Femicide, the killing of women and girls primarily by men, has been on the rise for the last 40 years. In 2018, 148 women lost their lives to this trend. In Canada, the rates of violence against women and femicide are higher for Indigenous women.
The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA) is a web-based research information centre by an interdisciplinary panel of experts from across the country. CFOJA has two main objectives: to address the need for a location for information on justice and accountability for femicide victims in Canada and to facilitate innovative and sustainable research agendas on femicide.
The organization was established by the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence at the University of Guelph in 2017 and published their first annual report, #Callitfemicide this year. The report begins by discussing femicide events that occurred in Canada that have been somewhat overlooked, for example, the mass femicide at École Polytechnique, Université de Montréal in 1989. The massacre caused the death of 14 women and 10 women to be critically injured by Marc Lépine, who claimed he was fighting feminism and blamed feminists for ruining his life. Many feminist groups and government officials characterize the massacre as an anti-feminist attack that is representative of wider societal violence against women. A study led by a group of women who decided to meet the same year as the Montreal Massacre and set themselves to learn about women killed by their intimate partners and called themselves the Women We Honour Action Committee. Lastly, many initiatives throughout Canada drew national and international attention to the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. This continues to be a major issue among the Indigenous community.
Today, the highest rate of femicide is in Nunavut followed by Yukon, New Brunswick, and Manitoba, and the lowest rates were in Quebec, followed by British Columbia and Nova Scotia. The most prevalent areas of women and girls killed is in rural areas making up 34 per cent of the annual killings in 2018, and 16 per cent of the Canadian population. The majority of the cases involved shooting, stabbing or beating, and were within the age group of 24 to 34, making up 14 per cent of the Canadian population.
The report focuses on three main types of femicide: intimate femicide, involving an intimate partner of the victim; familial femicide, involving relatives; and non-intimate femicide, which involves male acquaintances and strangers.
This introduced five major gender-based motives for femicide: mysogyny, sexual violence, coercive-controlling behaviors (including jealousy and stalking), separation, and overkill.
Various socio-demographic factors that were common highlighted groups of victims that are more at risk of being involved in gender-based violence. The group with the highest risk was Indigenous women and girls, followed by immigrant women and girls, older women, and women and girls with disabilities, making up a significant portion of women and girls in Canada.
Ninety-one per cent of the accused are male, which is consistent with not only national, but international patterns as well.
It was found that the home is the most dangerous place for women and girls with 53 per cent killed by male partners and 13 per cent killed by male relatives. The remainder were killed by male strangers and acquaintances.
These statistics shocked Canadians across the country, including University of Waterloo faculty. “It is disturbing that the level of violence, including killing, against women and girls, continues at such high levels, despite advances in women’s rights over the past 40 years,” Dr. Marlene Epp, professor of History and Peace & Conflict Studies said. “We need to keep socializing and educating young girls and boys about gender equality and that violence of any kind is not a solution to conflict, whether interpersonal or interstate – because these are connected. We need to lobby for better gun control such as banning handguns and assault weapons. And we need to oppose popular culture —movies, music, video games —and social media that actually encourage violence against women, girls, and gender minorities.”
To prevent these problematic situations, the media, criminal justice system and the legislative and policy contexts will be examined, as they play a powerful role in challenging problematic attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes that work to maintain men’s violence against women and girls.