Violence against women high in Manitoba

Statistics Canada released a report on Feb. 25 detailing rates of violence against women in Canada, which showed that Manitoba has more than double the national average rate of violence committed against women.

The report was based on 2011 police reports and showed that Manitoba had a rate of 2,191 per 100,000 population, whereas the national rate was 1,207 per 100,000 population.

In specific numbers there were close to 11,000 instances of violence against women in Manitoba.

Also shown in the report were the areas with rates higher than Manitoba, which were: the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Saskatchewan, whereas Ontario and Quebec had the lowest.

Advocates working towards raising awareness for domestic violence and violence against women have said that this may not necessarily be a wholly negative thing for Manitoba.

The Manitoba Women’s Advisory Council chairwoman Marlene Bertrand commented that these statistics may show that women in Manitoba are more likely to report violent crimes committed against them.

“Just because we look like we have the highest number does not mean we are a more violent community than any other jurisdiction in this country.”

However, Health Minister Theresa Oswald said that there will always be more that needs to be done as long as there are still acts of violence against women.

“Until we find ourselves in a position where every Manitoba woman is safe in her home with her children, there will always be more work to do. Women need to know that there are safe alternatives and education about those alternatives is critical,” said Oswald.

Similarly, Shawna Ferris, a University of Manitoba professor of women’s and gender studies, commented to the Manitoban that this statistic shows that more needs to be done to increase the status of women.

“We have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do, before women are actually considered full persons, deserving of respect, bodily integrity, and human dignity in all places and spaces of this province – regardless of our race, class, bodily ability, age, or sexual identity.”  

According to Ferris, the reason for the high rate of violence against women in Manitoba can be attributed to a culture of violence embraced in the province.

“To change culture, we must see it for what it is. The current dominant culture is violent. Until we recognize this, until we see that violence has been normalized in this province and work towards a new non-violent norm, change will be very difficult indeed.” 

When asked what can be done to reduce violence against women in Manitoba, Ferris listed a number of solutions, such as honouring treaties and ending victim-blaming, among others.

“Honour all treaties between First Nations and Canadians, require everyone [ . . . ] to stop blaming victims for the violence they suffer and instead hold rapists, murderers, and other violent perpetrators accountable for their actions. We also need to stop assuming that women who ‘break the rules’—sexually, socially, fashionably, or in familial contexts—deserve physical punishment.” 

Further, she said, we need to educate people on practicing gender equality.

“[We need to] teach boys and men—and all people—that girls and women are real people, with desires, ambitions, and feelings that are just as complex and important as everyone else’s.”