More needs to change

More needs to change

Culture shift needed to combat violence against women

It has been 30 years since a homicidal misogynist marched into École Polytechnique in Montreal, declared feminists had ruined his life and killed 14 women with a semi-automatic assault rifle.

Each year, we rightfully commemorate the victims of this horrific event in Canadian history, but what has really changed?

According to Northern Society for Domestic Peace executive director Carol Seychuk, what has changed is awareness. She said reporting of serious violence against women has increased ten-fold, from around two per cent in 1989 to 22 per cent today.

What has not changed is the violence.

We have not had another mass shooting, but last year a self-described “incel” (meaning involuntary celibate) killed eight women and two men in a van attack on a Toronto sidewalk.

According to a Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (FOJA) report those eight women were among 148 women and girls killed in 133 violent incidents in Canada in 2018. In 12 of those cases, no accused has been identified. In the other 121, 140 people have been accused. More than 90 per cent of those 140 are men.

Only 21 per cent of the accused were unknown to their victims. By contrast, 53 per cent of the alleged killers were intimate partners and another 13 per cent were other male family members.

And that is just the violence that results in death.

Bearing in mind that most family violence goes unreported, every year between a quarter and a third of all reported violent crime is intimate partner violence (IPV) and four out of five IPV victims are women. There were roughly 96,000 victims of IPV in Canada in 2017.

Extrapolate that to all the unreported incidents and it is an epidemic that seems to defy explanation.

There was much discussion surrounding the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre on banning military-style weapons in Canada. The new Liberal government has promised to ban guns like the one used at École Polytechnique.

If indeed that is part of the solution, it is an exceptionally minor part.

What is required here is a complete culture shift.

It starts with boys.

We must, as men, as fathers, as uncles, as brothers, as friends and as colleagues model behaviour and language that states unequivocally it is never OK to treat women and girls badly.