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Ottawa city council declares intimate partner violence an epidemic

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Ottawa city council has declared intimate partner violence an epidemic.

The motion, which council passed on International Women's Day, implements the top recommendation of last year’s inquest into the murders of three women in the Ottawa Valley.

"This motion joins our voices with voices of cities and communities across the province who are acknowledging that violence is not private, and it's not just a few bad apples," Coun. Theresa Kavanagh told council. "It's a systemic and pervasive problem. We can start by breaking the silence by naming it an epidemic."

Ottawa follows in the footsteps of Lanark County, which declared intimate partner violence an epidemic in December, the first rural county to do so.

An inquest into the 2015 deaths of Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam made 86 recommendations. The first recommendation was to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic.

The women were murdered by Basil Borutski, who had a known history of violence against women.

Kavanagh, who seconded the motion by Coun. Ariel Troster, also noted that intimidate partner violence increased exponentially during the pandemic, when people were often at home without much-needed support networks.

The motion also calls on Mayor Mark Sutcliffe to write to Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Sylvia Jones to request that Ontario formally declare intimate partner violence an epidemic. And it asks city staff to look into integrating intimate partner violence into the city's community safety and well-being plan.

"We have great strides to take to make our city more safe and more welcoming for women of all backgrounds," Troster told CTV News at Noon.

Homelessness a key concern

In Canada, the number one reason for women's homelessness is intimate partner violence, Troster said.

Ottawa has 12,000 people on the waitlist for affordable housing. Last year, Interval House, a centre for abused women and children, had to turn away 940 women who were seeking safe shelter.

"There are women right now in violent relationships who feel unsafe at home and are not leaving because there's no place to go," Troster said.

"If we end the housing and homelessness crisis and we also ensure that we have appropriate funding for community services to help women, I really do think that will make a big difference in terms of improving safety and equality in our city."

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