Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Count reserve violence

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The rate and number of sexual assaults against women in Manitoba are rising, up more than 10 per cent between 2009 and 2011. Police-reported cases of attempted murder and physical assaults fell in the same period, but Manitoba still has close to double the national rate of violence against women.

Manitoba historically has held this ignominious rank amongst provinces -- only Saskatchewan's rate is higher, says Statistics Canada. Violent crime generally here is higher, but more so with women.

The self-reported data StatsCan gets from talking to people in their homes indicate roughly the same number of men and women experience violence at the hands of a partner, but the gravity of assaults against women is much greater -- dozens more women are killed each year by a spouse or former spouse than are men.

There is some indication fewer women are being victimized by former spouses, which might mean public policy programs to reduce such violence are making headway. Such hopes are tempered by the fact fewer victims are reporting assaults to police.

The numbers for Manitoba and Saskatchewan may be a sign that much harder work has yet to be done, particularly among impoverished communities and with aboriginal people who have higher levels of addictions and social dysfunction. About half of the First Nations population resides on reserves where access to social services and police assistance is often difficult.

Further, StatsCan does not survey or collect statistics from First Nations communities. Data collected from police, courts, jail and general population surveys indicate violent crime is much higher on reserves and for aboriginal people across the country.

With about half the First Nation population living on reserves, a big piece of the domestic violence story in Manitoba is not being told and the rate of violence is likely higher.

The violence rates in both Prairie provinces have remained stubbornly high over the years. Efforts need to be redoubled. More specifically, however, provincial governments have limited reach on reserves. The federal government needs to take note and get better data to illustrate the factors at play to seriously address domestic violence in these communities, especially those that are isolated and remote.

See also wfp.to/countingcrime

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2013 A10

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