February 22, 2020

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Province has highest femicide rate among provinces

Jakira Eastman-Moore was killed Tuesday, October 29, 2019.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Jakira Eastman-Moore was killed Tuesday, October 29, 2019.

Manitoba has a new and dubious distinction to end 2019: the worst femicide rate among the Canadian provinces.

There were at least 11 women and girls killed by acts of violence in the province so far this year, according to the Manitoba government.

The latest Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA) annual report released Friday (National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women), counts 10 killings of Manitoba women and girls in 2019 (seven of whom are named in the report).

 

It emphasizes the numbers should be considered "a minimum estimate" for two reasons. Some deaths deemed suspicious by police were still being investigated at the time of writing, CFOJA said, and others may have gone unreported in the media. Other women who went missing this year may also later be found dead and considered victims of femicide.

Lise Danais.

Lise Danais.

Jane Ursel, a Winnipeg-based CFOJA member, noted more may have been killed in the weeks before the report was finished, as well.

At least 118 Canadian women and girls have died violently so far in 2019, according to CFOJA's tally — one every three days.

"If we had people dying of a disease, a particular disease, every three days, there’d be a huge mobilization of medical resources to address that," Ursel said. "And so I think we must never become complacent about homicide rates, and I believe that one first strong step is much more comprehensive gun control."

Shaylnne Marie Hunter.

Shaylnne Marie Hunter.

The CFOJA found shootings were the most common way in which women and girls were killed in 2019 (36 per cent of cases).

Deena Brock, provincial co-ordinator for Manitoba Association of Women's Shelters, said greater public awareness about violence against women is key to prevention. Education could be done through shelter staff, if they're given more funding, she added.

Brock said provincial core funding for women's shelters hasn't increased in about 14 years.

"The shelters used to spend a lot of time, they used to go out and do a lot of outreach work in schools. We had a very robust, what we call 'non-residential program.' That’s diminished hugely because there just isn’t the staff bodies to take care of all the counselling sessions," she said.

Norma (Bambi) Helen Andrews.

Norma (Bambi) Helen Andrews.

Relative isolation for women living outside Winnipeg's perimeter is another concern, Brock said, especially with the reduction of intercity bus travel, including Greyhound services, last year.

"We have a terrible time trying to get women from further out, the rural areas, trying to get them into the city or to an emergency shelter to get service. So I think that plays a role because women feel isolated. They’re stuck," she said.

Women and girls are more at risk of femicide living in non-urban regions, the CFOJA report found. Twenty-four per cent of women and girls killed by male accused were living in rural, remote or northern regions, whereas only 16 per cent of the population lives in such areas of the country.

 

According to the observatory's report, women were killed by current or former partners in 51 per cent of reported cases, followed by other family members (31 per cent), friends or acquaintances (nine per cent), and strangers (eight per cent).

Bobbie-Lynn Lee Moose.

Bobbie-Lynn Lee Moose.

"I think that we need to be very, very aware of the link between domestic violence and its potential to become lethal," Ursel said. "I think that’s a very strong correlation that provinces that often have the highest domestic violence rate end up with a very high female homicide rate."

Nunavut had the worst rate overall, with 10.6 deaths per 100,000 female residents. Yukon came second with 4.98 killings per 100,000, according to the observatory's count.

Manitoba's rate of killing was the worst among the provinces at 1.46 deaths per 100,000 female residents, followed by Alberta (1.11 deaths per 100,000).

Karen Jane Letniak.

Karen Jane Letniak.

Those who were killed in Manitoba ranged in age from 14 to 93 years old, CFOJA said.

In its last annual report, CFOJA found Manitoba had the second-worst femicide rate among the provinces, behind only New Brunswick. There were 13 confirmed female homicide victims in 2018, which marked a rate of killing of 1.94 per 100,000 women in the province. (New Brunswick's 2018 rate was 2.08 per 100,000 women.)

While Manitoba's rate improved slightly this year, the situation is still bleak — and unsurprisingly so, according to Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls liaison unit manager for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.

It appears many, if not most, of the women killed in Manitoba in 2019 were Indigenous.

"I’m not surprised at the statistics, given the lack of action with respect to the human rights violations with respect to Indigenous women and girls," Anderson-Pyrz said.

"Access to food security, safe affordable housing, and economic opportunities, access to educational opportunities — until those opportunities are presented to Indigenous women and girls, the numbers are going to continue to climb."

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Legislature reporter

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, December 11, 2019 at 8:28 AM CST: corrects error in headline

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