What is femicide?
The United Nations has recognized femicide as the most extreme form of violence and discrimination against women and girls. Femicide is defined as the killing of women and girls due to their gender. In Canada, in 2020 alone, 160 females were victims of violent homicide, which averages to a woman or girl being killed every 2.5 days. Out of the 128 cases where the accused was identified, over 90% of the perpetrators were men, and in 41% of the cases, the perpetrator was a current or former intimate partner. While there are a variety of risk factors for women and girls experiencing violence, they are often at greatest risk when they are leaving or have left an abusive relationship.
Who is at risk of femicide?
While women are the most at risk of being a victim of intimate partner violence (IPV) and femicide, some women are at greater risk than others. Indigenous women have a greater risk of experiencing violence than non-Indigenous women and are overrepresented as victims of violent femicide. Making up less than 5% of Canada’s population, Indigenous women make up 16% of femicide victims. Older adults also experience unique risk factors for intimate partner violence and intimate partner homicide due to their physical and mental health and increased barriers to seeking and accessing help.
Other risk factors include:
- Stalking and jealous, obsessive and controlling behavior by the perpetrator
- Economic stressors, including unemployment
- Access to firearms
- Impending or current separation
- Abuse during pregnancy
The impacts of COVID-19 on femicide
The number of women experiencing intimate partner violence has increased during COVID-19, with a 20-30% increase in some parts of Canada. During the first lockdown, women’s helpline call centers received an unprecedented volume of calls, and over the span of three months, Canada’s Assaulted Women’s Helpline received 20,334 calls, almost double of that of the previous year (12,352). Police across Canada responding to domestic violence disturbances also increased by 12% over a month in 2020 when the pandemic first started.
What can we do?
In June 2022, the jury at the inquest into the deaths of Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk, and Nathalie Warmerdam delivered 86 recommendations to prevent intimate partner violence. It is time to act upon these recommendations. Recommendation #78 specifically is related to information sharing and “working together with the Domestic Violence Death Review Committees (DVDRC), justice partners, and IPV service providers to develop a tool to empower IPV professionals to make informed decisions about privacy, confidentiality and public safety.” WomanACT’s MARAC project has started some of this important work.
Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC) bring together multiple agencies to share information and respond to high-risk domestic violence cases in communities. MARAC was developed in Wales in 2003 and is now in place in more than 250 communities across the United Kingdom. The model has shown to reduce repeat victimization, increase survivor safety and connect survivors with the support and services they need. WomanACT is leading the implementation of this model in two communities across Ontario. At the centre of multi-agency high risk tables are three key components – risk assessment, safety planning, and information sharing.
Interested in learning more about MARAC or setting up a multi-agency response to high-risk intimate partner violence in the community? We’d love to hear from you.
 Statistics Canada (2016). ‘Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report’. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14313-eng.htm
 Thompson, N. (2021). ‘Reports of domestic, intimate partner violence continue to rise during pandemic’. 16 Feb. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/domestic-intimate-partner-violence-up-in-pandemic-1.5914344
 Quenneville, G. (2022). ‘Jury at triple-homicide inquest makes 86 recommendations to prevent intimate partner violence’. 28 June. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/coroners-inquest-intimate-partner-violence-renfrew-probation-1.6503862
 Culleton, Kuzyk & Warmerdarm Inquest Jury Recommendations (2022). https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/22072317-inquest