At least 57 women have been killed in Canada in 2018 so far, according to a recent report, and experts believe misogyny is contributing to a majority of the deaths.
“That is one femicide victim every other day,” said Myrna Dawson, a sociology professor at the University of Guelph and head of the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence. “It’s the underlying misogyny in society towards women.”
The report, published Tuesday by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, tracks femicides in Canada and monitors the social responses to these killings.
The organization defines femicide as the killing of a woman or a girl, primarily by a man, based on her gender.
The data relies largely on media reports for its data and said the 57 women count is only an estimate, as many of the homicides may have not yet been reported or discovered.
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According to Statistics Canada, in 2016, 148 women were victims of homicide. There is no data available for 2017.
“It feels like Canada has a lower incident of femicide, but we do have many and consistent occurrences of it,” Dawson said, who also headed the report.
“Canada has a world-wide perception of being a peaceful country, and we are compared to others, but we do have an issue with femicide; it’s important to talk about it.”
Toronto attack and ‘incel movement’
The report comes a week after 10 people died, including eight women and two men, when a van mounted a Toronto sidewalk, mowing down pedestrians in its path.
Alek Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder in relation to the attack on April 26.
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Just before the rampage, Minassian’s Facebook page had a post praising the so-called “incel” movement and California mass-killer, Elliot Rodger.
Incel, or “involuntarily celibate,” is a misogynist online culture of men who don’t have access to sex and believe it’s a basic human right. Following Monday’s carnage, members of the incel community praised the Toronto truck attack, calling for similar action, saying “it’s now or never.”
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Toronto police have not declared a motive for the attack.
Dawson said she believes the action was not random.
“Mysgonoist hate existed here,” she said. “But we call it a mental illness or a random attack instead. This happens on a regular basis, it’s not just this one case. It happens consistently all year … There are women being killed and mowed down for the same types of reasons,” she explained.
Indigenous girls, women most vulnerable
Of the 57 women and girls killed, the largest group of women were killed in Ontario (33), followed by Quebec and Manitoba, each with six women killed (eight of Ontario’s 33 victims were killed in the one incident in Toronto last week), according to the report.
The victims’ ages ranged from two to 94. And out of the 48 cases where the suspect was identified, 18 involved women who were killed by current or former partners who were men.
The report also stated that Indigenous women and girls experienced a disproportionate rate of femicide in Canada.
“There has been a drop in homicides over the past decades for men and women, but it is increasing among Indigienous women. They are most at risk,” Dawson said.
‘Hatred of women is widespread social problem’
Dawson said that to properly combat femicide, people first need to acknowledge the danger of misogyny.
“There is a normalization and tolerance of violence towards women, as many think we can’t do anything about it. But we have to change attitudes,” she said.
After the attack in Toronto, Dawson noticed more people were starting to talk misogyny and violence towards women and girls, but she said more still needs to be done.
“Discussions about this are so important,” she said. “It does not mean you have to believe it or not. But it’s a step forward.”
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Emer O’Toole, an assistant professor of Irish performance studies at Concordia University recently wrote in The Guardian, that if Minassian was motivated by violent misogynists like the incels, it shouldn’t be ignored.
“If involvement in misogynistic online communities is indeed part of the picture here, we need to resist any narrative that would push this into the background. Hatred of women is not a mental illness; it is a widespread and dangerous social problem. It is a problem we need to address before more people die.”
— With files from Global News’ Arti Patel