Study: Domestic homicide in Canada averages 70 deaths per year

Research has revealed that nearly 700 Canadians have been victims to domestic homicide in the last nine years. Researchers from Western University and the University of Guelph are now looking for survivors, or people close to victims, to participate in a study to enhance prevention.

Research shows women are the primary victims of domestic homicide in Canada

Researchers are seeking participants to share their story of survival of domestic violence to create measures to help others. (Shutterstock)

There were 662 victims of domestic homicide in Canada between 2010 and 2018, an average of 70 victims per year.

That's according to a national study by the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative for Vulnerable Populations (CDHPIVP), carried out over a five-year period.

"One person is still too many", said Peter Jaffe, a Western University researcher and co-director of CDHPIVP. "This is still a major problem across the country." 

The group's goal is to reduce the number of deaths from domestic homicide through research, broader public awareness and professional training.

On Wednesday, part of the research led by Western University and the University of Guelph was unveiled with findings showing consistency with Statistics Canada data, indicating that domestic homicide remains significantly gendered with 80 per cent of adult victims and 59 per cent of child victims being female.

Research shows that a little over half of victims of domestic homicide are from vulnerable groups, such as indigenous women, those who live in rural, remote or northern areas, women who are immigrants and refugees, as well as children, who are exposed to domestic violence.

"It's not that some people [from different cultures] are more violent, it's that when violence happens there's more barriers to getting support and getting out of violent relationships," Jaffe explained. 

"Immigrants are often facing language barriers and cultural barriers. Do they call the police? Do they disclose violence within their family to somebody outside it? What are the implications for their immigration status? If they're an indigenous woman with abuse, do they trust the police?" Jaffe said these are just some of the questions that vulnerable groups face when thinking about getting help for domestic violence. 

Co-director of CDHPIVP Dr. Myrna Dawson says the fact that the highest rates of domestic homicide during this period were found in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Manitoba point to the potential impacts of intersecting vulnerabilities, given the higher proportions of both Indigenous and rural/remote/northern populations in these regions. (The Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative for Vulnerable Populations)

The study's most recent numbers show that one in four victims of domestic homicide belonged to two or more vulnerable groups, emphasizing the role of intersectionality, which sees whose various identities work together to compound risk.

Other findings show that the majority of victims of domestic homicide were people living in rural, remote and northern areas of the country. It also revealed that Indigenous victims make up 12 per cent of the sample, despite making up 5 per cent of the national population. 

Seeking participants to 'save others'

In the last three years of the research the CDHPIVP has conducted over 300 interviews with service providers in different justice and social agencies across Canada, including police officers, social workers and health care providers. 

"While we've learned about what people are doing to help, now we want to learn from people who've experienced the violence or friends and families of people who have been killed " Anna-Lee Straatman, CDHPIVP project manager, said. 

For the next phase of the study, researchers are looking for participants from across the country who either identify as a survivor of domestic violence or are a family member or friend of someone who died to domestic homicide from one of the four vulnerable groups.

Straatman says speaking to these participants will allow researchers to identify risk factors and to also examine best practices that can help prevent domestic homicides.

Jaffe highlights that many of the cases the examined were preventable and predictable in hindsight. 

"Every tragedy means we should be learning an important lesson," Jaffe said. 

"We want to learn what went wrong and what went right so we can save others in these circumstances."