Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Culturally driven violence downplayed by police
A conservative think-tank report that says culturally driven violence against women is a growing problem in Canada doesn't ring true here in immigrant-friendly Manitoba, say those on the front lines.
Winnipeg police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said there have been no honour killings here nor major incidents of "culturally driven" domestic violence.
The city has seen immigration levels nearly triple in a decade but no corresponding spike in culturally driven domestic crime, experts here say.
A Frontier Centre for Public Policy report Monday said, since 2002, 12 murders of women in Canada have been identified as honour killings -- an ancient cultural practice in which men murder female relatives in the name of family "honour".
Author Aruna Papp cites the cases of women slain by their brothers and fathers. The Toronto social worker, herself an immigrant, writes that more needs to be done to protect women and to teach immigrant men.
There already are programs in place here to educate new Canadians about the law and domestic violence, said the Winnipeg police's Michalyshen.
"For people from other cultures, a lot of this is very new to them," he said.
One issue they make very clear, he said.
"The whole idea of marital assault and marital sexual assault is against the law here. That's not going to be tolerated here and people will be prosecuted."
The police service takes part in the Entry program -- a general orientation that includes a section on the law. It also refers people to Mt. Carmel Clinic and provides training for officers to deal with newcomers.
The leader of multicultural wellness programs at Mt. Carmel said he hasn't seen an increase in the number of immigrant men referred by the courts to its domestic violence program.
There have been about 30 men referred to their program for the last few years, Jaime Carrasco said.
The police -- who in 2009 received more than 17,000 reports of domestic violence that resulted in 2,300 arrests -- don't keep track of the culture or ethnicity of the complainant nor the accused, said Michalyshen.
"When it comes to violent crime, there's no cultural boundary," said Michalyshen. "We have to educate people -- whether they're lifetime Canadians or people new to this country."
Carrasco said newcomers make up a very small percentage of those who commit abuse. But, whenever they do, they receive more than their fair share of media hype, he said.
"It increases the stereotype," said Carrasco. The headlines make it harder for people to be accepted in their new country, he said. Reports like the Frontier Centre's will rile up anti-immigration forces and elicit comments like "Why are you putting people here when they abuse their spouse and are doing violence?," said Carrasco.
The report didn't set out to target immigrants, said Mark Milke, research director at the Frontier Centre in Calgary.
"This study is about recognizing the challenge to integration and the necessity for some males in some immigrant communities to adjust to mainstream Canadian society," Milke said. "It's being honest about what sort of multiculturalism works... The harmless variety allows people to practice their religion, eat whatever food they want and engage in diverse topics and discussions. When multiculturalism is used as an excuse to trap women it is not something any Canadian -- recent or our ancestors -- should countenance."