New report shows femicide on the rise in Ontario
It's one of the most solemn days of the year in Canada, marking a dark chapter in the country's history. Monday marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It was back in 1989 where 14 women were murdered on the sole basis of their gender.
Now, 32 years later, it comes as a surprise to no one that we're still having an issue with gender-based violence.
A recent report from the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Housing (OAITH) found there were 58 instances of femicide over the past year, five in northeastern Ontario -- three in Sudbury and two in Sault Ste. Marie.
OAITH defines femicide as the intentional murder of women because they are women. Broader definitions can include any killing of women or girls.
"It's definitely not headed in the right direction and there is a noticeable increase," said executive director Marlene Ham.
The organization looked at a number of different femicides, Ham said, including intimate partner, family femicides, and those they classify as unknown.
"It's very concerning," she said. "We know from the shelters that we work with the severity of violence has increased for the survivors that they're working with and when we compare that with the femicide list, we certainly see more women who have been murdered."
Given the fact many have seen this during a time of COVID-19, she said, and it's forcing some women to choose between their physical safety and measures involving COVID-19, is upsetting.
"They always said at the beginning of the pandemic that it's safer to be at home but unfortunately that's not always the case for our clients," said Giulia Carpenter, the executive director of Sudbury Women's Centre.
Carpenter told CTV News the centre has seen an increase in the number of phone calls it has received as of late.
If there were ways the government could help, it would be appreciated, she said. Things like providing better access to technology and internet services, items to make sure women can reach support services in the event they need them.
It's a similar story for another member of the Coalition to End Violence Against Women, Marlene Gorman of Genevra House Shelter.
"We want to see those numbers eliminated altogether. The numbers have increased and it's during a pandemic. Violence against women was declared a pandemic before COVID-19 and COVID-19 just exacerbated that," Gorman said.
It created a group of women who had nowhere to go, she said, adding Black, Indigenous, and racialized Canadians are all over-represented when it comes to the statistics.
The increase in demand they're seeing has also translated into a longer wait at the shelter due to a lack of affordable housing, she said.
"We can listen to women when they tell us what they're experiencing and believe them. We know that 1 in 3 women will experience violence in their lifetime," Gorman said.
"(The) pandemic has made it much worse because women are more isolated, people are more frustrated. We get that, but we have to teach everyone in our society that you cannot use violence against another person no matter what," said Gaetane Pharand, executive director of Centre Victoria pour femmes.
The francophone women's centre typically holds a memorial service at the cemetery for the victims of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre, but this year had to put it on hold due to inclement weather.
"I've been the executive director for close to 30 years and I'm starting to get a little desperate. I understand it takes a long time to create change, bring society into an awareness and willingness as to what's happening out there," Pharand said. "Communities are aware about this, they know, but I think sometimes we've become a bit desensitized."
"We need to see a shift in stronger penalties and just that abusers be held accountable," said Erin Lodge, of Women in Crisis Algoma.
"We strived diligently to get a message out to our community that we're open," Lodge said. "We need government officials to look at our procedures on the criminal justice system. Abusers need to be held accountable for their actions in Sudbury and how they affect others."
Even one death is too many, she added.
The number as it stands now is 58, with less than one month left in the year, and they're still waiting for the results of 10 unconfirmed deaths.
The list of those that were killed this year includes women, girls, trans women, two-spirit, and gender non-conforming individuals.