March 30, 2023 – Implementing the Mass Casualty Commission’s recommendations is key to ending gender-based violence and improving gender equality, says Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, Wellness Within, and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF).
Today, the Mass Casualty Commission released its final report. The report outlines the Commission’s findings on the April 18-19, 2020 killings of 22 people, including a pregnant woman, in Nova Scotia. It also provides important lessons learned and recommendations to improve community safety. LEAF, Avalon Centre, and Wellness Within participated in the Commission proceedings to ensure it responds to the harms of gender-based violence.
The report crucially emphasizes the role of gender-based violence in mass casualties, and the need to address this violence to make communities safer. It characterizes gender-based, intimate partner, and family violence as a “public health emergency that warrants a meaningful, whole of society response.” It highlights the need for new, community-based systems that reflect the needs of marginalized survivors.
“We support the Commission’s call for governments to prioritize prevention and paths to safety for survivors,” says Erin Breen, Counsel for Avalon, LEAF, and Wellness Within. “We are pleased to see that the Commission has rejected a focus on carceral responses to gender-based violence, which simply have not worked.”
The report also acknowledges the victim blaming faced by Lisa Banfield, and the harms caused by that revictimization. Throughout their relationship, the perpetrator of the mass casualty controlled, emotionally abused, and violently assaulted Ms. Banfield. Despite this, Ms. Banfield often wrongly faced blame for the perpetrator’s violent acts.
“Victim blaming is far too common, and deeply harmful,” says Kristina Fifield, Trauma Therapist at Avalon Sexual Assault Centre. “We need to support survivors and enable them to access the help and resources they need.”
Moving forward, it will be critical for all institutions, governments, and groups named in the report to take meaningful steps to implement the recommendations. Gender-based violence and community-grounded organizations have a key role to play in this process, and in improving community safety.
“We all have a part to play in implementing the Commission’s recommendations,” says Breen. “Avalon, Wellness Within, and LEAF look forward to contributing to this process with the goal of ending gender-based violence.”
For media commentary, please contact:
Counsel for Avalon, LEAF, and Wellness Within
Trauma Therapist, Avalon Sexual Assault Centre
About the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) is a national not-for-profit that works to advance the equality rights of women, girls, trans, and non-binary people in Canada through litigation, law reform, and public legal education. Since 1985, LEAF has intervened in more than 130 cases that have helped shape the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To find out more, visit www.leaf.ca.
About Avalon Sexual Assault Centre
Avalon Centre aspires to a world in which individuals are empowered and mobilized to share responsibility in creating communities free from sexualized violence and abuse. Avalon Centre provides a leadership role in raising awareness, supporting those who have experienced sexualized violence, and influencing social and systemic change.
Using an intersectional feminist lens to analyze and respond to sexualized violence/abuse and other forms of violence and oppression, Avalon Centre offers a continuum of specialized services, with an emphasis on support, counselling, education, immediate medical care, forensic evaluation, leadership, and advocacy. Our services are available to those affected by all forms of sexualized violence/abuse, their families, the general public, and other support/service providers.
About Wellness Within: An Organization for Health and Justice
Wellness Within is a registered non-profit organization that advocates for prison abolition and provides support to women, gender diverse and trans individuals who have experienced criminalization and are pregnant or parenting young children in Nova Scotia. The group began working together in 2012 and we served our first incarcerated client in 2014. WW’s 90+ members include formerly incarcerated people, doulas, health care providers, lawyers, students, researchers, and mentors. WW volunteers have security clearance to provide support at the Nova Institution for Women Federal Prison, the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility Provincial jail, the Nova Scotia Youth Facility and in the community. WW works in partnership with community and advocacy organizations across Nova Scotia. WW’s mandate includes doula service, public and health professional education about the health impacts of incarceration, community-based research about health and incarceration, and political advocacy.