Canada – About 160 Women & Girls Killed in Canada Last Year, Near All by Men
Date: April 1, 2021
By Alyshah Hasham– Courts Reporter
March 17, 2021 – Last year, 160 women and girls were killed in Canada — almost all by men.
Where the relationship is known, half the accused killers were current or former partners and a quarter were family members.
One in five women and girls killed by a man was Indigenous.
The stark numbers shared in the annual femicide report released by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability on Wednesday show an increase in the number of women and girls killed from 2019, when the total was 146. The impact of the pandemic on the numbers is still unclear, the report said, noting that the numbers can change as more information emerges. While some service providers have reported higher levels of domestic violence-related calls during the pandemic, emergency funding and supports may have also helped prevent fatalities, the report said, noting it is near impossible to count lives saved.
The average over the past five years remains the same — one woman or girl killed every 2.5 days in Canada.
What we still don’t know is just how accurate those numbers are — a problem, the report says, that is putting the lives of women and girls at risk.
Femicide researchers have long pointed to a lack of consistent and accessible data that is need to identify patterns that could inform prevention, including records on gender, race and ethnicity, whether sexual violence was involved, whether a weapon was used, and the relationship between the victim and accused. Often researchers have to rely on media reports for this information because there is no national database or other reporting mechanism.
In 2020, the report authors found 36 intimate-partner femicides across the country, a drop of 13 from the previous year. The report cautions that this may be an undercounting stemming from a trend of police providing less information to the media about key pieces of information, such as the relationship between victims and accused.
“People need to know what is going on in our society and by not reporting on these cases or providing information about these cases, it’s actually deterring our ability to prevent,” said Myrna Dawson, a professor at the University of Guelph and director of the femicide observatory, adding that police forces could do more to provide this information publicly.
Another example where little information is available is, in cases involving a gun, whether the firearm was properly licenced or not, she said.
“We’re trying to say women are killed very differently than men. But we are not collecting data that can actually help us move forward on prevention,” she said.
Statistics Canada does collect data on homicides, but that also has gaps when it comes to the kind of information that researchers look for, including whether there was a history of violence in an intimate-partner relationship, she said.
The report also spotlights a significant gap in the collection of race-based data, finding that race or ethnicity was not documented for 65 per cent of victims and 90 per cent of accused.
Statistics Canada has said they will begin to collect race-based data, but Dawson stressed that it must done responsibly and with input from marginalized communities.
Farrah Khan, manager of Ryerson University’s office of sexual violence support and education agrees that there should be data collected so that violence against Black, Indigenous and racialized women is not obscured or ignored.
“The murders of women are built on sexism, homophobia, racism, colonialism. Those are what creates the fertile ground for this violence to occur,” said Khan.
The case of a man arrested Tuesday for killing eight people including six women of Asian descent at three Atlanta-area massage parlours shows that preventing femicides means addressing the criminalization and dehumanizing of sex workers, as well as racism and xenophobia, she said.
Dawson points to a recent study from the World Health Organization that found one in three women worldwide have faced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime and that a quarter of women in relationships have been physically or sexually assaulted by their partner. And following the murder of Sarah Everard in England, women around the world have shared the routine steps they take to be safe and keep other women safe from the ever-present risk of violence and harassment by men.
“We need to move away from individual explanations and look at society to answer why this continues to happen,” Dawson said. “It’s time to focus on primary prevention and figure out where men are in terms of coming up with solutions because they need to have a bigger voice.”