How CBC crunched the numbers on intimate-partner homicides
Investigation into intimate partner homicides took 16 months
It took more than a year, 30 freedom of information requests and weeks of chasing down court documents across the country to compile the CBC News original database on intimate partner killings in Canada.
The data contains at least some information on 392 homicides between current or former romantic partners between Jan. 1, 2015 and June 30, 2020.
Identifying cases took a year
Identifying the cases was the first step. To do this, the CBC team sent freedom of information requests to all police departments in Canada serving more than 100,000 people asking for details of homicides where the relationship between victim and accused was a current or former romantic partner. CBC asked for details of these cases, including the names of victims and those charged.
In British Columbia and Quebec, it is possible to request court file numbers of domestic violence cases. In those provinces, information came from the justice ministries rather than the police.
Data from some institutions arrived in a matter of weeks; others, such as the Ontario Provincial Police, took close to a year.
Some police forces, such as Niagara Region and Ottawa, assessed hundreds of dollars in fees that CBC deemed to be excessively high. Data from these regions may be incomplete as a result. Other forces exempted cases that are before the courts.
Most forces did not provide the names of victims or those charged, so CBC's team spent weeks identifying cases based on the data points provided by police. CBC also came across cases that were not in police releases, which we added to our data if they met the criteria based on credible media reports.
Police and justice ministries also included in their responses some cases that did not meet CBC's parameters, most often by mistake, such as one where a court ruling showed there was no intimate partner relationship. These cases were excluded from the analysis.
Searching court records
CBC's team searched for court rulings and media reports to fill in as many data points as we could around these killings.
The team was only able to obtain court record information for approximately half the cases in our dataset. In the case of murder-suicides, there is no court record since those cases did not result in a trial. More recent cases still before the courts do not have rulings or agreed statements of facts, which were key documents used by the team to establish the history of the relationship.
Finally, without the name of the victim or the accused, it is impossible to search for court documents or media stories. The CBC team was unable to identify 59 victims, or find any media reports associated with those deaths. These were mostly RCMP and OPP cases, where the only information given initially was the province, charge, and in the case of the RCMP, the genders of victims and accused.
As a result, there are likely many more cases in which warning signs were present or a court-ordered protection was in place.
The RCMP later released more data containing names and responding detachments in approximately half the cases in response to an Information Commissioner challenge, shortly after being asked to comment for this story. The second release included additional details about some cases, but also redacted information from cases the RCMP had previously shared with CBC. We added the new information to our dataset, but did not remove information that was absent from the second release. It is therefore possible the dataset contains several duplicates.
FOI responses exclusively used the binary terms female and male when referring to the gender of victims and accused. As a result, the findings around gender may not include those who identify elsewhere on the gender spectrum.
CBC identified 12 homicides between same-sex partners. This likely underestimates the true number because police may not have been aware of the relationship in all cases, or may have been aware, but withheld the case because they did not want to out an individual.
CBC used a modified version of Statistics Canada's visible minority categories to establish ethnicity for as many victims and accused as possible. In our final analysis, CBC combined Black, South Asian, Southeast Asian, East Asian, Filipino, West Asian and Latin American into a category called Black and people of colour because the numbers in each individual category were too small to be statistically meaningful given the 29 per cent of cases for which ethnicity was unknown.
Therefore, the broad categories of ethnicity for the purpose of this analysis were: Indigenous, Black and people of colour, and white.
Support is available for anyone affected by intimate partner violence. You can access support services and local resources in Canada by visiting this website. If your situation is urgent, please contact emergency services in your area.