Nunavut leads Canada in femicide, says report

Researchers impeded by RCMP refusal to release victims’ names

A quilt is displayed during a hearing in Iqaluit on September of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. A new report shows that a disproportionate number of women and girls were killed in Nunavut in 2018. (File photo)

By Courtney Edgar

Women and girls continue to be far more likely to be killed in Nunavut than in any other jurisdiction in Canada, according to a new report on femicide.

While Nunavut is composed of less than one per cent of the female population of Canada, the territory saw four cases of femicide in 2018. That makes for a rate much higher than in the rest of the country, of 21.85 per 100,000 women and girls.

Nunavut was followed by Yukon, with a rate of 5.31. All other provinces and territories had a rate of 2.08 and lower.

A woman is killed in Canada every 2.5 days, and that figure is higher when a victim is Indigenous or living in a rural or remote community, according to the report, called #CallItFemicide.

This has been a consistent trend for four decades, says the 78-page research report from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability.

The report also cautions that this is a conservative estimate, since there were nine other deaths of women and girls that were deemed suspicious by police.

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As well, three other 2018 deaths were suspected femicide-suicides but have not yet been labelled as such.

Additionally, there could be undiscovered cases of femicide in the instances of women and girls who are missing and not yet located.

The CFOJA report also says, despite much more research on Canadian femicide over the last few decades, little has changed when it comes to how it occurs and why.

“Progress on prevention and on accountability has been slow to evolve. We have yet to meet the basic standard required to prevent these killings or to hold perpetrators accountable in a manner that would reflect widespread condemnation of these crimes,” the report said.

Consistent statistics

Indigenous women and girls were overrepresented as victims, as they have been since the beginning of this kind of research.

While Indigenous females account for just about five per cent of the Canadian population, 36 per cent of the women and girls who were found to be killed by violence were Indigenous.

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Additionally, about 34 per cent of women and girl victims were killed in rural or remote areas, where only about 16 percent of the Canadian population lives.

In about 11 per cent of cases, an accused killer died by suicide after the crime. All were male.

As well, in the instances where an accused person had been identified, 91 per cent were male.

In total, more than half of the 2018 femicide cases, 66 per cent, were perpetrated by intimate partners and male family members, the report says.

“The home is the most dangerous place for women and girls with 53 per cent killed by male partners and another 13 per cent killed by other male family members,” said the report.

An additional 13 per cent were killed by acquaintances. So, in nearly 80 per cent of cases, the victim knew the killer.

The killer was only a stranger to the victim in 21 per cent of 2018 female homicides in Canada.

RCMP, police responsibility

This is the CFOJA’s first annual report. It built its database on media reports of violence against women and uses the information available from the police—which can sometimes be lacking.

Out of all the 148 women’s and girls’ lives that were officially documented as ended by violence, there were 16 cases where no name was released to the public.

All of the woman and girls who were killed in Nunavut were listed as “name not released.”

That is one quarter of all of the unnamed cases in Canada.

Of all the unnamed cases, nine (56 per cent) involved Indigenous victims and an additional three victims are believed to be Indigenous, but that has not been confirmed officially, the report said.

On the list, only one of the Nunavut deaths is officially called Indigenous by the RCMP.

RCMP withholding names of victims

A section of the report focuses on the “increasingly common practice” of police services choosing not to release a name publicly after a death. The report calls this problematic, as this missing information could help researchers better determine how many femicide victims are Indigenous.

This trend of police withholding names of victims from the public and media has grown in just the last year, the report says.

Of the 16 unnamed victims, 13 were in northern or Indigenous communities that are policed by the RCMP.

Among the remaining three unnamed victims, the one in Flin Flon and the one in Kelowna were in areas policed by the RCMP.

The only unnamed case that was not handled by the RCMP was that of a 61-year-old woman who died in a fire set to her condo building. Montreal police believe the fire was deliberately set by three men.

As well, the CFOJA researchers found that Indigenous women got the least amount of daily news coverage when they died.

There were two cases of officially documented Nunavut femicide in Iqaluit in May 2018, according to the report.

Then in June last year, there was another case in Taloyoak.

In October, a 17-year-old girl in Igloolik was killed.

None of them had their names released to the public or the media.

There was one case of femicide in Nunavik in 2018—and regional police did release her name.

The victim was not Indigenous.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Johanne Coutu-Autut on

    This is not surprizing, there is so much multi generational trauma in Nunavut and so little or no specialized trauma help ( especially in small communities) like for PTSD. Cognitive therapy does not help for this. Until the Government wakes up and puts in a lot of resources to make this available in our communities, this will continue.

  2. Posted by Putuguk on

    Almost all the people working to to reduce violence against women are other women.

    It is female leaders that call for action, it is women’s groups that examine the situation and try to do something, and unsurprisingly, this report is written exclusively by women.

    This is strange given Femicide is clearly a man’s problem. Men and boys need to change to reduce this carnage.

    Whenever you do hear a man in Nunavut public life talk about this issue, it is deflection talking about why this is a problem, regretting that it is a problem, and not a peep about what has to be done to make it better.

    It is a rare thing for a male leader to stand up and say male behavior is a problem, talk openly about male emotions, provide advice and support to other men, and stand as a role model. The only Inuk that does this and has done so for years seems to be Jordan Tootoo.

    Femicide cannot stay as a woman’s issue. Men, male leaders and role models in particular, need to be on the forefront of this issue if we have any hope of change.

    • Posted by Aurora on


  3. Posted by Peter on

    I agree with you Johanne! There is so much lacking in Nunavut and the north with mental health programs and services it is at a very critical level.
    With all the trauma and other issues in Nunavut the GN and Federal governments need to step up and start working to improve this, there is too much complacent attitudes in the governments towards mental health and the issues, this needs to change and get programs and services for Nunavut.

  4. Posted by Playing with the 100,000 statistics on

    When a woman is killed every 2.5 days in Canada, isn’t it hyperbola to say Nunavut leads the way, most dangerous? (Playing with the 100,000 statistics, I understand.)

    What’s the point, stating “the home is the most dangerous place for women and girls…”. Again pushing the hyperbola, as most homes across Nunavut are loving, caring, sheltering, growing individuals to greatness.

    Unless authors are pushing fear, fear, fear to destroy the family unit. To increase more single parents and kids grow up without a father or mother. Possibly rejected, mistreated by the step Mom/Dad.

    The broken family, if you want to play statistics, leads kids to trouble in and out of school, crime and violence.

    Which leads to the last. Why are the authors ignoring the rapid increase of incarceration of females for violence and murder? Is this an inconvenient statistic females will have to take responsibility for? Thus ignored?

  5. Posted by Fact Checker on

    Actually Nunavut has a lower female:male death rate than the rest of Canada..
    2013 to 2017 Canada had an average of 50.63% (668,045) Male deaths vs. 49.37% (651,349) Female deaths.
    1999 to 2017 Nunavut had an average of 61.71% (1,699) Male deaths vs. 38.29% (1,054) Female deaths.
    Canada wide – Less people die from homicide than Sepsis, Hepatitis, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Influenza/pneumonia, Respiratory Disease, Liver Disease, Gall Bladder disorder, nephritis (kidneys), Accidents, and Self-Harm. Not to mention the deaths caused by birth defects, and unknown medical issues.
    I fully agree that less people should be dying. I just wish the real facts were presented with no ambiguous skewing.

  6. Posted by Gender Stats on

    I understand that violence is a problem. I understand that it is mostly men that perpetrate violence, and that is a problem. But I do not understand why there is a focus on Violence Against Women, when the statistics do not show there is a disproportionate amount of violence against women.

    From Statistics Canada (Canada-wide) – In 2017, the majority of homicide victims (74% or 485 victims) were male. These proportions have remained relatively stable over the past 13 years for victims of homicide.

    From Statistics Canada (Canada-wide) – In 2017, the homicide rate of Aboriginal Females was 4.22/100,000; 5.6 times that of Non-Aboriginal Females. The homicide rate of Aboriginal Males was 13.40/100,000; 6.4 times that of Non-Aboriginal Males and 3.2 times higher than Aboriginal Females.

    Now, you’ll probably say that I’m looking to general, and the focus is really on intimate partner violence, which has substantially higher numbers of female victims compared to male victims. But in relation to that, I would point out that numerous studies have shown the rates of intimate partner violence among gay-male couples is comparable to that of heterosexual couples.

    So again, I would argue that there really is no Violence Against Women issue. The stats just don’t show it. There are high rates of male violence compared to female violence, and if you want to tackle that issue, I support you.

    • Posted by Ronnie on

      I bet all of them were alcohol related.

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