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Women in vulnerable demographics most at risk of domestic homicide, study finds

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More than three quarters of Canada’s domestic homicide victims were women, according to a new report released Thursday that said belonging to some specific demographic groups elevates the risk of a violent death even more.
The report from the Canadian …


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  • More than three quarters of Canada’s domestic homicide victims were women, according to a new report released Thursday that said belonging to some specific demographic groups elevates the risk of a violent death even more.

    The report from the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative, a multi-year project studying domestic homicides with a focus on vulnerable groups, tracked data from across the country and analyzed relevant deaths between 2010 and 2015.

    Of the 476 people slain in a domestic homicide during that time, the report found 76 per cent of them were women or girls.

    The study focused particularly on four vulnerable groups — those of Indigenous heritage, immigrants and refugees, people living in remote or rural areas, and children. Taken together, people belonging to those four groups comprised 53 per cent of homicide victims killed during that time period, the report found.

    Myrna Dawson, report co-author and University of Guelph professor of public policy and criminal justice, said the numbers should serve as a wakeup call to a society that may have been lulled into a false sense of security about the safety of women in general and vulnerable populations in particular.

    “There is much talk about the need for improved resources for women and children experiencing violence, but I think sometimes that the general public feels that we have addressed this issue,” Dawson said.

    “These numbers are a stark reminder that, while we may have tried to improve our responses to domestic homicide for which women are clearly the primary victims, our efforts have fallen short somewhere along the line, particularly for some groups.”

    Some of those shortcomings emerge when looking at the vulnerable groups highlighted in the study, she said, adding anyone hoping to address gender-based violence needs to examine the unique challenges those populations face rather than trying to devise a one-size-fits-all solution.

    The data on homicide victims in rural and remote areas, for instance, suggests a need to rethink government responses to firearms.

    Domestic slayings in such communities accounted for 22 per cent or nearly a quarter of the homicides in the study, she said. Females were targeted in 78 per cent of those cases, the research found, but unlike in the rest of Canada where stabbings were the most common cause of death, killers in remote communities resorted to firearms most often.

    Governments funnelling money to combat guns and gangs in urban environments should take note of the data, Dawson said, adding the numbers suggest a need to direct some of those funds to limit violence in rural areas as well.

    Other barriers for those in remote areas include limited employment opportunities and lack of resources to help people leave abusive relationships, the report said.

    Similar risk factors were identified for immigrant and refugee populations, who may be isolated due to language barriers or lack appropriate or culturally relevant community supports.

    For Indigenous women, for whom the rate of domestic homicide was twice as high as the non-Indigenous population during the report’s time frame, the research found poor socioeconomic conditions and systemic racism play a role in keeping people in violent circumstances.

    In order to provide meaningful help for people at risk of domestic violence, Dawson said everyone from researchers to service providers need to start looking at broader societal forces and not just individual circumstances.

    “We need to recognize that our efforts to address risk and safety for those experiencing violence are not working well,” she said. “We need to examine more nuanced and targeted ways to better respond so that we capture the lived realities of those experiencing violence the most. “

    The report also found that 13 per cent of cases surveyed involved the death of so-called collateral domestic homicide victims, typically family members, new partners, friends or neighbours of the intended target. The children of the intended victim made up the bulk of those deaths, the report said.

    Dawson said the risks faced by Canadian women are generally in line with global figures released last month by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

    That study found that 58 per cent of global homicides involving female victims in 2017 were domestic slayings. Dawson said the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative intends to continue surveying data until at least 2021.

    One vulnerable population not factored into the report’s analysis was disabled women, a demographic that both Dawson and Statistics Canada have identified as being at particular risk of violence in the home.

    A report released earlier this year found disabled people were twice as likely to experience domestic violence as non-disabled counterparts. It also noted that disabled women were more than twice as likely to report spousal violence than non-disabled women, though homicide rates were not specifically explored.

    Bonnie Brayton, National Executive Director of the Disabled Women’s Network, said omitting this demographic from a discussion of vulnerable populations is a “common and problematic practice.”

    But she said a burgeoning interest in research on disabled women and girls will hopefully address this shortcoming while helping to broaden the conversation about gender-based domestic violence.

    “This report absolutely has gaps, but the implication that should stand out is that intersectional feminist research is the way forward if we are going to see a shift in female homicides,” Brayton said.

    Michelle McQuigge , The Canadian Press


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    National

    Canadian Press NewsAlert: Canadian citizen killed in Honduras plane crash

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    TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Global Affairs is confirming that a Canadian citizen has been killed in a plane crash in Honduras.
    A spokesperson for the department says the crash happened in the Roatan Islands area.
    Stefano Maron says consular offic…


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  • TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Global Affairs is confirming that a Canadian citizen has been killed in a plane crash in Honduras.

    A spokesperson for the department says the crash happened in the Roatan Islands area.

    Stefano Maron says consular officials in the capital, Tegucigalpa, are in contact with local authorities and providing consular assistance to the victim’s family.

    Local media report that all five people who died in yesterday’s crash were foreigners.

    More coming.

    The Canadian Press


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    Environment

    ‘Rope-a-dope’: Environmentalists say Alberta war room threat won’t distract them

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    EDMONTON — Environmental groups targeted by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are shrugging off the new government’s promised $30-million “war room” to fight criticisms of the province’s energy industry.
    “The war room makes for good theatre, but the people …


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  • EDMONTON — Environmental groups targeted by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are shrugging off the new government’s promised $30-million “war room” to fight criticisms of the province’s energy industry.

    “The war room makes for good theatre, but the people who follow this closely are going to look at this as amateur hour,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace.

    “Chasing environmentalists might play well politically, but it’s not actually relevant to the discussion that Alberta and Canada need to be having,” added Simon Dyer of the clean-energy think tank Pembina Institute.

    Both groups have been singled out by Kenney as examples of ones distorting the truth about the impact of the oilsands. The premier has said government staff will be tasked with responding quickly to what he calls myths and lies.

    Kenney has also promised to fund lawsuits against offending environmentalists and to call a public inquiry into the role of money from U.S. foundations.

    “Stay tuned,” Energy Minister Sonya Savage said Tuesday. “We’ll have something to talk about next week.”

    Environmental groups have already been discussing informally what the United Conservative government might have in mind and how they should react.

    “We’ve been contacted,” said Devon Page of Ecojustice, an environmental law firm. “We’ve been saying to the groups, ‘We’re here. We’ll respond and represent you as we have in the past.’

    “What we’re trying hard not to do is to do what I think the Kenney government wants, which is to get distracted.”

    Dyer and Stewart said their groups are about 85 per cent funded by Canadians. The Pembina Institute was founded in Drayton Valley, Alta., and its headquarters remain in Calgary.

    Both called the war room political posturing aimed at the party’s base.

    “A lot of the rhetoric around our work and our contribution to Alberta has been based on complete misinformation,” said Dyer, who pointed out Pembina has worked with virtually every major energy company in the province.

    Stewart called the threats a rerun of the 2012 campaign against environmental groups fuelled by the right-wing The Rebel media group and led by Stephen Harper’s federal Conservatives.

    “We learned to play rope-a-dope,” said Stewart. “Stephen Harper was our best recruiter.

    “We had people contacting us saying, ‘How do I lie down in front of a bulldozer?’ We don’t usually get a lot of those calls but we were getting a lot of those calls.”

    Each group is confident in the accuracy of the facts it cites. Dyer said Pembina research has been used by investors, academics and governments.

    Stewart said the issue isn’t facts, but how they are understood. 

    “Often what it is is a disagreement over which fact is important. Industry will say, ‘We’re reducing emissions per barrel.’ We’ll say, ‘Emissions are going up.’ Both statements are true and it depends which you think is more important.”

    Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the Kenney government must tread carefully. It’s OK to defend your position, but not to threaten, she said.

    “If we’re talking about initiating lawsuits against individuals or organizations on the basis of speaking out on issues of public importance, then that raises serious problems,” she said. “Then we have a much more obvious impact and potential violation on freedom of expression.”

    The province could possibly expose itself to legal action if its statements harm a group or individual — say, by putting them at the centre of a Twitter firestorm, said an Edmonton lawyer.

    “There’s certainly some kind of moral responsibility in terms of understanding that kind of highly charged rhetoric,” said Sean Ward, who practises media law. “You have to understand the consequences that are likely to follow.”

    Ward said any cases the government funds would also be tough to win. 

    “There are a lot of available defences. It’s difficult to see that this sort of general debate they’re going to be able to shut down with defamation law.”

    Environmentalists say their response will be to avoid distraction and carry on.

    “The vast majority active in this place don’t want to go back to a high conflict, polarizing environment,” Dyer said. “We’re not interested in polarizing this debate.”

    Bob Weber, The Canadian Press




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