdictions in Canada most affected by domestic violence.

The rate of domestic violence in Nunavut is nine times higher than the rest of Canada, according to research done by the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre in 2019.

Inuit women specifically experience domestic violence at higher rates than any other group of women in Canada, according to Gerri Sharpe, president of the national women’s organization Pauktuutit.

More than half of Inuit women — 52 per cent — have experienced at least one form of violence as an adult.

Sharpe said 10 days of family abuse leave may be sufficient for some situations, but employers have a responsibility to accommodate individuals who are fleeing family violence.

“Ideally, an employer would work in collaboration with an individual who required leave and together they could develop a plan that would work for both the employer and employee,” she said.

“This leave is essential for Inuit women, as it ensures they are not penalized economically for accessing medical, legal, psychological or community support when violence occurs.”

Inuit women in particular can face unique challenges when they try to flee violent situations, such as a lack of community shelters and expensive airfare, Sharpe said, forcing women and children to stay in unsafe situations.

According to a 2022 report from Women’s Shelters Canada, Nunavut’s Residential Tenancies Act does not include special provisions for early termination of lease due to violence.

Conditions like this make it all the more important that workplaces “not be a barrier to fleeing violence,” Sharpe said.

Kaitlin Geiger-Bardswich, communications and development manager at Women’s Shelters Canada, gave similar feedback. She said Nunavut’s family abuse leave policy is a good start — but it might not provide enough support for some people’s situations.

“I don’t think anyone could get their life back together in a week,” she said.

“If [I] were leaving an abusive relationship, for example, I don’t think I could get my life back together in five days.”

On Sunday, the Nunavut Employees Union launched its first-ever Women and Leadership Conference in Iqaluit. It will culminate in a commemoration of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on Dec. 6.

The conference, which will include discussions on bargaining demands from women’s perspectives, women in leadership roles and work-life balance for female employees, is one of several recent efforts to ensure members have better support from their workplace, said union president Jason Rochon.

“We know that escaping family violence can mean losing pay, and it’s important that members in our communities have that option,” he said of the family violence leave policy.

Rochon cited a 2014 report from the Public Service Alliance of Canada that found one in three people in the country have experienced domestic violence, and of those people, 82 per cent say family violence negatively impacts their work.

Domestic violence can follow people out of the home and into the workplace through stalking, harassment, abusive phone calls and threats, he said.

“That’s why we wanted to make sure that there was 10 days of paid leave, which we didn’t end up getting,” he said, referring to negotiations this past summer that led to a contract with the Nunavut government that will remain in place until 2024.

“I think we did make some steps in the right direction and we’re going to have to look at doing more bargaining input for the next round … . At least [employees] have those five days where they can collect themselves.”

Rochon acknowledged that privacy concerns could pose a barrier to some people who need leave to deal with domestic violence situations, but said that like sick leave, those conversations with employers would be “kept in confidence.”

“An employer wouldn’t be allowed to ask certain questions … there’s things that management needs to keep on a professional level, but it’s OK to check in with employees and just ask them how they’re doing,” he said.

“If it saves one life, then it’s absolutely worth it.”


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(18) Comments:

  1. Posted by 867 on

    How about zero? These days basically normalize abuse and are unique to nunavut govt. Since no proof is being requested, these days will undoubtedly be abused by some employees. Stop entering into abusive relationships and none of this will ever happen

    • Posted by Blown away on

      This has to be one of the single worst comments i’ve ever read on here.

      “These days basically normalize abuse”
      No, They absolutely do not, where the helll do you get ideas like this?

      “Since no proof is being requested, these days will undoubtedly be abused by some employees.”

      If 1 out of 10 employees abuses this, but it saves 9 people from abusive situations, Why does it matter to you?

      “. Stop entering into abusive relationships and none of this will ever happen”

      Do you think abusive people show up day one throwing punches? abusive relationships tend to escalate slowly and are pretty difficult for most people to pick up on the signs early on. people don’t show up wearing an ” i abuse people tshirt” It often doesn’t begin until they have you locked in and entranced by their bullshit. and by then, they know where you live. Who your family is, you might even live with them by the time it starts

      your comment is WILDLY insensitive.

      • Posted by sure on

        I wonder if it is an ex boy/girl friend that keeps harassing you after the breakup (they dont live with you), can it also be used. how much abuse is enough to use it? if they are banging on the door in the middle of the night so you dont sleep can you use one day, then use another day if it happens again?

        If you are reading this and you are doing this to someone… just know some day you will pick the wrong person and you will get called out. and you will lose.

      • Posted by 867 on

        “people don’t show up wearing an ” i abuse people tshirt”

        not exactly but it is also no secret who the abusers are in these small towns, yet people still get into relationships with these abusers and then there families pull the “i told you so” but its too late. There is often no real justice for the abuser and the abused doesnt want to press charges because they think the abuser will change. ya right.

  2. Posted by Me on

    Yay! We need this. I was once a GN employee and had been medivac due to domestic abuse, I was on leave without pay after I have been medivac. Didn’t go to work for about two weeks cuz it was that bad. All those two weeks was leave without pay.

    • Posted by How about on

      Did you sue your abuser for lost wages? Did you sue him/her for the medical costs?

      • Posted by Thomas Shelby on

        You can try suing all you want but you can’t get blood from a stone. Also, its costly to take someone to small claims court and make them pay.

      • Posted by How about nope on

        Asking a victim if they sued their abuser, as if that is a reasonable, viable course of action? Are you serious?

    • Posted by Show Up To Earn Leave Credits on

      If you were medevaced you would qualify for sick leave. Why didn’t you have any sick leave credits?

      • Posted by Earn respect credits on

        Expecting someone going through trauma to have a perfect attendance record so they can take time off to recover from abuse? I can safely say, based on your comment- this might not be the place for you.

    • Posted by Putting this out there on

      First, I am sorry that happened to you. No one deserves that.
      Did you end up back with the same person? if you did how much time would you need to actually leave the person forever? Did anything change for the person that did that to you?

  3. Posted by Putting this out there on

    A few days of paid leave is great… however with the lack of housing where are they going to go? How will they actually escape it? How about we as a community START to actually condemn spousal abuse in the community.
    Don’t buy their music/art, dont celebrate them when they win competitions (if we cant stop them from entering), dont celebrate how great of a hunter they are, and we should start calling them out on it. Stop defending our friends and family that are like this.
    The number of times you see the abused, but everyone is so proud of the mighty hunter or dog team owner or hockey player or community leader. and they are celebrated.

    • Posted by sure on

      Someone should start a fb page “Calling out Nunavut abusers”

  4. Posted by Maybe on

    Deal with the abuser then provide services for the abused. Time to say enough.

  5. Posted by Contract Negotiations on

    Human Resources Minister Margaret Nakashuk and Nunavut Employees Union president Jason Rochon, have the two of you started negotiations for a new contract? The two of you, not committees of people with no authority to talk about anything.
    If not, why not?
    The current excuse for a contract ends September 30, 2024. October 1, 2024 is the strike date if a suitable agreement has not been signed.
    History has shown that it takes many years to reach an agreement, so start now. You have lots to talk about.

    • Posted by Noob on

      Negotiations will start in 2025. It’s the only way things can work in NU, Deadlines are dead…

    • Posted by G-man Choi on

      Apparently the GN top dogs for HR in the negotiations didn’t want to give GN employees much of anything in the contract, everything had to be fought tooth and nail for by the Union to get anything for GN employees. The GN is lucky the people voted for the contract, otherwise it may have been a long strike.

      • Posted by Strategy on

        GN Contract Negotiation Strategy
        Objective: To raise Inuit Employment Percentages
        Method: Stall NEU contract negotiations with the objective of encouraging southerners to quit and lead Nunavut.
        Advantage 1: Fewer southerners will raise the percentage of Inuit employees.
        Advantage 2: More positions will be open for Inuit to be hired into.


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