Nfld. & Labrador

Happy Valley-Goose Bay has 6th-highest rate of violence against women in the country

Of over 600 Canadian communities, Happy Valley-Goose Bay has the 6th-highest rate of violence against women.

Dataset compiled by journalist Emma Jones and StatsCan looked at more than 600 communities across Canada

A B.C. journalist gathered data about violence against women from more than 600 Canadian communities. (CBC News)

A Vancouver journalist has found that of more than 600 communities across Canada, Happy Valley-Goose Bay has the sixth-highest rate of violence against women.

Emma Jones, a reporter with Discourse Media, worked with Statistics Canada to compile data on police-reported violence against women across Canada.

She looked at crimes like robbery, sexual assault, homicide and domestic abuse — "Any kind of violent crime that women report experiencing," she said — that had been reported to police from 2008 to 2015.

Emma Jones is a journalist with Discourse Media. (Discourse Media)

"There are many stories that probably aren't included in the data, and that's why it's worth asking questions and really trying to figure out what's happening on the ground," she toldLabrador Morning, noting that sexual assault is "one of Canada's most under-reported crimes."

Of the more than 600 Canadian communities Jones looked at, Happy Valley-Goose Bay has the sixth-highest rates of police-reported violence against women in those years.

The numbers are staggering: from 2008 to 2013, the rate in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is between six and seven times higher than the Canadian rate, which is around 1,300 reported acts of violence against women each year per 100,000 people.

In 2011, Happy Valley-Goose Bay's rate was 9,107 reported acts per 100,000 people.

In 2014 and 2015, the rate  drops to four and three times the national rate, respectively. 

This graph shows the rates of reported violent acts against women in Happy Valley Goose Bay, in orange, contrasted with the national rate, in grey. (Discourse Media)

For comparison, St. John's rates are consistently below the national rates. Labrador City hovered just above the national rate.

On the other side, three towns in Newfoundland — Ferryland, Baie Verte and New-Wes-Valley — were among the 10 towns with the lowest rates of violence against women.

Changes could reflect community's relationship with police

Jones said that many of the places with a lot of reported violence had Indigenous populations.

"I was trying to be mindful of factors like colonialism that may impact these communities and just to keep in mind that it's a complicated picture when trying to understand what leads to rates of violence against women," she said.

I don't believe many of [the women] go to the police, unfortunately.- Jessica Keating

Big changes in numbers, like those seen in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, are not easily explained, she said.

"If for some reason less crimes are being reported, that could also be a factor of the way the community's relationship with the police has changed," she said.

Lack of affordable housing sends women back to danger

Jessica Keating, executive director of Libra House, an emergency shelter in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for women and children fleeing violence, agrees that the numbers aren't telling the entire story.

"I don't believe many of [the women] go to the police, unfortunately," she said, adding that many feel afraid to seek help from the police because doing so could make them even more vulnerable to harm.

Even then, she isn't surprised to see Happy Valley-Goose Bay at the top of the heap, noting that the flow of women and children into her facility is steady.

Regina police were called to the 1000 block of Elphinstone Street for a report of an injured person at about 7:40 p.m. CST on Tuesday. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

"Seeing the women and children first-hand, it's never easy. When they come here they're fleeing the situation and they typically only have whatever they have on their back," she said.

If there was more affordable housing here you'd see a lot of women and children being able to access those services.- Jessica Keating

Jones said there are many factors contributing to the situation.

The high cost of living in the town prevents women from being able to find a place on their own, so they return to dangerous situations for lack of a better option.

"If there was more affordable housing here you'd see a lot of women and children being able to access those services but unfortunately that's not really available here anymore," she said.

And though there are many services in the town to support women and children who need help, those facilities are often full, she said.

She also says there aren't enough resources for people suffering from addictions to drugs and alcohol, and that those addictions contribute to the high rates of violence.

"More money would be nice to be invested into these services so we could reach out to more people," she said.

Discourse media has made the data available to the public, and are encouraging people, especially journalists, to do their own explorations with the numbers.

With files from Bailey White