Red dresses hang in front of the Cariboo Friendship Centre in Williams Lake. (Photo submitted)

Red dresses hang in front of the Cariboo Friendship Centre in Williams Lake. (Photo submitted)

Advocates call for stronger judicial protection for women of domestic violence

May 5 is National Day of Awareness on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Staff at the Cariboo Friendship Centre (CFC) in Williams Lake say they are disappointed about what they are calling a “systemic failure” in a case of alleged domestic abuse in the Williams Lake area recently.

Rosanna McGregor, CFC executive director, and Tamara Garreau, CFC social programs supervisor, said a local Indigenous woman was the victim of a disturbing act of violence on March 30 from an ex-partner, a relationship that had ended months prior to the event. While details cannot be shared as the matter is in the court system, McGregor said the victim requested they share her case.

“This is a high risk case,” McGregor said of the incident, where the accused was arrested on scene in the night and released on conditions later that same day. “I don’t want this to be another case of a missing or murdered Indigenous woman.”

McGregor and Garreau said they want to acknowledge the family, which consists of a mother and her children, has been living in fear since the incident and are deeply impact by the event, including have to leave their home due to safety concerns.

“It happens all too often, the accused is released on conditions after a severe act of violence,” McGregor said in a statement, which also referred to Crown and judicial system as being “flawed.”

Dan McLaughlin, Communications Counsel, BC Prosecution Service, Ministry of Attorney General confirmed the accused in this case was arrested and charged with five offences on March 31. He was released on bail that afternoon and was scheduled to make his next court appearance Wednesday, April 21.

“The BC Prosecution Service takes all allegations of domestic or intimate partner violence seriously,” McLaughlin said in an emailed response, citing their clear policy surrounding domestic violence.

“Intimate partner violence constitutes a very serious, prevalent, and complex problem requiring a special response which is pro-active, coordinated, and vigorous.”

Read More: Williams Lake helps paint Canada red for missing and murdered Indigenous women

Williams Lake Staff Sgt. Del Byron confirmed this latest case is before the courts and the investigation by police is ongoing.

McGregor and Garreau, who is a co-chair on the Interagency Case Assessment Team (ICAT) in Williams Lake tasked with managing suspected high risk cases of domestic violence, noted Canadian women are six times more likely to be killed by an ex-spouse than by a current legally married spouse and that Indigenous women in Canada experience higher rates of domestic violence. According to statistics, domestic homicide rates among Indigenous women are twice the rate than that of the non-Indigenous population.

May 5 is National Day of Awareness on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, “a perfect time to draw attention to this important matter,” say the women.

“There are too many cases where women are not being protected by the system and left on their own to protect themselves and their families.”

The women said they would like to see those accused of domestic violence start treatment and attend educational programs to learn about violence and the impacts that it causes as well as harsher and longer sentences for offenders. They also want the accused to leave the house rather than the victim having to go to a transition house to be safe.


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