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Crime

Women’s shelters oppose Edmonton police policy to not name domestic homicide victims

WATCH ABOVE: It's a sensitive debate that exposes the divide between the right to privacy versus the public's right to know. As Vinesh Pratap reports, the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters has now taken a formal position on publicly identifying victims of deadly domestic violence.

The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) now as an official position when it comes to naming the victims of deadly domestic violence.

“This is something that the community needs to understand, what it happening,” Executive Director Jan Reimer told Global Newsindicating that ACWS believes names should be released.

In early 2017, the Edmonton Police Service policy changed, with then Chief Rod Knecht citing the need to respect provincial privacy rules.

It’s a position he vigorously defended multiple times.

READ MORE: Edmonton police chief defends policy not to name all homicide victims

Following a homicide, a news release is issued which is also posted on the EPS website. If a decision is made not to release a victim’s name, a message like this or similar is added:

“Every file is evaluated on a case by case basis. The EPS has decided not to release the name of the deceased in this investigation for the following reasons: it does not serve an investigative purpose and the EPS has a duty to protect the privacy rights of the victims and their families.”

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Through the course of the ensuing debate of whether names should be released or not, ACWS has been asked to offer perspective.

In establishing a formal directive, the organization consulted with its members. The position statement was unanimously approved by its board.

“It’s been labelled a private matter, hidden away, not to be talked about, and they thought it was really important that those names get out there,” explained Reimer.

“Women need to be more than statistics.”

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READ MORE: Police policy draft on naming homicide victims now with Alberta privacy commissioner

Following a request for comment from police, a spokesperson indicated there will be a review of the practice.

Edmonton’s new police chief, Dale McFee, addressed the issue earlier this month following his swearing-in ceremony.

“I think we need somebody in to do a real quick review,” McFee said on Feb. 1, adding: “It’s probably not going to be a win for everybody.”

“For too long, this has been an invisible issue.”

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Reimer believes by releasing names, it could be a tool for prevention.

READ MORE: Change made to allow police in Saskatchewan to name homicide victims

“Because explaining to the public what the risk factors were, what had happened and also making known what resources there are in the community for other women — that that can be extremely helpful.”

ACWS has asked for a meeting with the new police chief.

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