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In a letter to fellow councillors, Morgan outlines numerous reasons for his request, including the fact that in Canada, on average, a woman is killed every six days by her intimate partner.
“This is something that absolutely and positively is an epidemic in our country and it’s something we have to draw attention,” Morgan said to Global News.
Along with the epidemic declaration, Morgan’s letter calls on city council to recognize the issue of violence against women and girls in London, commit to engaging with community partners, and request the provincial and federal governments declare femicide an epidemic.
“This not only something that is important for our community, but also our responsibility as a municipal government,” added Morgan, who said he spoke with local groups and advocates about the issue ahead of writing the letter.
Megan Walker, vice-chair of the London Police Services Board and former executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, says she is happy with the mayor’s letter.
“I think London’s proposed declaration is very powerful as it actually names femicide as the epidemic along with intimate partner violence, and that’s very important because we know that women are often killed because they are women and girls,” said Walker.
The mayor’s letter comes on the heels of the province refusing to declare femicide and IPV an epidemic.
Calls for Canadian Criminal Code to define femicide
The jury at a coroner’s inquest into the 2015 deaths of Nathalie Warmerdam, Carol Culleton and Anastasia Kuzyk in Renfrew County made the epidemic recommendation just over one year ago, along with 85 others aimed at preventing similar tragedies.
The province said while it takes IPV seriously, it would not declare it an epidemic because it is “not an infectious or communicable disease.” Walker says the province’s decision is misguided, as she believes femicide is a health and safety issue.
“When we see the abuse, assault and sexual assault against women and girls in our community, we know that there is a tremendous cost associated with that,” said Walker.
“If we can create safety for women and girls, then by extension, we are creating safe opportunities for all of society.”
Morgan agrees with the sentiment that each act of femicide affects an entire community.
“It draws tremendous resources into support agencies, into the health care field, into people being away from their jobs,” said Morgan.
According to Morgan’s letter, London police responded to over 6,500 IPV calls last year. Over 1,500 of those calls resulted in criminal charges.
“The numbers are staggering,” said Morgan. “People shouldn’t feel afraid or feel unsafe around their partner.”
Walker says the police board supports including and defining femicide in the criminal code as violence and acts of killing against women. She says one of the benefits of having it included would be data on violent acts could be better tracked and help make police and social services better prepared.
“Frankly, I’m really tired of always counting how many women and girls have been killed. The time for counting dead bodies has come and gone; we need to be taking some concreate action,” said Walker.
The longtime advocate for women’s issues notes London would become one of the many communities in the province to make the declaration.
“This movement is only going to continue to grow, and I think at the end of the day, (Premier Doug Ford) is going to see that women and male allies are not going to tolerate femicide and abuse and assaults against women any longer.”
City councillors will discuss the topic at the strategic priorities and policy committee meeting on July 19.
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