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They are following in the footsteps of other municipalities and counties to move the Ontario government.

The United Counties of Prescott and Russell declares an “epidemic” ;» of domestic violence

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Members of the council of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell leaned in favor of the resolution. (Archive photo)

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The mayors of the council of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR), in Eastern Ontario, symbolically recognize that violence between intimate partners and violence against women is an “epidemic.”

For women who experience violence, to see that elected officials in their region see the problem as it is, that they support them in their quest towards a life without violence, is reassuring, believes the president of the Coalition of Prescott and Russell to eliminate violence against women, Muriel Lalonde. His organization presented the proposed resolution to the UCPR council.

The UCPR resolution is in addition to those adopted since June by more than thirty municipalities in Ontario, including Toronto. The term epidemic follows one of the recommendations of a coroner's report concerning the deaths of three women, all murdered by the same ex-partner in 2015, in Renfrew County.

For its part, the Ontario government refused, in June, to recognize an epidemic.

Muriel Lalonde hopes that the province will change its mind in the face of a movement for recognition of the problem.

It’s the collective in fact. […] Municipalities and United Counties from different regions are mobilizing to tell the government: "We must recognize that this is a problem.”

The scope of the proposed resolution was, however, called into question during the UCPR council meeting on Wednesday morning.

The mayor of the City of Clarence -Rockland, Mario Zanth, insisted on the symbolic aspect of the declaration, before its adoption.

We have a lot of things to manage and we have lots of requests. I am exhausted that the province is avoiding its responsibilities.

Same story with the mayor of the municipality of La Nation, Francis Brière, who sees this declaration as a strategy, rather than as something that commits us to act [financially].

He adds that the organizations would like to have symbolic support to show the province that these issues are important.

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There have been 30 femicides in Ontario, including one in Prescott-Russell, in the last 30 weeks, according to the Prescott and Russell Coalition to Eliminate Violence Against Women. (archive photo)

The mayor of the municipality of Russell, Pierre Leroux, for his part questioned the use of the word epidemic for describe domestic violence in the region.

It is not an epidemic. We know the situation is widespread. However, this is not a recent phenomenon [violence] has existed for a long time.

However, he recognizes that this is a serious problem requiring investments.

For her part, the mayor of Casselman, Geneviève Lajoie, affirms [that] there is a significant lack of support from the province.

We need to continue to put pressure on, she says .

Last year, the organization that Muriel Lalonde directs, Maison Interlude House, said it refused accommodation to 86 women because it did not have enough places.

Staff also responded to 10,000 calls, in 2022, she said.

We are seeing an increase in cases, but what we are also seeing, and which justifies calling the situation an epidemic, is that [there are also problems] in terms of mental health, drug addiction, housing, explains the president of the organization.

She hopes that more funds will be invested by the province in order to face this new reality, in addition to encouraging more initiatives in education and prevention.

We must invest time, will and governments must unlock funds.

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