The Progressive Conservative government has introduced legislation that would extend employment leave provisions to victims of sexual violence and stalking.
The amendments to The Employment Standards Code would characterize domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking as "interpersonal violence."
Since 2016, victims of domestic violence in Manitoba have been entitled to five paid days of leave and five unpaid days of leave per year that can be taken consecutively or intermittently. Employees can also take up to 17 weeks of continuous leave.
Bill 7, introduced Monday, would extend those provisions to victims of sexual violence and stalking, whether they know their assailant or not.
As well, it would expand leave provisions to include employees who wish to help a child or other dependant who has experienced or been exposed to interpersonal violence.
"It's a positive step for women and girls here in Manitoba," said Cathy Cox, minister responsible for the status of women, after introducing the bill in the legislature.
In 2018, Manitoba recorded the highest rate of police-reported sexual assault among Canadian provinces, with 113 incidents per 100,000 population, compared with the national rate of 77.
Research shows that up to 95 per cent of sexual assaults are not reported to police, the government said.
Cox said the amendments are supported by the province's labour-management review committee and were drafted after consultation with domestic-violence shelter operators and others.
"We think it's important that we provide all women and girls the best opportunity to get healthy (or) to be able to stay home with their family members and dependants if they are the ones who experience violence," she said.
The amendments would bring Manitoba law into alignment with that in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
NDP MLA Bernadette Smith commended the Pallister government's proposed legislative amendments but said more funding is needed for community organizations that support women experiencing domestic or sexual violence.
"I think this government is going in the right direction, but there needs to be more investments to ensure that everyone gets the support that they need," she said.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.