Renfrew lawyer calling on province to declare IPV an epidemic

By Andrea Bennett

While Toronto has declared gender-based violence and intimate partner violence (IPV) an epidemic, End Violence Against Women Renfrew County is calling on the province to follow suit.

The declaration was a part of a motion from Mayor Olivia Chow that passed with no opposition on July 20. Toronto is calling on provincial and federal governments to make the same move after Ontario declined to do so.

Kirsten Mercer, lawyer for End Violence Against Women Renfrew County, said on The Sam Laprade Show with guest host Derick Fage on July 24 while she represented EVA Renfrew County at the inquest into the murders of three women around Renfrew County, much of the heavy lifting from the inquest comes afterwards. This involves pushing elected leaders to implement recommendations, she said.

Renfrew County’s inquest was convened to better understand the warning signs of gender-based and intimate partner violence, and to improve prevention, explained Mercer.

“An inquest doesn’t produce a court ruling, it produces recommendations that aren’t mandatory,” she said. “All that work to create these recommendations is meaningless if we don’t have a willing partner on the other side, in terms of recipients of those recommendations.”

Ontario was the recipient of many recommendations from the inquest, and those that involved criminal law were directed towards the federal government, added Mercer. But governments aren’t always on the receiving end, with other actors – like the chief coroner and information and privacy commissioner – that are more specialized.

“Municipal governments across the province have really championed this idea of a declaration and that recommendation wasn’t direct to them at all,” said Mercer.

While Ontario has ignored calls to declare IPV an epidemic, municipalities are taking steps to advocate for community members facing intimate partner violence, she explained.

Since 2022, over 40 municipalities representing more than half of the people living in Ontario have declared intimate partner violence and gender-based an epidemic.

“Municipalities are taking a stand and they’re saying we need a public health approach to dealing with the issue,” added Mercer.

According to the Renfrew Lawyer, data has revealed that in Ontario, one femicide takes place every two days.

“Given the pervasiveness and frequency of the issue, and how little we talk about it, I think that’s part of why seeing and naming what’s happening is so important because we can’t fix what we can’t name,” she explained.

Advocates tracking femicides in Ontario are pulling media reports and publicly available information to create data banks. But this needs to be done in a more systematic way, led by our institutions, Mercer pointed out.

“We need to be doing this on a society-wide level with all of the best data so we can really understand how pervasive and widespread this problem is, and look carefully at what we need to do to stop this type of violence,”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today