A woman or girl was murdered every 2.5 days on average in Canada in 2018, according to a new report that aims to deliver a more nuanced picture of femicide and domestic homicide across the country. The report, which was done by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, was created to answer a call from the UN to more effectively track gender-related murders, said author Myrna Dawson, leader of the observatory and University of Guelph professor.
“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 numbers and demographics for this report were pulled from media coverage, which was more accessible and at least as accurate as official sources, Dawson says. In the coming years, as these cases progress through the justice system, researchers will look at court documents to track updates.
The report states that 148 women and girls were murdered in 133 incidents in 2018. There have been 140 people charged for these incidents, with 12 cases having no one accused. Over 90% of these were men. There are also other demographics that are disproportionately represented in the statistics. For example, even though Indigenous women make up only 5% of the Canadian population, they represent 36% of the women and girls killed by violence. In addition, 34% of the victims were killed in rural areas, where only 16% of the population lives.
Understanding these issues is key to preventing further femicides, says Julie Lalonde, an Ottawa-based women’s rights advocate and educator. For example, she noted that funding for sexual assault centres is distributed on a per capita basis in Ontario, which puts women in rural areas at even more of a disadvantage. “The argument is there’s less of a need (in rural areas). Perhaps in terms of numbers, but you have a more complex need in rural communities that require more resources because you have to travel long distances. You don’t have public transit for people to get away,” Lalonde said.
Lalonde also notes that this report challenges common assumptions about gendered violence, like the idea that women in abusive relationships should just leave. The report revealed that 53% of the women killed this year in Canada were killed by intimate partners. “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.”