The tragedy that has unfolded in recent days in Nova Scotia reminds us of the urgent and vital work that must be done to prevent violence in all its forms, including violence against women and femicide. According to the most recent information, the mass shooting that resulted in the deaths of at least 22 women and men began with an act of domestic violence. Although there are still many details to be released, it is a sobering reminder of how domestic and intimate partner violence not only creates immense suffering and harm in itself, but can and does escalate to murder, mass killings, and femicide.
As organizations and experts who study gender-based violence have reminded us, the violence that has occurred in Nova Scotia is not unique in terms of what we already know about the profound impacts that domestic and intimate partner violence holds for families and communities.
- According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, in Canada in 2018, there were over 99, 000 victims of intimate partner violence aged 15 to 89. Almost four-fifths (79%) of victims of intimate partner violence were women.
- The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA) found that in 2019, a total of 136 women and girls were killed by violence in Canada. Of cases where the victim-accused relationship was known 59% of the primary victims shared a current or former relationship with the accused.
- The Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative found that from 2010-2015 in Canada, there were 418 cases of domestic homicide involving 476 victims. There were 427 adult victims (90%) and 49 victims aged 17 and younger (10%). Females comprised 79 percent of the adult victims and males were 21 percent of adult victims.
- Rural, remote, and northern communities can create unique challenges and risks for domestic homicide and other forms of gender-based violence. In 2019, more than one-third of women and girls (38%) were killed in non-urban regions (i.e. rural, remote, and northern), including small towns.
Taking time to grieve the losses sustained as a result of this attack and honouring those whose lives have been lost is essential. One of the most tragic impacts of violence is the possibilities that disappear with the lives of those who are injured or murdered. Communities in Nova Scotia have lost teachers, nurses, personal support workers, RCMP and correctional officers, musicians, friends, neighbours, and family members who brought kindness, support, wisdom, protection, and safety to their communities. With the loss of all of the victims identified to date – Lisa McCully, Heather O’Brien, Jolene Oliver, Aaron Tuck, Emily Tuck, Kristen Beaton, Sean McLeod, Alanna Jenkins, Tom Bagley, Joey Webber, Greg Blair, Jamie Blair, John Zahl, Elizabeth Joanne Thomas, Lillian Hyslop, Dawn Gulenchyn, Frank Gulenchyn, Gina Goulet, Corrie Ellison, Joy Bond, Peter Bond, and Cst. Heidi Stevenson – we are sadly reminded again of the power violence holds to rob individuals of the opportunity to realize their hopes and dreams.
In the weeks and months ahead doing what we can to prevent all forms of violence must continue. This work will include:
- Ensuring that anyone experiencing domestic violence, sexual violence or any other form of gender-based violence has access to the supports that they need to stay safe, including supports that let them know that the violence they are experiencing is not their fault.
- Ensuring that people and organizations that offer refuge and support to people worried about their safety as a result of domestic and other forms of gender-based violence have the resources they need to be ready to offer that support whenever anyone reaches out for help.
- Ensuring that recommendations put forth by those working to find ways to prevent all forms of gender-based violence, including femicide, are implemented by our governments and communities.
- Ensuring that policy and legislation that can improve the lives of those most at risk of gender-based violence is enacted, including strengthening gun control legislation and strengthening the criminal justice system response to hold those responsible for violence accountable.
The Ending Violence Association of Canada expresses its deep condolences for all of those impacted by the mass killings in Nova Scotia. EVA Canada remains committed to the belief that it is possible to end gender-based violence, and will continue to advocate for changes that may help to prevent further tragedies such as the one we are collectively mourning.