418 cases of domestic homicide in Canada

A new report exploring domestic homicides in Canada suggests both women and those in vulnerable populations are most at risk of violence and that communities and institutions are responsible for working together to prevent more tragedies.

The report by the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative with Vulnerable Populations (CDHPIVP) looked into 418 cases of domestic homicide that involved 476 victims between 2010 and 2015. Its findings were released Thursday, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

About 80 per cent of the adult victims involved were women.

More than 50 per cent of victims were vulnerable and either identified as Indigenous, immigrant, refugee or a young person. Those victims could’ve also hailed from a rural, remote or northern community.

 “One death is one too many … domestic violence is a serious issue in Canadian society and it may be lethal,” said Peter Jaffe, one of the lead authors and academic director of Western University’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children.

“We have to do a better job with safety planning and risk management in these cases,” he said, noting that members of the public and institutions need to better recognize signs of abuse.

More awareness of risk factors

The report suggested that about 90 per cent of the cases involved male perpetuators.

The majority of the victims were in an intimate relationship with the accused at the time of the homicide and most of them were killed in the home they shared with the accused.

Given the nature of the relationships, Jaffe said domestic homicides are often predictable and preventable. “They don’t happen out of the blue,” he said, raising awareness to a number of risk factors including:

  • Recent separation
  • History of domestic violence
  • Verbal threats
  • Issues around addiction and depression
  • Stalking behaviour

The report unveiled that 37 children were killed in those domestic homicides, 70 per cent of which were biological children of the victim and/or accused.

Jaffe said “the first step has to be much better public awareness and much better professional awareness. We need better training for police, for people in the justice system and in health care … Teachers play a role … we need to make sure the whole community is involved.”

The report highlighted the underreporting of both domestic violence and abuse, which increases the difficulty of identifying those cases.

Better resources in place

Not only are vulnerable populations more prone to violence, Indigenous women specifically are twice as likely to be killed in a domestic incident.

Jaffe said the history of oppression, intergenerational trauma, impact of residential schools and the aftermath of the sixties scoop all play a role in impacting an Indigenous community.

“We know these communities are often lacking resources and are dealing with serious issues around poverty and mental health and addictions so clearly there’s a need for much better resources to be in place,” he said.

Jaffe said policy makers need to provide more funding and institutions need to look at different models for police service, including more collaboration with community partners.

By the numbers:

  • 28 per cent of the adult victims were between the ages of 25 to 34
  • 443 of the accusers were identified, 21 per cent of which committed suicide and seven per cent attempted suicide following the homicide
  • 38 per cent of the victims died as a result of stabbing, sometimes followed by either a shooting strangulation or beating 
  • Second-degree murder was the most common initial charge laid (50 per cent) followed by first degree murder charges (37 per cent)

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