The Delta Police Department (DPD) is looking at a communications strategy to better inform victims of intimate partner violence of their options to be safe.
At the Delta Police Board’s Dec. 14 meeting, during discussion on crime monthly statistics, Mayor and board chair George Harvie asked for a report back on the department’s response to intimate partner violence as well as a communications strategy.
Police Chief Neil Dubord said preventive measures that the department can potentially use in a communications strategy would come back to the next meeting of the board.
According to police statistics for November 2022, the number of reported incidents of intimate partner violence was 17, while the year-to-date number was 112, up from 93 in 2021.
Noting the three-year average for incidents was still down, Deputy Chief Harj Sidhu told the board the department has a “robust” domestic violence unit.
Sidhu said education and prevention is an important component, especially for new immigrants
However, many cases still go unreported, he said.
Coercive control a big concern
Also noting domestic abuse doesn’t always involve physical violence, Sidhu said he’s on a Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) committee that has been examining the issue of coercive control.
Such control involves a partner suppressing another through other means such as intimidation, including not being allowed to leave their house, or financial control.
He said officers can see the result of physical abuse and follow a set of standards in laying charges, but coercive control is challenging.
“We are training officers how to recognize those tools and they are looking at those assessment tools, so you can get a picture if someone is in that type of situation and we can help them,” he added.
Sidhu’s said the (CACP) committee has presented to a special committee in Parliament in the hopes that coercive control will become a term added to the Criminal Code.
Intimate partner violence on the rise
According to Statistics Canada, in 2021, police reported 114,132 victims of intimate partner violence (violence committed by current and former legally married spouses, common-law partners, dating partners and other intimate partners) aged 12 years and older.
It marked the seventh consecutive year of gradual increase for that type of violence. Statistics Canada also notes 79 per cent victims of such violence were women and girls, and the rate of victimization was nearly four times higher among women and girls than men and boys.
Services in Delta include the Delta Opposes Violence Everywhere Committee (DOVE), made up of members from community service agencies. Its goal is to increase public awareness surrounding violence in relationships and its management committee works to reduce gaps in services that may exist in Delta.
Meanwhile, W.I.N.G.S. (Women in Need Gaining Strength) operates a pair of transition houses in Delta for women fleeing domestic violence.
Sentencing needs to be reviewed, says advocate
In the summer of 2022, Ninu Kang, executive director of Ending Violence Association of BC, asked why would victims of gender-based violence feel safe to speak out or seek help if that ends up putting them at a much higher risk of being killed.
Her question was in reaction to the Parole Board of Canada's decision at the time to grant six months conditional day parole for Mukhtiar Panghali, who was convicted in the 2006 killing of his pregnant wife, Manjit Panghali.
The former Surrey teacher was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the eligibility of parole for 15 years for the strangling death of his wife. Her burned body was discovered along Deltaport Way in South Delta several days after she was reported missing.
In an interview with the Optimist, Kang said the 2022 killings of two women in Chilliwack and a woman in Abbotsford and Panghali’s release was a reflection of a justice system that is ill-equipped to appropriately respond to gender-based violence.
“When you look at gender-based violence, women are more targeted based on patriarchy in our society and that goes across all cultures. And what I think shook up the community, from the outset, even though these were two professionals in the Panghali case, it became clear any women can be a target of domestic homicide, no matter what class or culture can fall victim to intimate partner violence,” she said.
She said such crimes shouldn’t be simply seen as murder, but in a different lens similar to hate crimes.
“If we don’t treat these crimes of power and positionality differently, what we’re saying, in my opinion, is women don’t have the right to be safe in their homes,” she said. “It was not too long ago we had legislation to look at hate crimes through a separate lens. When it comes to gender-based crimes, everything from the continuum of assault all the way to domestic homicide, sentencing needs to be reviewed, believing survivors along the way needs to be looked at. Many survivors are not accessing the justice system because they don’t feel like they are going to be heard or they will be out on trial themselves.”
The Canadian Women’s Foundation and others note that approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.