Every two and half days, a woman or girl was killed last year, according to the inaugural report from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA).
There were 148 documented femicides in 2018. Where an accused had been identified, 91 per cent of perpetrators were men.
The highest rate of femicide was in Nunavut, which saw four cases in 2018, followed by Yukon, New Brunswick and Manitoba. The lowest rate was in Quebec, followed by British Columbia and Nova Scotia.
Indigenous women and girls were overrepresented, making up 36 per cent of victims though they only account for five per cent of the country’s population.
A 2015 UN committee to eliminate discrimination against women found that perpetrators of violence against Indigenous women were able to count on the insufficient response of the police and justice system that allowed them to operate with “impunity.”
There were no recorded femicides in the NWT but violence against women often goes unreported in the North, says Annemieke Mulders, director of advocacy, programs and research with the Status of Women Council NWT.
“Most violence against women in the NWT is not reported to the RCMP,” said Mulders.
The council contributed information to the year-end report published on Jan. 31, which cautions that 148 deaths is a minimum estimate. A number of deaths go unrecorded in official statistics as some are not designated as homicides, despite family and friends knowing the victims were killed by violence.
The council wants to see improved services for women because limited access prevents them from escaping violence even as it escalates, said Mulders.
“Violence by one partner against another often accelerates over time and becomes more severe,” she said. “That’s why we are very concerned with looking at services that are available to these women so that as violence increases, they have options.”
The report found higher incidences of femicide in rural and remote areas.
“The severity of violence appears to be anecdotally against women who do not have access to supports and services along the way,” said Mulders.
Those supports include community counselling, social workers, adequate housing, emergency shelters for women or familial support, she said.
Women between the ages of 25 and 34 years old were also over overrepresented, making up 14 per cent of the population but 27 per cent of deaths, the report states.
Some of the most common motives and indicators for femicide were misogyny, sexual violence, coercive and controlling behaviours, including jealousy and stalking.
Women continue to be killed mostly by people they know. Male partners killed women in 53 per cent of the documented deaths. Male family members killed victims in 13 per cent of the cases, acquaintances in 13 per cent of cases and strangers in 21 per cent of cases.
Documenting femicide to guide policy
The report was published following a call by the United Nations to comprehensively document gender-related killings of women and girls, otherwise known as femicide.
The term first came into play in the 1970s when feminist pioneer Diana Russell described femicide as “the murder of women by men motivated by hatred, contempt, pleasure or a sense of ownership of women.”
Today it is defined as the killing of one or more women by one or more men because they are women.
Documenting femicide can influence the development of prevention initiatives and better policy, the report states.
The observatory collects information on male homicides for comparative purposes.
At least 10,495 women and girls have been killed by violence in Canada since 1961, the year official data collection started.
Women killed by violence “almost always” die in the context of an intimate relationship or sexual violence perpetrated by men.
“We have yet to meet the basic standard required to prevent these killings or to hold perpetrators accountable in a manner that would reflect widespread condemnation of these crimes,” states the report.