As Peel Regional Police continue to investigate the alleged murder of 27-year-old Sharanjeet Kaur, officers also confirmed that almost half of the homicides in their jurisdiction were domestic-related.
It’s a statistic that has advocates calling for further government action to protect victims of domestic violence, especially those targeted by intimate partners.
“Any one of them are troubling … we treat them very seriously and they’re all investigated thoroughly,” Homicide and Missing Persons Bureau Insp. Marty Ottaway told reporters on Tuesday, while encouraging victims to contact police or ask trusted family or friends to contact police on their behalf.
“My message to women, or for that matter any family member that’s involved in domestic issues, is there is help for them out there.”
Ottaway confirmed that 13 out of Peel Region’s 27 homicides were alleged to have been committed by family members or those who were intimate partners of the victims.
He made the comments during an unrelated news conference on Tuesday — a day after Kaur was found dead in a Brampton home. Officers alleged she was was killed by her former boyfriend, 35-year-old Navdeep Singh, who died by suicide in the same home.
“We have no documented occurrences with either one of them and neither are known to the police,” Ottaway said when asked if any prior reports were made to police.
Ottaway said although he didn’t have the exact statistics at hand, the number of domestic-related homicides is “unfortunately, tragically” around the same percentage as in other prior years.
Chief Nish Duraiappah said while there have been changes in recent years to help victims of violence, he said more needs to be done.
“As we become more aware of the determinants of people being victimized, our systems have to change too. I think what’s happened across policing is this awareness of how we intake reports, how we classify them, how we resolve them,” he told reporters.
“It’s a narrative that knows no boundaries.”
Duraiappah said police have been working to educate people in diverse communities and have put out materials in various languages in an effort to reach a variety of residents.
“Our region … I can say is probably one of the most diverse in this country. The unique nature of how domestic violence is seen in different communities, cultures, is also an added nuance that we are quite focused with,” he said.
“We are also ensuring there is programming into different communities that is ethno-cultural specific.”
‘There are things we can be doing’
When asked about the statistics of domestic-related murders shared by Peel Regional Police, Nneka MacGregor, executive director of the Women’s Centre for Social Justice (WomenatthecentrE), said she wasn’t surprised.
She said the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability found that between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, 118 women were murdered in the context of intimate-partner relationships.
“Unless society starts handling this in a significantly different way, next year in 2020 we’re going to have the same types of numbers of women being murdered by their partners and society standing by, saying, ‘We didn’t know, we didn’t know,'” she said.
“There are risk factors. There are things we can be doing.”
When it comes to spotting the risks, MacGregor said there needs to be a shift in thinking, in that more people need to look at the signs from potential perpetrators of violence.
“Separation is a huge one. The lack of control and the lack of power that this individual feels at the point when their partner is leaving is a huge risk factor,” she said.
“Mental health — if the individual is showing signs of depression … There’s also risk factors associated with a loss of employment.”
MacGregor also said sexual jealousy can be a potential sign, noting, “His anger and frustration would invariably increase and be targeted towards her.”
As for what people can do to support victims, she said she understands why people would counsel victims to leave. But a strong push to leave can potentially further the risk of violence against the victim.
“The reality is that separation is one of the highest points, the highest times when a woman is likely to be murdered,” MacGregor said, suggesting expressions of care are an important source of support for victims.
“The biggest thing to do is wrap them with love and compassion and patience and understanding that what women actually need at that time is safe spaces, safe places, safe people that they can talk to who will not be judging them for either getting into the relationship or for staying.
“They want to know that they can come to you, right, that you are a safe place that they can come to if and when they ever do decide to leave.”
MacGregor also stressed that often times, systemic issues related to poverty and a lack of safe and affordable housing and spaces for victims to go to make it even more challenging.
“Shelters are filled to capacity and saying to women, again, to leave, where are they going to go?” she said, while calling for more resources to help victims and for new ways to engage men before behaviours escalate.
“Where are they going to go that’s safe?”