AN OPEN LETTER ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND THE LONG GUN REGISTRY FROM YWCA CANADA
4 April 2011
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
The Honourable Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Opposition
Mr. Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois
Mr. Jack Layton, Leader of the NDP
Ms. Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party
Violence against women is a $4 billion problem in this country. Every year, 100,000 women and children leave their homes fleeing violence and abuse. Almost 20,000 of those come through the doors of the 31 shelters operated by YWCAs across Canada looking for safety, for a roof over their heads, for care and support.
As the nation’s largest single provider of shelter to women and children fleeing violence, YWCA Canada knows the long gun registry is a public safety tool that makes women’s lives safer. Across the country, our shelters tell us the long gun registry is useful and needed. Our rural shelters tell us police consult the long gun registry every time they go to a domestic violence incident. These are not automatic checks, but deliberate and specific searches for the presence of firearms in the home, especially long guns.
Among service providers working in violence against women there is no rural-urban divide on the registry. YWCA Canada’s national network of shelters is urban and rural, and includes Sudbury, Niagara Region, Brandon, Prince Albert, Lethbridge, Peterborough, St. Thomas-Elgin, Saskatoon, Banff, Yellowknife and Iqaluit, where shot guns and rifles are part of the culture. In every province and territory, the shelter and transition house associations support the long gun registry.
Why? Because shot guns and rifles are the guns most commonly used in spousal homicides, and especially when women are the victims. Not handguns. Shot guns and rifles. In the last decade, 71% of spousal homicides committed with a firearm involved a shot gun or a rifle.
Women’s voices from rural Canada tell the tale. Lyda Fuller, Executive Director of YWCA Yellowknife, which operates shelters in Yellowknife and Fort Smith for women and children fleeing violence, reports that, “Women have told us that the guns used here in the North predominantly for hunting – that is, long guns – are also used to intimidate, subdue and control them. We hear this over and over again, in small communities without RCMP and in larger communities with RCMP. Women do not want these guns to be unregistered, but do not feel safe expressing this opinion other than in whispers to people who may be able to voice these ‘unpopular’ opinions and who may be heard.”
When YWCA Canada addressed the House Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Lyda Fuller said, “Please make it clear that it is not city-born, city living folks who are asking for this registry to continue; it is the voices of northern women who fear for their lives and their mental health who are asking for protection. We see women who have experienced years of brutal intimidation. These women cannot safely express their need for protection themselves, and it is up to Canada to understand this and respond in an appropriate way.”
Dismantling the long gun registry would not serve the interests of women and children vulnerable to violence. It would put them and the police services who respond to domestic violence at greater risk.
As a nation, it’s time to listen.
CEO YWCA Canada