A leading expert on violence against women says this week's decision by Ottawa city council to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic could push the province to follow suit.
Council made the declaration on International Women's Day, executing a key recommendation of last year's inquest into the murders of three women in Renfrew County.
"Even though we need all three levels of government to take intimate partner violence seriously, we wanted to make sure that the city was doing our part," Coun. Ariel Troster, who introduced the motion, said on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.
Lawyer and advocate Pamela Cross said the gesture could make a difference in the long term in fighting violence against women.
Cross helped draft the 86 recommendations at the coroner's inquest in Renfrew County, which aimed to address acts of violence. The first recommendation was to call intimate partner violence an epidemic.
"The province has refused to comment on that recommendation, has not taken any steps to implement it," said Cross, adding the city's move has "huge value" in urging the province to act.
Troster also pointed to statistics from The Homeless Hub that show intimate partner violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women in Canada.
"This is a national issue. This is definitely an Ottawa issue," Troster said, adding that local women's shelter Interval House had to turn away 941 people in 2022.
"We really need to make sure that our city is able to respond to women who are fleeing violent relationships and also to have the services available for people who are struggling with intimate partner violence."
'Take away some of that shame'
Cross said every part of society needs to be involved in a holistic approach to "admit that we have a problem" and then address it.
The motion passed by city council also calls on city staff to look at integrating intimate partner violence into the city's community safety and well-being plan, which are mandatory for municipalities under provincial rules.
"Some [communities] included intimate partner violence in those plans. Lanark County, just outside of Ottawa, is a good example of that," Cross said.
The motion now urges Mayor Mark Sutcliffe to write Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones to request that Ontario formally declare intimate partner violence an epidemic.
"So many survivors of intimate partner violence are isolated, carry a huge amount of shame about what is being done to them and are afraid to talk to anyone about it because they worry they won't be believed," Cross said.
"If the province across the board declares intimate partner violence to be an epidemic, it's going to take away some of that shame, take away some of that fear and make it easier for survivors to come forward to get the support that they need."