Sask. advocate supports call to look at homicides of females differently

Original Article: CBC News  |  January 31, 2019  |  Kendall Latimer

A Saskatchewan advocate is supporting the call for homicides against females to be looked at a separate type of crime.

Six women were victims of homicide in Saskatchewan last year, according to a new national report titled #CallItFemicide.

"Six is far too many," said Crystal Giesbrecht, Director of Research and Communications with the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan.

Giesbrecht said some cases still classified as suspicious deaths — so the number is likely to grow.

"In a province with such a high rate of intimate partner violence, the killing of women and girls is directly relevant."

The country's inaugural #CallItFemicide report says a Canadian woman or girl was killed every 2.5 days on average in 2018 and the majority accused in the killings were men. 

The report was released Wednesday by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, which collected data from media reports.

The report answers a call from the United Nations for countries to better track gender-related killings of women. Giesbrecht is one of the expert advisory panel members for the project. 

"The goal of this is to remember the victims and make sure that they're not forgotten, and then also to learn from it and say what can we do and how can the information from these cases help to inform prevention," she said. 

Saskatchewan has been known for having one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the country.

Giesbrecht said the data is "consistent with everywhere else around the world: that the most dangerous place for women is in their homes."

In 2018, more than half of Canadian female homicide victims were killed by someone they knew.

"The majority of femicides were perpetrated by intimate partners, so 53 per cent. But then another 13 per cent were perpetrated by other male family members."

Indigenous and rural women at higher risk

The report shows Indigenous women continue to experience femicide at a disproportionate rate despite growing awareness, Giesbrecht said.

"It's something that we need to take seriously," she said.

"More attention has been paid to the disproportionate rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls, but it continues to happen."

The report found 36 per cent of 2018 victims were Indigenous, despite Indigenous women and girls making up only five per cent of Canada's total population.

Thirty-four per cent of the victims were women living in rural areas, but only 16 per cent of the total population lives in a rural area.

Giesbrecht said several factors complicate the risks of living in a rural area, "like transportation and housing and accessibility of services."

Women and girls were most often killed using a firearm, according to the report. It said rural areas in particular are seeing an uptick in gun crime, citing a Statistics Canada report that said, "the national increase in homicides committed with a firearm was evident in rural areas."

Gender based motives

The report found that, in Canada, 148 women and girls were killed in 133 incidents in 2018. Five gender-based motives or indicators were found to be common factors. 

They were misogyny, sexual violence, coercive controlling behaviours like jealousy and stalking, separation and over kill — where the violence goes beyond what is needed to cause death. 

Giesbrecht said the findings of the report must guide future research, especially in regards to women known to be at higher risk for violence.

"We know about the high rates of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls, newcomers, older women, people with disabilities," she said.

Giesbrecht said people appear are aware of the higher rates and intersecting barriers that put these women at risk, but more information is needed to stop the killings from happening.

She said the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability will continue to look at how femicides are handled in the media, criminal justice system and by the government.