Editorial: Accountability needed to halt scourge of domestic violence

Graphic Carl Bindman

This past weekend, throngs of people across Quebec exclaimed the need for attention and action—from the government and the public—towards domestic violence. 

Demonstrations in Montreal, Sherbrooke, Rimouski, and Joliette were organized in response to the murders of eight women in Quebec in just eight weeks. This disturbing statistic in no way represents a random or isolated sequence of coincidences. In 2020 alone, Canada recorded 155 femicides.

Organizers and supporters of the protests are demanding the government invest more in women’s shelters. Shelters across the province are underfunded, struggling to provide aid to those in need, especially amid the pandemic. The 2020 report by the Committee of Experts on Support for Victims of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence includes 190 recommended actions the government can take to protect those vulnerable to domestic violence, including increased accessibility to psychosocial and legal resources for victims. Yet, the funding allocated for women’s shelters in the recent budget falls badly short of what is needed, according to advocates.

The calls to action are not only being directed at the government, however. Unsurprisingly, the crowds marching for the protection of women’s lives were largely made up of women. Those in support of the movement are also highlighting men’s role in the fight against domestic violence. While more funding directed at shelters and programs to help women escape abusive situations is unquestionably needed, more needs to be done to reshape the malignant patriarchal power structures that exist in families, relationships, workplaces, and Canadian society at large.

Just as the work of white people is indispensable in the deconstruction of white supremacy, men have an indisputable obligation to take action against domestic violence. Women and non-binary people alone cannot achieve the social conditions and changes we need to ensure their safety. Many have spoken out about the need to educate young boys to raise the next generations of men to live in ways that establish equality and security for all genders.

If we are only expecting change to occur from coming generations of men, the responsibility of educating boys will fall upon women and non-binary people. Men need to hold themselves and each other accountable to talk about domestic violence and call each other out on unhealthy behaviour. It’s high time the government and members of public and private spheres stop coddling men and their antiquated—but ever-present—entitlement to a lack of accountability. 

Santé Québec provides a list of resources for victims of domestic violence, such as SOS violence conjugale, reachable 24/7 at 1-800-363-9010.