by Amy Richardson, CFICE Communications RA

Even though it was 26 years ago we still remember the shootings  at École Polytechnique. Today, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, we remember the 14 women who died in Montréal on Dec. 6th, 1989, as well as the many other women who have been victims of violence both before and since.

But what are we as people and a country doing to prevent violence against women?

The Government of Ontario and the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC) publish an annual report  on victims of domestic violence in Ontario. According to their website, the committee “was established by the Office of the Chief Coroner in 2003 to investigate and review deaths involving domestic violence, and to make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths in similar circumstances and reducing domestic violence in general.”

The DVDRC examines deaths where domestic violence was a factor and makes recommendations to ministries and organizations on policy or procedural changes that will help reduce the numbers of domestic violence-related deaths.

In a DVDRC report from October 2015, the committee included 25 new recommendations, on top of the dozens of other recommendations made in previous years. These recommendations included educating professionals who may come in contact with vulnerable women (psychologists, police, doctors or professors) on the best practices to handle violence against women cases; training for police on the appropriate responses to domestic violence cases for women and women with disabilities; and implementing programs for adolescent students that would help them identify abusive and controlling behaviours.

Earlier this year, CFICE’s Violence Against Women hub collaborated with Action Research Change (ARC) to complete a review on the implementation of DVDRC recommendations over the last five years. ARC, an activist group committed to stopping violence against women, published a report and report card from their findings.

ARC’s report  highlighted which of the DVDRC’s recommendations have and haven’t been implemented, while the report card, like the ones children receive from school,  graded the government’s progress on implementing these recommendations.

ARC’s report reviewed what actions, if any, had been taken by the ministries and organizations to whom the DVDRC’s recommendations had been directed. Organizations included the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, Law Society of Upper Canada, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, to name a few.

To find out what actions had been taken, ARC wrote letters to each ministry and organization to see what they had accomplished to date. ARC considered significant measures of action to include the implementation of recommended training programs and awareness campaigns. Based on their findings , ARC then graded the ministries and organizations.

Astoundingly, all the organizations and ministries received poor grades. There was a tie for the highest grade, a B-, between the Ontario Women’s Directorate and the Ministry of the Attorney General. Both have shown some signs of progress on the recommendations, such as adding shelter representatives to high risk committees, but none of the changes implemented were enough to make a lasting impact.

A failing grade, an F, was given to First Nations Police, Regional Coroner, Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Ontario Association of College and University Security Administrators, and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. The other organizations received between C+ and D-.

The DVDRC report is not published to provide a running total of Ontario’s fatal domestic violence victims. Instead, it is meant to highlight areas for improvement so organizations and ministries that work with domestic violence victims can help break the cycle of violence. If few to none of the DVDRC’s recommendations from the past five years have been implemented, what does this say about our commitment to ending violence against women?

As we remember the victims of the Polytechnique shooting and the countless other women who have died at the hands of others, let us also prepare for action: It’s time for the government to implement the DVDRC’s recommendations to help end violence against women.