Intimate partner violence an ‘epidemic’ in Canada, say experts

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Intimate partner violence an ‘epidemic,’ say experts
Intimate partner violence an ‘epidemic,’ say experts – Feb 13, 2024

The alleged murder of five family members at the hands of one of the victim’s common-law partner has intimate partner violence experts sounding the alarm.

On Feb. 11, 30-year-old Amanda Clearwater, her children Bethany Manoakeesick, 6, Jayven Manoakeesick, 4, and Isabella Manoakeesick, 2 months, and Clearwater’s niece Myah-Lee Gratton, 17, were allegedly killed by 29-year-old Ryan Manoakeesick. He faces 5 first-degree murder charges and remains in custody.

“This situation that happened is an absolute tragedy,” Andrea Gunraj with the Canadian Women’s Foundation told Global News.

“I’m hoping that we will have an all-of-Canada solution and a really community-grounded solution to gender-based violence and intimate partner abuse, because these tragedies just can’t happen anymore.”

According to Statistics Canada, between 2009 and 2022, 18 per cent of solved homicide victims were killed by an intimate partner.

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Forty-six per cent of solved homicides of women and girls were perpetrated by an intimate partner, compared to just six per cent of solved homicides of men and boys.

“We need to call this epidemic for what it is,” said Lisa Fast with Agape House, a women’s shelter in Steinbach.

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Fast says the shelter is consistently at capacity.

“We’ve had over 80 clients in shelter, and we’ve had over 1200 crisis calls last year. That would be the highest numbers we’ve seen in over eight years,” she said.

She adds many precarious situations are exacerbated by the housing crisis, which is “lengthening the stays at short-term crisis shelters.”

“We’re seeing a lot more complex situations where clients are coming in with maybe more mental health concerns. There’s addictions and homelessness as well,” Fast said.

Gunraj says solutions and strategies to combat intimate partner violence need to put those at highest risk at the forefront.

“We know that it’s especially worse for those who are marginalized. I’m thinking Indigenous women, racialized women to us, LGBTQ-plus people, women with disabilities. The rates are far higher for these communities,” she said.

“We have to make sure that things like shelters and crisis lines, the grassroots interventions that people can call and get to help them in violent situations are funded to meet the need,” Gunraj added.

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At the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, students ages 12-14 participated in the YMCA’s Power of Being You conference, learning about relationships, consent and boundaries. Partnering with local organizations and groups like Klinic, Rainbow Resource Centre, Bannock Babes and Art City, the day-long event aims to prevent violence through education.

“We know that gender-based violence happens every day, in households and outside of households, in schools, on the bus, everywhere,” said Bre Woligroski with the University of Mantioba’s Sexual Violence Resource Centre, who spoke at the event.

Woligroski said the event also aims to foster acceptance among peers of different genders, sexual orientations, ethnic backgrounds and cultures.

“We’ve made a lot of headway in terms of gender equality and identity equality. And then that really … took a hit in the pandemic, and a lot of the politics and a lot of the talk and discussions around Canada right now or are not very great,” she said.

While the conference was planned well before the Feb. 11 deaths in Carman, Woligroski says if students want to talk about what happened, the organizers are open to discussion.

“I think what happened in Carman really just highlights the need for this every day in Manitoba, to teach our young people about a world that’s more free and inclusive.”

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