Guelph city council approves motion to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic

Ontario is rejecting calls from a coroner's inquest into the deaths of three women at the hands of their former partner to formally declare intimate partner violence an epidemic. People take part in a vigil at the Women's Monument in Petawawa, Ont., on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, following the jury's release of recommendations in the inquest into the 2015 deaths of Nathalie Warmerdam, Carol Culleton and Anastasia Kuzykin. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick. skp

The City of Guelph has added its name to the list of municipalities that have declared intimate partner (or domestic) violence an epidemic.

City council unanimously approved a motion moved by Coun. Dominique O’Rourke at Tuesday’s meeting.

O’Rourke’s motivation to bring forward the motion was based on the recommendations made at the June 2022 coroner’s inquest into the killings of Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzak, and Nathalie Warmerdam in Renfrew County in 2015. Basil Borutski was convicted in 2017 for the murders of the three women.

The inquiry concluded with 86 recommendations that were made to prevent further violence from happening. Many other municipalities in Ontario have declared intimate partner violence an epidemic. There have been calls to have the province to do the same without success.

O’Rourke said this motion is more than just a symbolic gesture as it contains things that can be done both at the municipal level and upper levels of government. She believes the only way to eliminate intimate partner violence is through community action.

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“We have a community plan that is a living document. They will convene a conversation with community experts to look what else we can do. That’s real action,” said O’Rourke.

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“When we look at our community well-being and safety plan again, we are going to do it with a gender-based violence lens (and) calling on levels of government to provide appropriate funding.”

Before the vote, Cindy McMann of Guelph Women in Crisis made a delegation to council in support of O’Rourke’s motion.

“Last year, we supported 998 clients and 54 children across our programs and took 2,452 calls on our crisis line,” said McMann. “Most people who experienced intimate partner violence do not call a gender-based violence support organization. They don’t call the police. This is the absolute tip of the iceberg and rates are going up.”

While there have been arrests and charges laid to individuals who commit intimate partner violence in the past, O’Rourke feels there is only so much police can do to prevent these attacks on women from happening again. Her motion also called on Guelph Police Service to provide a report on how they are addressing the 86 recommendations.

“Guelph Police Services do have a dedicated constable for intimate partner violence,” O’Rourke said. “They are approaching it from when people phone because there has been violence.”

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O’Rourke often became emotional as she went through certain parts of her motion. She said people outside the involved parties can also be affected by intimate partner violence.

“It is not something that you see on the street, it happens behind closed doors,” O’Rourke said. “But the impact is huge. It affects not just that family, but their neighbours, their extended family, their workplace, the entire community.”

Click to play video: 'Bilateral agreement to provide over $160M to help Ontario address gender-based violence'
Bilateral agreement to provide over $160M to help Ontario address gender-based violence

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