Quebec Deputy Premier and Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault spoke out Wednesday over a rise in incidents of violence against women, resulting in the deaths of seven women in as many weeks.
“It’s seven deaths too many … seven tragedies that as women, as a government, as a society we can not accept,” Guilbault said during a press conference in Quebec City.
“This violence against women — it has to stop.”
The latest victim died on Tuesday in a Montreal hospital after being assaulted in her apartment in LaSalle over the weekend. A man believed to be her partner was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and breaching conditions.
Montreal police said the Crown Prosecutor could decide to upgrade those charges, pending the results of an autopsy.
Guilbault acknowledged the pandemic has exacerbated the situation for victims of domestic violence, the majority of which are women, but pointed to numerous resources available for those living through a difficult situation.
She urged women not to be afraid to seek help and insisted that at no time should COVID-19 restrictions act as a barrier.
“I just want to be clear on this. At no time should a woman fleeing a violent family home with her children be worried about the police, by curfew rules, by sanitary rules, by public health,” she said. “There are no restrictions that exist for a woman who must leave a violent environment.”
Guilbault also encouraged men who resort to violence in their relationships to seek out help. adding that prevention was an important tool.
She pointed out that for every man that asks for and receives help, there is potentially one less tragedy in the making.
In recent weeks, organizations that provide assistance to men have seen an uptick in calls — an encouraging development, according to Guilbault. While prevention is an important tool in reducing violence against women, she warned that abusers can not act without impunity.
Preliminary numbers cited by Guilbault show a 45 per cent increase in domestic charges being laid, stemming from a 12 per cent increase in cases signaled to police.
“It’s a step in the right direction, in the sense that people have to understand that this type of action doesn’t go unpunished in Quebec,” she said.
Guilbault said a rise in awareness surrounding the issue, may have led to more people coming forward to signal a problem.
The Montreal police department (SPVM), for its part, reminded residents of the need to remain vigilant, especially during the pandemic.
“Many people may be deprived of their usual support network,” the SPVM said in a news release. “We all have a role to play in the face of this violence and we must speak out against it.”
Conjugal violence, according to police, can look different from one situation to the next.
“It includes, psychological, verbal, physical and sexual assault, as well as acts of economic domination against an intimate partner, whether they are of the same sex or not, at any age,” the news release reads.
One thing that remains a constant, however, is that actions towards a victim of domestic violence do not result from a loss of control by the perpetrator, police said. “On the contrary, they are a means chosen to dominate the other person and assert power over them.”
Police are asking anyone who is a victim or a witness of domestic violence to call 911.
Once a case is signaled, officers intervene to rescue the victim and ensure their safety, as well as the safety of loved ones.
“They direct the victim to safety or to organizations that can help,” police explained. “As for the aggressor, they are arrested and an indictment is submitted to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions.”
The SPVM also reiterated Guilbault’s message for both women and men to seek assistance with community organizations — a list of which can be found on the SPVM website.
If you or someone you know is scared at home or is suffering from domestic violence, call 1-800-363-9010 or get more information here on the Montreal public health website.
— With a file from Global News’ Alessia Simona Maratta