After 7 women killed in 7 weeks, women's groups stunned, let down by Quebec budget

The string of killings and the rise in reported cases of domestic assault had advocates in Quebec hoping the province would outline a clear plan for how to address the problem. They were left disappointed.

Province announced $22.5 million in additional funds to combat domestic violence

Advocates say more money must be spent to protect women from violence, especially given the tensions created by the pandemic. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Elisapee Angma, 44. Marly Edouard, 32. Nancy Roy, 44. Sylvie Bisson, 60. Myriam Dallaire, 28. Nadège Jolicoeur, 40. Rebekah Harry, 29.

Seven weeks, seven women dead.

In most of the deaths, which occurred between Feb 5. and March 23, a partner or ex-partner is suspected. In the deaths of Bisson and Dallaire, it's Dallaire's ex-partner who has been charged

In the two most-recent cases, Jolicoeur was found dead next to her partner in the front of a taxi cab in Montreal's east end, and investigators concluded that she was killed by her spouse before he took his own life. Harry died while in hospital after being attacked inside an apartment. Her boyfriend's charges have since been upgraded from assault to second-degree murder.

The violent killings have shattered lives and shocked the public. Between 2015 and 2020, there has been a 12 per cent increase in the number of reported cases of domestic assault. Advocates in Quebec were hopeful the province would outline a clear plan to address the problem when the provincial government unveiled its budget on Thursday.

But, they say, the amount set aside by Quebec is not enough to adequately address the problem. The budget includes $22.5 million in additional money over five years to fund services for women at existing emergency shelters, in addition to a $180 million plan announced last winter.

"My astonishment — literally, my astonishment — after reading this budget is the fact the government did not measure what is at stake," said Gaëlle Fedida, co-ordinator with l'Alliance MH2, which represents "second-stage" shelters that provide transition housing for women.

Finance Minister Eric Girard and Sonia Lebel, president of the Treasury Board, told reporters on Thursday that the province takes violence against women seriously and is prepared to put money toward any resources that will help.

Lebel said the government also wants to look at addressing wider problems in the legal system and policing.

'The road map is clear'

But some advocates, including Fedida, argue those issues have already been identified.

"The road map is clear," she said. "There are a lot of structural measures to take."

In December, a committee of more than 20 experts presented a report titled Rebâtir la confiance — French for "Rebuilding trust" — to the Quebec government.

Gaëlle Fedida, of l'Alliance MH2, says the government missed an opportunity to better tackle the issue of domestic violence with its latest budget. (Chloe Ranaldi/CBC)

After nearly two years of work by the committee, the report proposed 190 recommendations and proposed sweeping changes to the legal system to help remove hurdles for victims who want to report violence and leave their abusive partners.

Fedida wanted to see the government commit to applying some of the report's recommendations. 

The budget, she said, was a missed opportunity.

"Domestic violence is a challenge for the entire society. It's not [enough] just to give some millions to the shelters," she said, pointing to problems in the justice system and a lack of affordable housing.

Melpa Kamateros, the executive director of Shield of Athena Family Services, a nonprofit organization for victims of family violence, was on the committee. She too says the government's response fell short.

"They're more like Band-Aid solutions to the issue rather than a global vision of the issue that necessitates a concerted and very integrated approach," Kamateros said. 

WATCH | Melpa Kamateros of Shield of Athena Family Services reacts to provincial budget:

Advocate fighting domestic violence disappointed with Quebec's new budget

1 year ago
Duration 0:53
Melpa Kamateros, executive director of the Shield of Athena Family Services in Montreal, says Quebec is not doing enough to address family violence, particularly in light of recent killings of seven women.

In the budget, the province missed a chance to not only strengthen its response to domestic violence but also to reassure women who are experiencing it, said Linda Basque, who works with several domestic violence victims at Info-Femmes, a day centre for women in Montreal. 

Basque said seeing seven women killed in such a short time frame has been unsettling, particularly for those in precarious situations.

"There's anxiety and fear," she said.

If you're in immediate danger, call 911. If you need help, SOS violence conjugale is a province-wide toll-free crisis line, available 24/7, TTY compatible

You can reach them at 1-800-363-9010 by phone, or via text at 438-601-1211 You can also look for information on SOS's new website.


Antoni Nerestant is a journalist at CBC Montreal.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak and Radio-Canada