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Half of Canadians killed by domestic violence belong to vulnerable groups

Racism and remoteness are barriers to getting help, new report says
Photo via  “One is too many: trends and patterns in domestic homicides in Canada" report.

Half of those killed in domestic homicides in Canada between 2010 and 2015 were members of vulnerable populations — they were Indigenous, immigrants or refugees, lived in remote areas, or were children.

Myrna Dawson, the lead author of a new report that uncovered these findings, wants Canadians to be aware that domestic violence is still happening across the country, especially for high-risk groups.


Researchers behind the report, titled “One is too many: trends and patterns in domestic homicides in Canada,” examined 476 domestic homicides in Canada over a six-year period and found that among the vulnerable populations, 42 percent of victims lived in remote areas, 26 percent were immigrants or refugees, 17 percent were Indigenous, and 15 percent were children.

Of adults killed by homicide, 79 percent were women and 21 percent were men.

“It’s clear from the numbers we have here — 476 individuals killed in the context of domestic violence in the last six years — that we haven’t dealt with the problem,” Dawson told VICE News in a phone interview on Thursday.

According to Dawson, these groups are at greater risk “due to historical and ongoing colonization, oppression and discrimination, as well as lack of access to resources because of geography, language, culture, age or poverty.”

“We need to learn more about the nuanced needs of these groups if we want to manage risk and safety planning,” she said. “We need to do so by working with them.”

Dawson said there’s a perception in Canada that we have already dealt with the problem of domestic violence, when in fact the opposite is true.

“It’s on the rise, people are still dying, and what we’re doing is not working.”

Dawson’s research found that more domestic homicides happen in provinces with more rural, remote or northern areas. The highest rates of domestic homicide based on population are Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. The report suggests that the availability of guns could be to blame, since gun ownership is strongly linked to this type of homicide. Another factor is the lack of access to resources.


Homicide rates for Indigenous women are six times higher than for non-Indigenous women, the report states.

“One of the populations we focused on are Indigenous populations, and systemic discrimination and racism,” Dawson said. “So if women and children experiencing violence don’t trust the services that are in their communities because they feel they’re going to be discriminated against or they’re going to be treated with racist attitudes, they’re not going to reach out to those services.”

“They and other populations are also living in rural communities, and geography is something that really isolates people,” she continued. “So if you live in a community that doesn’t have services, and then you don’t have money to get out of that community to access services, then that’s kind of like a double-whammy.”

Her research aligns with two other recent reports.

“It’s on the rise, people are still dying, and what we’re doing is not working.”

A StatsCan report released Wednesday found that in 2017, the rate of intimate partner violence was 1.7 times higher in rural areas of Canada. Among Canada’s largest cities, Thunder Bay had the highest rates of intimate partner violence last year. That report also showed that between 2016 and 2017, the rate of intimate partner violence increased by 12 percent in the Northwest Territories, eight percent in New Brunswick and five percent in Nova Scotia and Quebec.

And a United Nations report released two weeks ago found that the most dangerous place for a woman is her own home.

“One of the things that I hope is that we don’t become complacent,” Dawson told VICE News. “What I hope that people will take away from this report is that we do have the same problems that other countries have, and that we aren’t dealing with those problems as well as we think we are.“

Cover image from “One is too many: trends and patterns in domestic homicides in Canada" report.