A woman or girl was killed every 2.5 days on average in Canada last year, according to an inaugural report on femicide that argues the issue must be better understood in order to reduce the number of slayings.
The first annual report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability – titled “#CallItFemicide”– was released Wednesday and answers a call from the United Nations for countries to better track gender-related killings of women, said lead author Myrna Dawson, the observatory’s director and a professor at the University of Guelph.
“It really drove home how often this was happening when we were monitoring this on a daily basis,” she said.
“Women are still most at risk of men that they are intimate with or who they should be able to trust.”
The goal of the report, at least in part, is to acknowledge that the circumstances and motivations surrounding women’s violent deaths differs from those of men so that femicide can be better understood and prevented.
“The context in which women and girls are killed is vastly different because they’re most often killed by people they know, and that’s in contrast to males who are most often killed by acquaintances and strangers,” Dawson said. “Calling it for what it is and recognizing the distinctiveness underscores the fact that we need different types of prevention.”
The report said 148 women and girls were killed in 133 incidents in 2018, with 140 people accused in their deaths. In 12 of the 133 incidents, no accused has been identified. Some cases involve multiple accused.
More than 90 per cent of those accused were men.
In many cases, a police investigation is still ongoing, Dawson said, adding that researchers intend to follow the cases through the justice system the coming years to better understand the factors that went into each.
The statistics include a van attack that left eight women and two men dead in Toronto last year. The accused in that case, Alek Minassian, has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder. He is set to stand trial in February 2020.
Understanding these issues is key to preventing further femicides, said Julie Lalonde, a women’s rights advocate and public educator.
She said statistics like those in the report also help cut down on misconceptions about violence against women, such as the idea that women in abusive relationships should just leave.
“We don’t talk about things like criminal harassment or the fact that most women are killed after leaving or declaring that they’re going to leave a partner,” she said. “We have to challenge all the myths and stereotypes that tell women it’s their own fault.”