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We are extremely worried’: Rise in femicides has advocates, shelters requesting more resources

Last Updated Mar 24, 2021 at 7:28 pm EDT

MONTREAL (CityNews) – Advocates, shelters and politicians in Quebec are calling for an end to violence against women after seven femicides have been reported in the province in the past seven weeks.

The province has seen a 12 per cent rise in violence against women during the pandemic.

“Each femicide is one too many,” said Linda Basque, a counsellor at women’s centre Info-Femmes. “It’s something I’ve never seen, not to this scale. It’s also what we’ve been saying we were afraid would happen at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Last year there were 12 femicides. Now we’re only in the third month (of the year). Yes, we are extremely worried.”

READ MORE: Violence against women, femicides up in Quebec

The latest victim was 29-year-old Montrealer Rebekah Harry, who died Tuesday after being allegedly attacked over the weekend by her 32-year-old boyfriend.

The man was charged with aggravated assault and breaking conditions, but has yet to be charged with homicide — pending an autopsy. He was previously found guilty of uttering threats in 2013 in a domestic violence case.

“I don’t think that as the pandemic lessens its hold on us that it’s going to get better,” said Basque. “Once the women have more freedom, the violence may increase because then the abusers will lose control.

“It might get worse before it gets better unfortunately.”

Quebec deputy premier Genevieve Guilbault held a news conference Wednesday to denounce violence against women

“We cannot accept as a government, as women, as a society the situation where we have seven women who died in the last seven weeks because of situations of domestic violence,” said Guilbault.

But the province’s deputy premier did not announce any new measures to specifically address the problem.

“We’re hearing a lot of empty promises,” said Basque. “We need concrete action. More funds for the resources, create safety nets for the women who are victims.”

Basque and other representatives of shelters for women who are victims of domestic violence in Quebec say they lack resources at a time when need is on the rise.

“We have a waiting list and the waiting list is actually growing,” said Robert Cazelais, the general manger of Pro-Gam, a spousal intervention centre. “It’s not reducing. The issue is that when somebody calls you, sent by the court, it’s time for him to get therapy, we still have to put them on a waiting list.”

Quebec Solidaire is calling on the government to appoint a person responsible for addressing the issue of violence against women.

And on the eve of Quebec tabling its new budget, Francois Legault’s CAQ government is emphasizing its $180 million pledge for prevention and repression of domestic violence made just a few months ago.

“If we need more money, we will put more money,” said Guilbault. “This is a work in progress. We have to repeat the message that yes this is a responsibility of the government.”

Several ads are running in Quebec urging men — the main perpetrators of conjugal violence — not to do to their partners what they themselves would not accept. The ads were produced by the Legault government and run until the end of March.

–with files from The Canadian Press