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MCC report calls on government to declare gender-based violence 'an epidemic'

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Authors of the final report into Nova Scotia’s April 2020 mass shooting said gender-based violence is an epidemic in Nova Scotia and across Canada, and it requires a society-wide response.

The authors are recommending “epidemic-level” funding to end this type of violence and for all levels of government to declare “gender-based, intimate partner and family violence to be an epidemic that warrants a meaningful and sustained society-wide response.”

It’s also calling for men to take up individual and concerted action.

The report referenced the work of Mass Casualty Commission’s (MCC) commissioned experts Brian Braganza and Nick Cardone.

They told the MCC while violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men, most men do not perpetrate violence. The experts said their aim is not to demonize all men as perpetrators of violence but at the same time, they believe men can take responsibility for ending violence in our communities.

“Women have been carrying, through community-based organizations, the burden of protecting women almost exclusively for far too long,” Michael MacDonald, MCC commissioner, told reporters Thursday.

He noted there is a need for education and services in place but leaders also have a role to play.

“Men who are leaders in society have to call it out for what it is it’s an epidemic,” MacDonald said.

Long before a gunman brutally shot and killed 22 Nova Scotians, the report notes the gunman was abusive and controlling to women around him, including his common-law spouse.

“Those who perpetrate mass casualties often have an unaddressed history of gender-based intimate-partner or family violence,” MacDonald said.

Kristina Fifield, a trauma therapist with Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax, is pleased with the final report.

“What the report has done in the recommendations is making sure there is core funding to gender-based violence organizations,” Fifield said.

She vows to put pressure on governments to make sure it happens.

“Because it’s vitally important for our communities here in Nova Scotia and across our country,” she said.

Commissioners also criticized the RCMP for its treatment of the gunman’s common-law spouse, Lisa Banfield, and said she was re-victimized by the investigation.

Banfield was charged for supplying the gunman with ammunition, but those charges were eventually dropped after she completed a restorative justice program.

“The way she was treated in the aftermath of this massacre, which began as an assault against her, is disgraceful,” said Jessica Zita, Banfield’s lawyer. “This report is the first step in giving back to Ms. Banfield her voice.”

The RCMP maintains it treated Banfield with a trauma-informed approach.

“I do recognize that Ms. Banfield was the first casualty. We are facing litigation, and so I’m limited in really getting into the full story at this particular time,” said Assistant Commissioner Dennis Daley, Commanding Officer of the Nova Scotia RCMP.

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