Nicole Thomson, Canadian press
Published Wednesday, January 30, 2019 12:44 PM EST
A woman or girlfriend was killed every 2.5 days on average in Canada last year, according to an inaugural report on femicide that claims the issue must be better understood in order to reduce the number of murders.
The first annual report of the Canadian Observatory for a feminist justice and accountability, called "CallItFemicide," was released on Wednesday and is in line with a United Nations call for countries to better monitor gender-related killings of women, said lead author Mirna Dawson, director of the Observatory and professor at the University of Gelf.
"It really drove home how often it happened when we followed this everyday," she said. "Women are still most at risk for men being intimate or to whom they should trust."
The purpose of the report, at least partly, is to recognize that the circumstances and incentives for violent deaths of women differ from those of men, so that the femicide can be better understood and prevented.
"The context in which women and girls are killed is very different because most often they are killed by people they know, and this is in contrast to men who are mostly killed by acquaintances and strangers," Dawson said. "Referring to what is and recognizing the particularity, it emphasizes 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 being charged with their death. In 12 out of 133 incidents, no indicted persons were identified. Some cases include multiple defendants.
More than 90 per cent of the defendants were men.
In many cases, a police investigation is still ongoing, Dawson said, adding that researchers intend to monitor cases across the justice system in the coming years to better understand the factors that have emerged in each of them.
Statistics include a van attack, which left eight women and two men dead in Toronto last year. The defendant in that case, Alec Minasian, is charged with 10 counts of first degree murder and 16 for attempted murder. He will be tried in February 2020.
The women who died in the Van attack are among 21 per cent reportedly killed in 2018 by a stranger. By contrast, according to the report, 53 percent were reportedly killed by intimate partners. Another 13 percent were allegedly killed by other male family members.
This includes the case of Krasimira Pejchinovski and her 13-year-old daughter Venlalia, who were allegedly killed by their partner Pejchinovski in May 2018. Her 15-year-old son, Roy, was also killed in the incident, but statistics are not included.
Figures and demographic information were extracted from media reports of death, according to the study. Dawson said media information was more accessible and at least accurate as information from official sources. But the report notes that in the coming years, as these cases progress through the justice system, researchers will review court records to monitor updates.
Dawson said there were some demographic data disproportionately represented in the statistics. For example, the report shows that indigenous women represent only about five percent of the population, but make up 36 percent of women and girls killed by violence. Thirty-four percent of women and girls were killed in rural areas, where only 16 percent of the population live, the report said.
Understanding these issues is crucial to preventing further femicits, said Julie Lallonde, a rights advocate for women and a public educator.
For example, she said, funding centers for sexual assault and women's shelters are distributed per capita in Ontario, which puts women in less populated areas in an even greater disadvantage.
"The argument is that there is less need (in rural areas). Perhaps in terms of numbers, but you have a more complex need in rural communities seeking more resources, because you need to travel long distances, transit for people to get away," said Llonde .
She said statistics such as those in the report also help to reduce misconceptions about violence against women, such as the idea that women in abusive relationships should only leave.
"We are not talking about things like criminal harassment or the fact that most women are killed after leaving or declaring that they will leave their partner," she said. "We have to challenge all the myths and stereotypes that tell women that it's their own fault."