FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feminist Coalition Féministe (FCF) Statement on Mass Killing in Nova Scotia
Immediately following the mass murders in Nova Scotia our membership joined with feminists throughout Canada who quickly identified this as a situation that had tell-tale signs of misogynist male violence. As events have unfolded we scoured media coverage for evidence of what had taken place. When media failed to ask pointed questions to the RCMP regarding whether these attacks began with violence against a particular woman in an intimate relationship with the killer, our frustration grew. We began writing to media outlets calling out this failure and challenging them to recognize that just as the RCMP’s actions will be scrutinized in the wake of these events, so too will the media’s.
We were disappointed to see only two questions asked about male violence against women at RCMP press conferences, one regarding the nature of the relationship between the suspect and the victims (domestic or neighbours), which the RCMP quickly reframed to ‘known to’ and ‘not known to’ the accused, emptying it of any possible information regarding his relationship with the woman who was the original target of his violence. The second asked directly if the shooter’s spouse or partner was involved and whether she was deceased, to which the RCMP responded it was too early to say. In fact, they had known since very early Sunday morning that she had been her partner’s first victim and that she had escaped his captivity and had emerged from the forest after hiding from him throughout the night. She provided critical information that he was driving a fourth mock RCMP vehicle and was wearing a police uniform.
We are all shocked by the virulent and incredibly lethal violence unleashed by this one particular man, but we shouldn’t be. 87,000 intentional homicides of women occur worldwide annually, 34% of those, or 30,000 are women killed by intimate partners. That’s 82 women per day every day killed worldwide by intimate partners. Another 137 per day are killed by members of their own families. In Canada, 67 women were killed by current and former partners in 2018 and another 31 women were killed by other members of their families. The carnage is enormous. Women have been experiencing their own pandemic around the world that has not received nearly the attention COVID-19 has received.
What is relatively unusual is for misogynist violent men to unleash their violence on others besides their intimate partners and children, though it seems to be becoming an increasing trend notable in several other mass killings in Canada in recent times. That these events took place during a pandemic which has seen an unprecedented worldwide response resulting in an extended lock-down, presents an opportunity for us to think deeply about how we can turn these horrific events into a legacy and a turning point, where we finally take seriously the very real prospect of ending this needless, destructive violence.
As we tend to those targeted by these events and those left behind who are mourning them in these difficult times, we send our truly heartfelt condolences, as all Canadians did during the vigil held Friday night. As we do so, we are mindful of how we went through a similar process thirty-one years ago in the wake of the Montreal massacre. Many of us have attended countless annual vigils held throughout Canada on December 6th since then, even as we worked to make clear that those dreadful events were not the act of a lone madman any more than these are. Only last year, thirty years after the Montreal massacre happened, did a plaque acknowledging it as a targeted attack on feminists finally replace the one that had stood for thirty years saying only that it was a tragic event. We will never end this horrifying violence rooted in patriarchal violence against women if we refuse to face it boldly, honestly, and with a willingness to actually do something about it.
A crucial outcome of these events must be our support to the woman who was the first target of this man’s violence and to all the other women and children in Canada and around the world who are currently coping with the violence of their partners and fathers. In order to provide that support effectively, Canadians must commit to learning about this pernicious and pervasive human rights violation that takes place in every city, every town, and yes, in every rural and remote location in Canada and around the world. It involves the people we know and love as well as strangers. There are plenty of resources available on-line and there are knowledgeable front-line violence against women advocates in shelters, rape crisis centres and women’s resource centres throughout the country who can share their expertise with you and the reality on the front-lines of this work.
The second thing that must emerge is deep scrutiny of the response of the RCMP to this case, how police generally respond to cases of violence against women and how they communicate with us about their actions. Many things have already been widely discussed, such as the delay and ultimate failure to send out a warning on the public alert system. All questions must be asked through the lens of whether the RCMP response was shaped by the fact that the police knew early that this was a case of violence against a woman in an intimate relationship.
Police response to men’s violence against women has long been critiqued and came under sharp scrutiny with the ‘Unfounded’ series first published in the Globe and Mail in 2017. Those of us working hard to improve police response to these cases over decades know how hard it is to scrutinize what police do and to hold them accountable. The legacy of these tragic events could be turning the corner of secrecy surrounding police response and making public clear, non-aggregated data on policing violence against women in Canada.
There will no doubt be many other things that come to light as we go forward. Let us resolve ourselves to making sure that the legacy of these horrific events is ensuring that it never happens again.
Signed: Feminist Coalition Féministe (FCF)