New U of G research centre focused on women, girls killed in Canada

A new research centre at the University of Guelph is drawing attention to the number of women and girls that are killed on a regular basis in Canada.

One woman or girl is killed every other day, according to head of new research centre

The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability will open at the University of Guelph next month. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

A new research centre at the University of Guelph is drawing attention to the number of women and girls that are killed on a regular basis in Canada. 

On average, one woman or girl is killed every other day according to Myrna Dawson, sociology professor and head of the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability.

The observatory, which will track and conduct research on the number of women killed across Canada, will "go live" on Dec. 6.

"I think femicide is not a word that is used in everyday language as much as we would like it to be, which is one of the reasons we're launching this initiative," Dawson told CBC News.

Anything that brings national attention to a group of individuals and a group of women that are experiencing high risks is important.- Myrna Dawson

The word refers to the killing of women and girls primarily, but not exclusively, by men. 

One of the most common types of femicide – and one of the most well known – is domestic homicide, which is when a woman is killed by a man she knows and is in a relationship with.

"It's hard to speak about this in every day language – how women are seen as property and when they try to exit a relationship that's not seen as appropriate," Dawson said. "It stems from misogynistic attitudes about what it means to be a woman, whether she can be independent in choosing her relationships."

These social attitudes toward women feed into a culture of violence, Dawson said, and is what leads to so many cases of femicide.

She said understanding those attitudes could help communities better protect women from unnecessary death, which will be one of the observatory's goals.

The other goal will be to track femicide trends across the country. Over the years, different groups in different parts of Canada have kept separate tallies of the number of women killed, but Dawson said this will be the first time all femicides in Canada will be tracked by one organization.

"I've always felt that we needed to look across the country to see what the differences are in terms of what are the risk factors, what are the responses, how are people talking about these crimes," she said.

"Anything that brings national attention to a group of individuals and a group of women that are experiencing high risks is important."