Text of the Declaration of Principles

Declaration of Principles to Eliminate and Prevent Violence Against Women in Housing Cooperatives

The term "survivor" will be used in this Declaration, rather than "victim.” In this way, we recognize the strength and incredible courage required to survive an experience of violence. Also, the term “woman” includes any person who identifies herself as a woman.

Considering that the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms recognizes that the home is inviolable, that every person has the right to security and integrity, to privacy and to peaceful enjoyment, that no one shall harass or discriminate against any person because of his or her origin, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, civil status, age, political or religious beliefs, language, ethnic origin, social condition, physical or mental state (Sections 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 and 10.1) ;

Considering that our Declaration is part of the movement to denounce sexual violence that mainly targets women, e.g., #BeenRapedNeverReported, #MeToo, #AndNow, protests against sexual violence on campus, support movement for missing and murdered Aboriginal women;

Considering that such violence is part of historically unequal power relations between men and women, the culture of rape and the continuum of violence against women;

Considering that 1 out of 3 women has been the victim of at least one sexual assault during her life;

Considering that two thirds of sexual assaults are committed in the private sphere, that they are often invisible, hidden and committed without witnesses, behind closed doors;

Considering that abusers particularly target isolated, poor, low-status, trans, racialized, indigenous, single-parent and disabled women;

Considering that housing cooperatives are places where unequal relations exist between tenant members and those to whom certain powers are delegated, such as those responsible for allocating rent subsidies and those who hold the keys to all the units;

Considering that it is mostly women who live in housing co-ops (⅔ of members), that many single women choose to live in co-ops because they perceive them as safe living environments, and that, paradoxically, many of them have stated that they suffer violence precisely because they are women;

Considering that numerous testimonies by women have shown that, in housing cooperatives, it is the survivors of violence who are forced to withdraw and even leave their homes to flee the aggressor;

Considering that the impacts of this violence are detrimental to survivors’ full participation in cooperatives and to their power to act on their living environment;

Considering that assaulting or harassing a woman is not an uncontrollable impulse or a loss of control: it is a power play and a deliberate choice, because everyone is able to keep their opinions to themselves, to control their desires and to manage their behaviour;

Considering that the individual interests of the abuser must no longer be put above the collective well-being of the cooperative; that an abuser's right to housing should never compromise the integrity of a sexual assault survivor;

Considering the numerous testimonies, it is clear that the law of silence persists in housing co-ops because, under the threat of reprisals, and, because they are pressured by accusations that they are creating tensions in the living environment, survivors remain silent, and when they speak, members deny their experiences or ignore them, which contributes to their isolation and forces them to endure the unacceptable;

Considering that the first step in combating violence against women is to take the word of those who have experienced it;

Considering that survivors of violence currently face a police and judicial system that does not provide them with justice because the burden of proof rests entirely on their shoulders and may call their word into question, thus protecting the abusers rather than those whom they have abused;

Considering that the founding values and principles of the cooperative movement such as equality, equity and solidarity should lead members to condemn all forms of violence against women and encourage the voices of survivors to be heard;

Considering that preserving the right of women to live in an environment free of violence is a collective responsibility, which must be assumed by all members of housing cooperatives;

Considering that, having benefited from the work of those who set up the cooperative network, we, in turn, have the responsibility to bequeath safe environments to future generations;

Considering that FHCQ has signed the Declaration against violence experienced by women in their housing, in which it undertook to invite its members to include, in their internal governance rules, recognition of the specific violence suffered by women tenants, and to set up mechanisms to prevent and combat such violence;

Considering that the FHCQ, with the "Présence des femmes, pouvoir des femmes" project, aims to support the full participation of women in cooperatives and to remove the systemic barriers experienced by women, such as violence;

Because we acknowledge these situations, we commit ourselves to take a stand against all forms of violence against women, more specifically those committed in the home, and to ensure that all women, whatever their conditions, have access to a dignified and peaceful life, free from all forms of violence. The Federation, by adopting this Declaration, undertakes to:

Take a stand and combat all forms of violence against women, more specifically those experienced in the housing context (harassment, intimidation, sexual and domestic violence, etc.), ensure that survivors can remain in their homes, and be a leader in the fight to transform the Cooperatives Act so that it is fairer to survivors;

Develop tools to support survivors, for example by assigning a worker trained in feminist intervention on violence against women in cooperatives, to document incidents, support survivors, create links with help resources, etc.

Train its staff in the feminist analysis and approach to violence against women, and ensure that it is applied in their interventions with housing cooperatives.

Speak out!

Do you have questions or would you like to share the reality in your co-op? If you want to share your success stories or find solutions to your challenges on the road to equality and inclusion, write to us!