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'It’s on the rise': Guelph declares intimate partner violence an epidemic

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The City of Guelph has officially declared intimate partner violence an epidemic.

The motion was approved by council Tuesday night. Guelph joins more than 70 other municipalities in declaring IPV and violence against women an epidemic.

“Understanding how prevalent intimate partner violence is can start to trigger a community response and an understanding of the need,” said Coun. Dominique O’Rourke. "We want to take some practical steps to acknowledge the survivors, to support the people doing the work and to prevent future intimate partner violence."

Ahead of the council meeting, she emphasized the urgent need for a response from the city.

"Declaring intimate partner violence to be an epidemic means we want to take some steps forward in reducing those incidents."

In the past three years, Guelph Police have received the following domestic violence reports:

  • 2021 - 1,639 calls resulting in 385 arrests
  • 2022 – 1,659 calls resulting in 449 arrests
  • 2023 (to date) – 1,285 calls resulting in 416 arrests

“We know that it happens broadly in the community and it’s on the rise," O’Rourke responded.

The Guelph Wellington Women in Crisis Centre also noted a significant increase in the number of calls they received last year. They served 998 women and children in their programs, and received just shy of 2,500 crisis calls.

"Absolutely an uptick, for sure there is, and that falls in line with a general trend in terms of violence across the country, so our numbers are not trending in the right direction," said Cindy McMann, a public educator at the centre.

O’Rourke believes the trend won’t shift unless there's a change in the way both the city and the province addresses IPV.

"The motion would include directing city staff to look at the city’s community plan through a lens of intimate partner violence and report back to council with proposed changes,” she said. “We would like to see intimate partner violence be included in future updates to the city’s community safety and wellbeing plan. We're also advocating to other levels of government for increased funding to support the organizations that are working every day on prevention and also on supporting survivors."

The motion also asks that the Guelph Police Services Board share a report that outlines how the force meets or intends to address the 86 recommendations contained in the Inquest.

Meantime, McMann calls this move crucial as it could allow the centre to receive more funding from the province.

"Funding is woefully inadequate for survivor supports,” she said. “Our wait lists right now are pretty long, lots and lots and lots of people are trying to access services and they can't because we're swamped."

If the motion is approved, Guelph would join the Region of Waterloo, Stratford, Oxford County, Brantford and other municipalities in declaring IPV an epidemic.

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