Over 100 organizations urge Ford once again to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic

As Canada marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, advocates are calling for a provincial declaration of intimate partner violence as an epidemic. Melissa Duggan speaks with Aline Nizigama, CEO of the YWCA Canada on why the declaration is important, and the supports available for people trying to flee violence.

By Faiza Amin and Meredith Bond

Over 100 organizations and service providers who advocate for survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) and gender-based violence are urging the province to declare IPV an epidemic on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

In a letter to Premier Doug Ford, the organizations said they bring this forward to honour the victims of intimate partner violence, including three women who were killed by the same men. In an inquest into their death, 86 recommendations were made to help prevent similar deaths.

The first of these was to declare IPV an epidemic.

Minister of Social Services Michael Parsa announced an additional $18.14 million to approximately 400 gender-based violence service providers on Tuesday, but did not answer a question about whether the province planned to declare IPV an epidemic.

“This is a problem in our province, and it requires action, and I’ve said this from day one when I came on to this ministry, Minister Williams has made this very clear, it’s important for us to talk about it, but we need actions. We’ve done that with legislation, will continue to do that, and we need to do that backing that up with investments,” said Parsa.

Interim Director of Advocacy at the YWCA, Sami Pritchard, in response, said, “We cannot change what we cannot name.”

“With calling for this epidemic, Ontario has an opportunity to make a vital commitment to the safety and well-being of women, gender diverse people and their families,” said Pritchard. “And we just really hope that they’ll take it upon themselves to make this call to action, we know that the reality is this declaration would be merely a first step to addressing and eradicating this epidemic.”

So far over 70 municipalities, including Toronto, have declared IPV an epidemic. “We can confidently say that Ontarians share our urgency in publicly acknowledging the devastating impacts of IPV and GBV (gender-based violence) and the need to take urgent action to address this violence,” read the letter to the Premier.

So far this year, there have been 62 recorded femicides. Femicides, defined as the killing women, children, trans women, two-spirit people and gender diverse people, are most commonly perpetuated by current or former intimate partners.

“As service providers and advocates, we are seeing firsthand the heightened number of women, gender diverse people and their children fleeing violence and know how critical support for the GBV sector is right now,” read the letter.

According to these advocates, across Canada, around 699 women and 236 children are turned away nightly from emergency shelters because there are not enough beds to offer.

Pritchard also added a public health approach from the province sends a really clear message that they take the lives and well-being of women, gender-diverse people and their families seriously.

“It’s a necessary public policy choice and one that would allow funding to flow to robust public health measures that include prevention, early intervention and public education and could really ensure that different institutions that interact with people impacted by gender-based violence, be it health care, or housing, or courts, all the way to schools and our workplaces, are attuned to and centered in the needs of every survivor.”

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