FREDERICTON (CP) - Calling family violence a "tragedy," Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean delivered a passionate speech Wednesday calling for a concerted effort to end the abuse of women.
"Violence is still a daily reality of many women," Jean told an audience of people who deal with women's issues. "But the woman who stands before you believes that the right of all women to be protected against oppression, discrimination and violence is a fundamental right. I would even say that this right is part of the values that define what it means to be a citizen of this country."
Jean met for almost two hours in Fredericton with representatives of organizations from across New Brunswick that deal with family violence and violence against women.
She said organizations across Canada need to work together in the effort to end such violence.
During her opening remarks, Jean also said family violence is one of the solitudes in Canada that she wants to break.
Jean knows a lot about the issue.
Prior to becoming Governor General, she worked to help create shelters for battered women in Quebec, and since taking on her new role she has discussed the issue with women across Canada, and in Africa and Afghanistan.
Jean said there has been a lot of progress, but there's a lot of work left to be done.
"It's not that we've failed," she said. "But it shows us how much is left to be done in terms of prevention and continuing the actions against that violence."
Nancy Hartling, who co-chairs a New Brunswick working group on violence against women, said the Governor General's activism on the issue gives hope that more progress will be made.
But Hartling said it can't continue to be a women's issue.
"We have to involve youth, and men, and women, because it's still in the news every day that people are being hurt by this issue."
Lorraine Whalley of the Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre said it is important to have someone as high-profile as the Governor General stating that more needs to be done to address domestic violence.
"It is something that we can use to motivate us to continue to give us hope, and hopefully translates into focused attention and resulting funds to continue the work that we need to do," said Whalley.
She said sexual assault is still an issue cloaked in silence, but affects 39 per cent of Canadian women over the age of 16.
Carmel Robichaud, New Brunswick's minister of family and community services, said her province has been doing a lot to address the issue of violence against women, including the recently opened family violence court in Moncton, N.B.
But Robichaud said she knows that more must be done.
Robichaud said sexual-assault services now located only in Fredericton will be expanded to other areas of the province.
"It's not enough," Robichaud said. "We have to extend services to rural areas, where women can access those services and don't feel isolated in the violence they have."