OTTAWA—Not all men. However, when it comes to mass murder, it is indeed all men.
The shootings in Nova Scotia were shocking, until they weren’t. The shooter had a history of domestic violence, which is something that the police made only perfunctory mention of, and his first victim (though not killed) was his girlfriend. Seems like gender-based violence from here, only this episode resulted in a femicide where at least 13 women were killed, out of 22 people, as the killer continued his rampage for 13 hours. Though not all victims were women, they were all victims of a misogynistic culture, drunk on toxic masculinity, all underwritten by the patriarchal social and political structure upon which this country was built.
This isn’t a senseless act; rather it’s very on-brand for Canada.
Canada is no stranger to femicide: from the infamous 1989 Montreal École Polytechnique massacre to 2018’s Toronto van attack, politicians and media deployed the same use of “senseless” to describe what exactly makes sense in patriarchy: violence to control the movement and power of women.
Gabriel Wortman was not an evil or mentally ill individual (there is no evidence of this at the time of writing), he was the product of a society that rewards men’s use of violence and aggression to disempower and control women. In Canada, women are the footstools of men, there for support and care in an obsequious manner (the Puritans believed that the best women were silent and meek), and to be used and discarded according to male fantasies and whims. Were that not the case, women would be paid equally to men, sexual violence wouldn’t be the epidemic that it is, consent would be taught in schools, and there wouldn’t be a need for #MeToo.
#MeToo is a great example of how Canada views women. In 2017, a Nova Scotia judge had acquitted a taxi driver who was charged with the sexual assault of his drunk passenger, who was found half-naked and unconscious in his car. “A drunk can consent” was Judge Gregory Lenehan’s retort. After calls for his resignation, an all-white, mostly male judicial council in Nova Scotia cleared him of misconduct. The partial solution to this was Rona Ambrose’s bill to require mandatory sexual assault training for federally appointed judges, tabled after a judge responded to a rape victim by asking her why she couldn’t keep her knees together. Robin Camp was reinstated as a lawyer by another mostly male and white Law Society of Alberta. And Ambrose’s bill was filibustered by her own party in the Senate, the same party that doesn’t uniformly recognize a woman’s right to choose. (It has since been revived by the Liberals.) In other #MeToo outcomes, the inquiry to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has been dismissed by the public, politicians, and especially Canadian news media, and Patrick Brown still got elected as mayor of Brampton. Mr. Brown resigned abruptly as Ontario PC leader in early 2018 when CTV reported accusations of sexual misconduct made against him by two young women. The former PC leader has strenuously denied any wrongdoing and has filed a libel lawsuit against the TV network.
But, at least we don’t have to hear the smarmy machinations coming from Jian Ghomeshi and a CBC that protected his reputation at the expense of women.
This is our country. Don’t get it twisted.
The violence is about power, the power to control women, and when that power is interrupted, violent things happen to women. The prevailing wisdom blames women for not leaving an abusive man—that’s what patriarchy does, it blames women for the violence committed on them. However, that is the riskiest time for women in abusive relationships, according to the National Coalition for Domestic Violence.
I guess those “feminazis” were right all along … again. And again. And again.
The failure to connect the dots in the continuum of misogynistic violence would make anyone’s eyes roll into the back of their head like a NeNe Leakes gif. The perpetrators of mass shootings are mostly white and definitely male. The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism published a report in 2018 identifying the intersection of white supremacy and misogyny, calling the two ideologies “powerfully intertwined.”
Many experts believe that “the same patterns that lead to the radicalization of white supremacists and other terrorists can apply to misogynists who turn to mass violence.” In addition, the American gun control advocacy group, Everytown for Gun Safety, pointed out in their latest study, that in “at least 54 per cent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2018, the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member during the mass rampage.”
And this occurs in normal times. We are in a global lockdown under coronavirus threat and domestic violence has spiked. According to Angela MacDougall, executive director at Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver, there has been about a 300 per cent increase in calls to their support line. And while the Trudeau government gave some money to crisis centres, that money didn’t trickle down much to Indigenous organizations that see six times the rate of gender-based violence as non-Indigenous women. And it all but ignored trans womxn, who are usually left out of the conversation and consideration, but for whom 54 per cent of intimate relationships are violent.
Canada has a white, male, domestic terrorism problem that is now a national security problem. Let’s hope they don’t turn this country into the Republic of Gilead.
Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.