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Here's What You Need To Know About 'Femicide' In Quebec & Why It Still Exists

We broke down the complex issue after a string of domestic murders in the province.
Here's What You Need To Know About 'Femicide' In Quebec & Why It Still Exists

In December 1989, Marc Lépine entered a mechanical engineering class at Montreal's École Polytechnique and separated nine women, ordering the men to leave the room. He notoriously told the class he was fighting feminism before killing 14 Quebec women.

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Though the massacre occurred over 30 years ago, femicides in Quebec are still prominent. Premier François Legault even recently used a press conference to respond to Quebec femicides following a series of murders with female victims.

Editor's Choice: Legault Tells Quebec Men 'Man To Man' To Stop Being Violent Toward Women After A Homicide

What is femicide?

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The World Health Organization (WHO) says femicide is "generally understood to involve the intentional murder of women because they are women."

In other words, femicide is a fatal act in which women are murdered because of their gender.

Femicide differs from male homicide in specific ways, according to WHO. Overall, most cases of femicide are committed by partners or ex-partners.

They can involve ongoing domestic abuse, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or "situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner."

What's the most recent case of femicide in Quebec?

The most recent case of femicide in Quebec took place on March 1 in Sainte-Sophie in the province's Laurentians, an hour away from Montreal.

Two victims — Myriam Dallaire, 28, and Sylvie Bisson, 60 — were found seriously injured in a residential home, and both later died in hospital.

Their deaths marked at least the fourth and fifth femicides in Quebec in 2021, according to the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale.

Sergeant Jean-Raphaël Drolet of the Sûreté du Québec Ouest (SQ) told MTL Blog that a 33-year-old male suspect collided with another vehicle in Saint-Jérôme shortly after the SQ found the victims.

Both drivers were transported to a hospital in Montreal, but Drolet said their injuries were not life-threatening.

The SQ has not publicly specified the nature of the relationship between the suspect and the women due to its ongoing investigation.

However, in a CBC/Radio-Canada interview Dallaire's uncle said his niece lived downstairs with her ex, the suspect, while her father lived upstairs with his wife, Bisson.

Legault addressed the double-homicide in Sainte-Sophie at a press conference on March 3, calling the murders the act of a "barbarian."

How has femicide evolved in Canada?

A 2018 report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA), titled #CallItFemicide, revealed that at least 10,495 women and girls have been killed by violence in Canada since 1961 when official data began to be collected.

The report found that, in 2018, 148 women and girls were killed by violence in Canada.

This means that, on average, a woman or girl is killed every 2.5 days in Canada — something the CFOJA said has been a "consistent trend for four decades."

For marginalized women, the risk is even greater. According to the Canadian Women's Foundation, Indigenous women are six times more likely to be killed than non-Indigenous women.

Overall, women are more frequently subjected to severe forms of violence from men than men are from women.

According to a 2004 survey by Statistics Canada, twice as many surveyed women were beaten by their partners than men, and four times as many were choked.

Women's self-reported incidents of violence against them accounted for 56% of all violent incidents in 2014, according to Statistics Canada.

What can Quebec do to stop femicides?

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A 2018 fact sheet by the Canadian Women's Foundation states that "public education, violence prevention programs, and a strong criminal justice response can bring an end to violence against women in Canada."

Quebec offers several online guides to conjugal violence with instructions on how to escape a violent home, available resources, and documentation debunking myths.

While the province has promised to offer more funding to women's shelters, the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale said the government needs to do more.

Among the issues it faces regularly, the organization said its problems have been greatly amplified by the pandemic.

Staff shortages increased the risk of service disruptions, while a housing crisis in Quebec resulted in longer stays for women in shelters, leading to longer waiting lists.

Quebec's Secréteriat à la condition feminine is currently working on implementing recommendations from its 2018-2023 action plan to combat domestic violence.

The provincial government has also outlined a 2020-2025 action plan to prevent conjugal violence.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of domestic violence, call the Assaulted Women's Helpline at 1-866-863-0511 or find them online here.