CFOJA Research

Our Past and Our Present

Our Herstory

Similar to global patterns, femicide is most often perpetrated in Canada by current or former male partners, highlighted by one of the only studies of its kind, covered in two volumes: Woman Killing: Intimate Femicide in Ontario, 1974-1990 and Woman Killing: Intimate Femicide in Ontario, 1991-1994. In response to a series of killings, this study was spearheaded by a group of eight women who met early the same year in which the Montreal Massacre occurred. These women set themselves the task of learning more about women killed by intimate partners.

women killing
Naming themselves the Women We Honour Action Committee, they conducted a literature review on women killed in the context of their intimate relationships with men, what they referred to as intimate femicide. They, then, undertook a study with three goals: (1) to document the incidence of killings of women by intimate partners in Ontario; (2) to describe the characteristics of the people involved and the circumstances surrounding the killings; and (3) to present the stories of a small number of women who had been killed by current or former legal spouses, common-law partners or boyfriends.

Occurring in two stages, the study covered the period 1974-1994, documenting the femicides of 1,206 women aged 15 and older from official records. Of the 1,120 cases in which the killers were identified, 705 or 63 percent of the killers were current or former male partners. [See summary of the two studies]

Contributing significantly to knowledge about femicide and intimate femicide at the time, the study authors – Maria Crawford, Rosemary Gartner, and Myrna Dawson – acknowledged that many questions remained. Of note was the following, why did some women – such as Indigenous women – face disproportionately higher risks of intimate femicide compared to non-Indigenous women?

This question continues to be asked today in the focus on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, but not just in the context of intimate femicide given their high risk of femicide outside the context of intimacy as well.

Current Research

Reports contains critical information that builds on the earlier and ongoing work on femicide in Canada and internationally by highlighting current and emerging trends and issues that require further investigation and monitoring in the coming years. Some of the findings from our most recent 5-year review have been used for public education and awareness, some of which can be seen on the right-hand side of this page.

Click for full reports.


This project was initially funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Current funding is provided through the Research Leadership Chair Program, University of Guelph

Principal Investigator: Myrna Dawson, University of Guelph

Project status: Ongoing

Project Description:

Femicide, which is the sex/gender-related killing of women and girls, is not new; however, its dramatic rise in international attention in the past decade is unprecedented. There are ongoing discussions about how to define, measure, and document femicide more accurately so that prevention initiatives can more adequately address the context surrounding male violence against women and girls and, in turn, reduce these killings. Paralleling these discussions are necessary steps to identify sex/gender-based motivations/indicators (SGRMIs) that can distinguish femicide from other killings. This work has occurred primarily in Latin America where femicide rates are particularly high. No country is free from this type of violence, however.

Like the situation globally, women and girls in Canada are at greatest risk of being killed by male partners. Indigenous women and girls in Canada are killed at significantly higher rates and are more likely to be killed by acquaintances and strangers than non-Indigenous women and girls. Their experiences, referred to as genocide and starkly highlighted by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019), highlight inadequate state responses and the frequent impunity of their killers. As is the case internationally, Canada has little systematic knowledge about trends and patterns in femicide or an understanding of its own accountability in preventing femicide.

Drawing from feminist, social ecological and intersectional frameworks, this project examines the capacity of social scientists to document the existence of, and role played by, SGRMIs to better understand femicide in research and professional practice. Focusing in detail on one provincial longitudinal database, the utility of existing SGRMIs to differentiate femicide from other homicides as well as femicide subtypes (e.g., intimate femicide, non-intimate femicide) is assessed. Recognizing existing limitations of current databases, the accessibility of SGRMIs is also tested using targeted data collection efforts across multiple data sources focusing on homicides documented over a defined period.

Why is this important? With the adoption of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, sex/gender-related violence against women and girls has been the focus of increasing national/international concern given that many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals can be linked to such violence. The UN call for all countries to establish femicide watches or observatories to document sex/gender-related killings of women and girls recognizes that countries worldwide, including Canada, lack adequate data on femicide. This hinders the development of appropriately nuanced legislation, policies, and prevention strategies to target such violence.

In Canada, the Federal Government’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence is meant to address gaps that impact diverse populations. The identification of parameters of femicide will help to do just that with data that allows sectors to better respond to these killings which pose differential risks to some women and girls (e.g., Indigenous, black, and other racialized women and girls, women and girls living in rural, remote, or Northern regions of the country) and to document other at-risk groups. Addressing current knowledge gaps in SGRMIs will benefit international, national, regional governments tasked with formulating legislation/policy; criminal justice and legal actors who must investigate/prosecute these crimes; violence against women activists/advocates who lobby for more nuanced and effective responses to violence; and, finally, broader publics whose enhanced education can contribute long-term to the prevention of gender-based violence.

Select related references:

Aujla, W., M. Dawson, C. Giesbrecht, N. MacGregor, and Shiva Nourpanah. 2023. Femicide in Canada. Chapter in the The Routledge International Handbook of Femicide and Feminicide, edited by M. Dawson and S. Mobayed. London: Routledge.

Dawson, M. and S. Mobayed (Eds). 2023. The Routledge International Handbook of Femicide and Feminicide, London: Routledge.

Dawson, M. and S. Mobayed. 2023. Femicide and feminicide: A growing global human rights’ movement. Introductory chapter in The Routledge International Handbook of Femicide and Feminicide, edited by M. Dawson and S. Mobayed. London: Routledge.

Dawson, M., A. Zecha, and Haleakala Angus. 2023. #CallItFemicide: Understanding Sex/Gender-based Killings of Women and Girls 2018-2022. Guelph, ON: Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence.

Dawson, M., D. Sutton, A. Zecha, C. Boyd, A. Johnson, and A. Mitchell. 2021. #CallItFemicide: Understanding Gender-based Killings of Women and Girls 2020. Guelph, ON: Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence.

Dawson, M. and M. Carrigan. 2021. Identifying femicide locally and globally: Understanding the utility and accessibility of sex/gender-related motives and indicators. Current Sociology 69(5): 682-704.

Dawson, M. 2020. The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. Femicide XIII: Data Collection on Femicide. Vienna: United Nations Studies Association.

Illesinghe, V., Ahora Que Sí Nos Ven, Femicide Watch Poland,, Observatorio de Femicidios, Red Feminista Antimilitarista, S. Weil, M. Dawson and S. Mobayed. 2023. Femicide/Feminicide Observatories and Watches. Chapter in the The Routledge International Handbook of Femicide and Feminicide, edited by M. Dawson and S. Mobayed. London: Routledge.

Zecha, A., N. Abrahams, K. Duhamel, C. Fabre, A. Otamendi, A. Rios Cazares, H. Stoekl, M. Dawson, and S. Mobayed. 2023. Data sources and challenges in addressing femicide. Chapter in the The Routledge International Handbook of Femicide and Feminicide, edited by M. Dawson and S. Mobayed. London: Routledge.


This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Principal Investigator: Jordan Fairbairn, King’s College Western

Co-Investigator: Myrna Dawson, University of Guelph

Collaborator: Yasmin Jawani, Concordia University

Project status: Ongoing

Project Description:

News reporting of intimate femicide, the killing of women by current or former partners, is a key source of information about societal attitudes around these killings, and around violence against women (VAW) more generally. It is also an opportunity to transmit evidence-based knowledge about intimate femicide: its root causes, societal trends, and available supports. This is particularly true in our social media age, where news stories are shared at a pace and scope not previously possible. Yet, in Canada, we know little about the nature of this coverage and its potential for reproducing sensational, stereotypical, and otherwise harmful understandings of intimate femicide that hinder, rather than help, prevention efforts.

News coverage of intimate femicide is an important area of study in Canada for several reasons. First, connection frames, framing that links intimate femicide events to the broader patterns of violence against women (VAW) (Bouzerdan and Whitten-Woodring 2018), is an important facet of social change. If connected to evidence-based material, connection frames operate as a form of primary prevention by providing public education about VAW as a social problem and human rights violation (Fairbairn et al. 2023). Additionally, studying news coverage of femicide provides opportunities to document and challenge damaging narratives about Indigenous and racialized populations in Canada, and news coverage of intimate femicide represents a valuable opportunity to document and understand shifts in societal norms, technologies, journalistic practices, and attitudes about VAW. Furthermore, large-scale empirical Canadian research on media portrayals of intimate femicide will allow researchers to respond to, and collaborate with, global calls and research efforts to prevent femicide.

This research collects and analyzes Canadian new media coverage of intimate femicide from 2010 to 2024 in each province and territory. In addition to identifying general patterns in representation (e.g., what language is used, who are the news sources), we focus on how coverage varies when the victims and/or perpetrators are from racialized, Indigenous, immigrant, and/or religious communities. In doing so, the goal is to develop a national database of news media coverage of intimate femicide in recent years and to contribute to larger discussions of media representations of racialized, Indigenous, and/or immigrant and refugee populations in Canada (see Jiwani and Young, 2006; Gilchrist, 2010).

This work expands upon earlier research that analyzed a sample of Toronto news coverage of intimate femicide from 1975-1979 and 1998-2002 (see Fairbairn and Dawson 2013). In addition to describing and analyzing news coverage, we seek to learn from and engage journalists through survey research and focus groups about reporting experiences, challenges of covering intimate femicide, and identifying potentially valuable supports and resources. The overarching goal of this research, then, is to (1) describe current trends in news coverage of intimate femicide; (2) understand how these trends vary when victims and perpetrators are racialized, Indigenous, immigrants, and/or from religious communities; and (3) identify areas and avenues to foster increasingly comprehensive, evidence-based, and informative coverage that both represents victims with dignity and compassion and acknowledges the structural forces that shape intimate femicide.    

Select related references:

Fairbairn, J., C. Boyd, Y. Jiwani, and M. Dawson. 2023. Changing media representations of femicide as primary prevention. Chapter in the The Routledge International Handbook of Femicide and Feminicide, edited by M. Dawson and S. Mobayed. London: Routledge.

Bouzerdan, Camelia and Jenifer Whitten-Woodring. 2018. Killings in Context: An Analysis of the News Framing of Femicide. Human Rights Review 19(2):211-228.

Fairbairn, Jordan and Myrna Dawson. 2013. Canadian News Coverage of Intimate Partner Homicide: Analyzing Changes Over Time. Feminist Criminology 8(3):147-176.

Jiwani, Yasmin and Mary Lynn Young. 2006. Missing and Murdered women: Reproducing marginality in news discourse. Canadian Journal of Communication 31(4):895-917.

Gilchrist, Kristin. (2010). “Newsworthy” victims? Exploring differences in Canadian local press coverage of missing/murdered Aboriginal and White women. Feminist media studies10(4), 373-390.

Funding: This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Principal Investigator: Myrna Dawson, University of Guelph

Collaborators: Shiva Nourpanah, St. Mary’s University; Amy Peirone, University of Windsor

Project status: Ongoing

Project Description:

Domestic violence death review (DVDR) initiatives operate in six countries; yet a comprehensive understanding of varying models, outcomes and impacts remains lacking. Most DVDRs examine system and human factors involved in domestic violence (DV)-related deaths with the aim of reducing future violence and death. Shared across these interdisciplinary, multi-sector DVDRs are two goals: (1) to compile demographic and descriptive data on deaths and those involved, including risk factors; (2) to document a chronological history of system contacts, including potential points of intervention, missed opportunities in service delivery, policy inadequacies and/or strategies for reform. The outcome of these two goals is the development of recommendations that will facilitate system change and improve society’s response to DV through increased awareness, education, and training.

Beyond limited anecdotal and basic data, there is a dearth of information about the frequency, type and topical content of recommendations arising out of these reviews, their rate of uptake, or how to measure and examine impacts of recommendations when implemented? Such information is vital because a better understanding of recommended improvements is a necessary first step if we are to understand the research and practice priorities for DV and domestic homicide prevention. Further, given the lack of evaluative focus on DVDR processes and/or outcomes, understanding what mechanisms and measures are available and should be used to examine recommendation uptake and impacts is also an urgent priority.

This research examines the impetus and operation of existing initiatives in Canada, with emphasis on recommendations, and explores avenues for evaluating recommendation uptake and impacts. Four questions guide this study: (1) What were the impetus and processes that lead to the implementation of each DVDR? (2) What are the similarities and differences in the characteristics of DVDRs? (3) What is the frequency, type and topical content of recommendations generated? (4) What is the most effective way to examine recommendation uptake and impacts?

The impacts of COVID-19 on the experiences of women, children and families experiencing violence and the herculean efforts of frontline service providers to respond with limited resources are well-documented locally and globally. The ongoing pressures of responding to, and recovering from, COVID-19 will be long-lasting, particularly on the distribution of scarce resources. Understanding immediate priorities and needs is crucial to violence prevention, but never more urgent than this moment in time, as violence against women, particularly at home, has been recognized as a pandemic of its own. This research will identify improvement priorities highlighted by DVDRs within and across Canada which is largely untapped knowledge. It will examine methods, mechanisms, and measures to better understand the rate of recommendation uptake and impacts which is long overdue given no evaluations have sought to systematically understand whether and how DVDRs are leading to concrete social and system changes.

The research findings are crucial for governments, community organizations, and professionals at all levels (e.g., internationally, within nations and locally) who are developing legislation and policy; designing and supporting responses to DV; and delivering programs on the ground. Results will be useful to those working across various sectors with victims, perpetrators, and families to better understand what improvements are urgent, whether they vary regionally, and/or for specific populations. Policy recommendations will inform education and training across and within sectors. It can set the bar for this research globally.

Select related references:

Bugeja, L., M. Dawson, S-J McIntyre, and J. Poon. 2017. Domestic/family violence death reviews: An international comparison. Chapter 1 in Domestic Homicides and Death Reviews: An International Perspective, edited by M. Dawson. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bugeja, L., M. Dawson, S. McIntyre, and C. Walsh. 2015. Domestic/Family Violence Death Reviews: An international comparison. Trauma, Violence and Abuse 16(2): 179-187.

Dawson, M. 2020. Domestic homicide review processes as a method of learning. Chapter in International Handbook of Domestic Violence and Abuse, edited by J. Devaney & S. Holt. Routledge. [In press]

Dawson, M. (Ed). 2017. Domestic Homicides and Death Reviews: An International Perspective. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dawson, M., P. Jaffe, M. Campbell, W. Lucas, and K. Kerr. 2017. Canada. Chapter 3 in Domestic Homicides and Death Reviews: An International Perspective, edited by M. Dawson. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dawson, M., S. Mathews, N. Abrahams, and J. Campbell. 2017. Death reviews in the context of domestic homicide in low- to middle-income countries: South Africa as a case study. Chapter 13 in Domestic Homicides and Death Reviews: An International Perspective, edited by M. Dawson. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Troung, M., L. Yeganeh, A. Cartwright, E. Ward, J. Ibrahim, D. Cuschieri, M. Dawson, L. Bugeja. 2022. Domestic and family homicide: a systematic review of empirical evidence. Trauma, Violence & Abuse 

Funding: University of Guelph MA & PhD program

Lead researcher: Abigail Mitchell

Project status: Ongoing

Project Description:

The purpose of this project is to work towards creating a standard definition of sexual femicide to improve researchers’ data collection and analysis efforts, examine the frequency of and case details of sexual femicide, and identify trends in the prosecution of sexual femicide perpetrators. Sexual femicide does not have a standard definition, and few studies have examined the frequency of this crime. Most of the literature on sexual killings uses the term sexual homicide, despite the clearly gendered nature of the crime (90% of victims are women/girls). The most common definition of sexual homicide was developed by the FBI in the 1980s, but several weaknesses have been identified within this definition, such as the highly subjective concept of substitutive sexual activity and the lack of consideration given to consent when considering evidence of sexual contact. This project seeks to move away from the FBI definition of sexual homicide to create a new, improved, and gender-conscious definition of sexual femicide.

Sexual killings are widely believed to be relatively rare crimes; key studies finding that sexual killings make up approximately 4 percent of all homicides, with women/girls making up approximately 90 percent of those victims. However, several studies on sexual homicide using Canadian data have excluded cases in which the offender was a family member or an intimate partner, ignoring the fact that sexual violence also occurs within such relationships. In addition, killings that occur alongside a sexual assault are meant to be charged as first-degree murder in Canada, making it essential that the criminal justice system’s (CJS) responses to sexual femicide, namely the charging, conviction, and sentencing decisions, be examined to see if this occurs and if this varies for some victims.

This project seeks to fill this gap in the literature by drawing from data which includes all femicide cases that occurred in Ontario, Canada between 1974 and 2020. Using Ressler et al.’s (1988) definition of sexual homicide, 609 cases of sexual femicide were identified within this database of 2,975 femicides. Preliminary results show that sexual femicide is correlated with more serious charges; however, intimate partner sexual femicides were correlated with less serious charges and convictions compared to non-intimate partner sexual femicides.

Select Related References:

Beauregard, E., & Martineau, M. (2013). A Descriptive Study of Sexual Homicide in Canada: Implications for Police Investigation. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology57(12), 1454–1476.

Chan, H.-C., & Heide, K. (2009). Sexual Homicide: A Synthesis of the Literature. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse10(1), 31–54. 

Chopin, J., & Beauregard, E. (2021a). The Unusual Case of Sexual Homicide Against Males: Comparisons and Classification. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology,

Chopin, J., & Beauregard, E. (2021b). Manifestation of sadism in sexual homicide: A criminological contribution. Psychology, Crime & Law0(0), 1–19.

Gartner, R., Dawson, M., & Crawford, M. (1998). Woman killing: Intimate femicide in Ontario, 1974-1994. Resources for Feminist Research26(3/4), 151–173.

Mellor, L. (2016). Sexually Sadistic Homicide Offenders. In Homicide. Routledge.

Mitchell, A. (2022). “That’s Sexist, I Probably Shouldn’t Think Like That”: Forensic Pathologists’ Decision-Making in Cases of Sexual Femicide. [Master’s Thesis, University of Guelph].

Mitchell, A., & Dawson, M. (2023). The Challenges of Defining Sexual Femicide. EuroCrim 2023: 23rd Annual Conference for the European Society of Criminology, Florence, Italy

Ressler, R. K., Burgess, A. W., & Douglas, J. E. (1988). Sexual homicide: Patterns and motives. Lexington Books.

Roberts, J. V., & Grossman, M. G. (1993). Sexual Homicide in Canada: A Descriptive Analysis. Annals of Sex Research6(1), 5–25. 

Zara, G., Gino, S., Veggi, S., & Freilone, F. (2022). Sexual femicide, non-sexual femicide and rape: Where do the differences lie? A continuum in a pattern of violence against women. Frontiers in Psychology13.

Funding: University of Guelph MA and PhD program

Lead researcher: Ciara Boyd

Project status: Ongoing

Project Description: Given the limited research that exists in Canada on mass killings, and specifically mass femicide, this project has a three-fold purpose: (1) To describe mass killings in Ontario; (2) To compare what are referred to as domestic and non-domestic mass killings in Ontario; and (3) To analyze the media framing of mass killings in Canada with a specific focus on the role played by gender-based violence in mass femicide and homicide. Each of these are described in more detail below.

This project draws attention to femicides that involve multiple victims and emphasizes the importance of recognizing certain mass killings as mass femicides, regardless of the victim-perpetrator relationship. To illustrate, some mass killings involve males who kill primarily female victims, which clearly demonstrates the role of gender in such events. Other mass killings involve males who do not necessarily target female victims, but who have documented histories of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and/or commit the killing in response to perceived rejection from female victims. This project argues that these killings would be better recognized as mass femicides because of the role played by gender-based violence. Below, three separate studies are described in more detail.

Mass Killings in Ontario, Canada: A Descriptive Analysis: Mass killings, defined as the killing of three or more victims in a short period of time, have received minimal attention in Canadian literature (Leveillee et al. 2009; Mailloux, 2014). Most research on mass killings focuses on the US, likely because most mass killings occur in the US (Duwe 2000). Despite their greater rarity in Canada, it is important to analyze mass killings in the Canadian context to identify common risk factors and develop effective prevention measures. Conducted by Ciara Boyd with support of Dr. Myrna Dawson and Dr. Steph Howells, the purpose of this study is to understand what mass killings look like in Canada and explore how they compare to what the literature shows regarding mass killings in other countries.

Methods: Using mixed methods, this study analyzes 42 mass killings that occurred in Ontario, Canada between 1985 and 2012 and answers the research question: What do mass killings look like in Ontario, Canada? Adopting a gendered theoretical perspective using feminist and masculinities theories, this study draws from secondary data compiled as part of a larger SSHRC-funded project documents homicides that occurred in Canada between 1985 and present and utilizes a subsample of homicides involving three or more victims killed between 1985 and 2012. The resulting dataset includes 42 cases of mass killings involving 55 perpetrators and 151 victims, each of which are analyzed using univariate statistics. To build upon the quantitative component and further explore these mass killings, 450 media reports that covered these killings are also analyzed using a qualitative content analysis.

Findings: Findings indicate that mass killings in Canada share both overlapping and diverging characteristics with mass killings that occur in other countries. To illustrate, in line with prior literature (Liem and Koenraadt 2008; Liem et al. 2013; Taylor 2018), most mass killers in Canada are white males with an average age of 32.5 years, and most Canadian mass killings are committed with firearms and appear to be premeditated. In contrast to prior literature, however, slightly more mass killing victims in Canada were male (53%) than female (47%), and existing typologies used to classify motivations for mass killings in other countries may not be relevant in the Canadian context.

Implications: This study demonstrates the importance of recognizing mass killings as a gendered crime, regardless of whether the perpetrator targets male or female victims. To illustrate, the mass killers were almost always males, many of whom had a history of controlling behaviour, thus, highlighting VAWG as a risk factor for mass killings. Findings also demonstrate the importance of defining mass killings as those that involve three or more victims (as opposed to the commonly used definition of four or more victims) (Duwe 2000), as many mass killings involving family members involve fewer victims, likely because perpetrators typically target their intimate partner(s) and children. Overall, this study indicates that mass killings in Canada share similar characteristics with mass killings in other countries, such as gender of perpetrators, method of killing, and location; however, they differ in terms of gender of victims, suicide, and motivation. As such, our research provides a starting point for understanding mass killings in Canada and emphasizes the need to explore how mass killings differ in various countries in order to develop prevention measures for such killings.

Mass Killings in Ontario: A Comparison of Domestic and Non-Domestic KillingsThe existing research on mass killings has prioritized those that involve single perpetrators who primarily kill strangers, precluding a focus on mass killings that involve primarily family members and intimate partners (Gerard, Whitfield, Porter, and Browne 2016; Capellan and Gomez 2017). In most countries, however, the majority of homicides are committed by someone known to the victim (Brookman, Jones, and Pike 2017; Dawson 2017; Ellis and Hamai 2017; Mazerolle, Eriksson, Wortley, and Johnson 2017; Statistics Canada 2016). Additionally, most mass killings involve male perpetrators who largely target females; however, despite research showing that mass killings are a predominantly male-perpetrated crime, they are rarely recognized as a gendered phenomenon (Marganski, 2019).

Methods: Conducted by Ciara Boyd with support of Dr. Myrna Dawson and Dr. Steph Howells, the purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of what mass killings look like in Canada and explore domestic and non-domestic mass killings through a gendered theoretical perspective. Using a mixed-methods approach, Ciara analyzes 42 mass killings that occurred in Ontario, Canada between 1985 and 2012 and answers the research question: How do victim, perpetrator, and incident characteristics of mass killings involving primarily domestic victims compare to mass killings involving primarily non-domestic victims in Ontario? Ciara’s research begins with a bivariate analysis of secondary data compiled by Dr. Myrna Dawson and focuses on a subsample of homicides that involved three or more victims. Following this, Ciara builds upon the quantitative findings with a qualitative content analysis of media coverage on the mass killing incidents, where possible, to identify common themes.

Findings: The findings from this research demonstrate that domestic and non-domestic mass killings share similarities (e.g., motivations) and differences (e.g., histories of domestic violence) and draw attention to the toxic masculinity and coercive control that are prominent among many mass killers. This research also introduces a revised motivational typology that builds upon those commonly identified in prior literature and identifies several risk factors for mass killings, such as histories of domestic violence and access to firearms.

Implications: To our knowledge, this research is the first to use a gendered theoretical framework to compare the characteristics of domestic and non-domestic mass killings and takes a different methodological approach than that utilized in prior mass killing research. It also draws attention to domestic mass killings and provides a starting point for future research to explore domestic and non-domestic mass killings as an extreme form of gender-based violence. Moreover, by identifying risk factors for domestic and non-domestic mass killings, Ciara’s research aids in the development of risk assessment, risk management, and safety planning strategies to prevent mass killings from occurring in the future.

Gender-Based Violence and the Media: Analyzing Media Framing of Mass Killings in Canada:

On average, a woman is killed every six days in Canada (Dawson et al. 2021). In 1989, 14 women were killed in Quebec because of their sex/gender. Despite this mass killing (i.e., the killing of three or more victims in a single incident) occurring over 30 years ago, it was not recognized as an anti-feminist attack until 2019 (The Conversation 2019). In 2020, 22 individuals were killed in Nova Scotia following a domestic dispute (CFOJA 2020). In 2022, 10 individuals were killed in Saskatchewan and the primary suspect had a history of violence against women (VAW) (Austen 2022). Most mass killing research uses media coverage as a data source, despite the fact that the media focus primarily on cases that involve numerous fatalities and stranger victims, ignoring those that involve fewer fatalities and family victims (Duwe 2000). Consequently, the gendered nature of mass killings (i.e., the fact that they often involve primarily male perpetrators who target females and/or have histories of VAW) is overlooked.

To analyze how one form of gender-based violence (GBV) is depicted in the media, Ciara’s PhD research, under the supervision of Dr. Myrna Dawson, Dr. Steph Howells, and Dr. Jordan Fairbairn, will explore the following research question: To what extent does media framing of mass killings align with perceptions of mass killings by surviving family members or friends of victims and/or perpetrators? When homicides occur, most information stems from media reports (Taylor and Sorenson 2002). As such, it is important that the media accurately portray mass killings, as failure to do so may create a fearful public, cause further harm to loved ones of victims and/or perpetrators, and hinder the development of effective prevention measures (Taylor 2018; Marganski 2019). To explore whether or not researchers should rely on media coverage as a data source when analyzing GBV, Ciara’s dissertation will explore perceptions of media framing of mass killings in Canada. Given that media coverage is the primary source of information for homicides (Taylor and Sorenson 2002; Taylor 2018), this is often the only perspective available to the public. Therefore, although individual recollections are subjective, exploring whether or not loved ones’ perceptions of the incident align with the media will capture more than one perspective and determine if researchers should continue to rely solely on media coverage as a data source.

Methods: Ciara’s study will draw from secondary data that documents homicides in Canada with information collected from coroner, police, court, and media files (Dawson 2016). Data are available through networks developed through two SSHRC-funded projects (i.e., the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability and the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative) by Dr. Myrna Dawson. Ciara’s study will be conducted in three phases and will draw from the total population of homicides that involved three or more victims killed in Canada between 1985 and 2022. In the first phase, Ciara will collect media coverage of the mass killings and analyze it using both quantitative and qualitative content analyses. The purpose of this phase is to identify how the media frame mass killings, including a focus on how the role of gender, race, and class are presented in such events. In the second phase, Ciara will gather information from surviving friends and family members through an online survey questionnaire. The purpose of this phase is to identify how those connected to the incident perceive the media framing of the event. The final phase will expand on the survey through semi-structured interviews with surviving friends and family members of the victims and/or perpetrators. The purpose of phase three is to allow respondents who participated in phase two to elaborate on their responses and/or discuss further information regarding their perception of the mass killing if they wish.

Contributions: Ciara’s study takes a unique theoretical and methodological approach as it will draw from feminist, masculinities, and intersectionality theories and employ a mixed methods research design. Ciara’s research is the first of its kind as she will explore not only how mass killings are framed in the media, but also how friends and family members of the victims and/or perpetrators perceive such framing. In doing so, Ciara will provide a more complete narrative of what mass killings look like in Canada and better capture the role of race, gender, and class in such events. As a result, her research will speak to whether or not researchers should rely solely on media coverage as a data source when analyzing GBV or if other sources should be incorporated as well.

Select Related References:

Austen, Ian. 2022. “A Time of Horror in a Place of Family and Beauty.” New York Times. Retrieved from

Boyd, Ciara, Myrna Dawson, and Steph Howells. Mass Killings in Ontario: A Comparison of Domestic and Non-Domestic Killings. Master’s Thesis, University of Guelph.

Brookman, Fiona, Helen Jones, and Sophie Pike. 2017. Homicide in Britain. Pp. 320-344 in The Handbook of Homicide, edited by Fiona Brookman, Edward Maguire, and Mike Maguire. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. 2020. CFOJA Statement Concerning the Nova Scotia Mass Killings. Retrieved from:

Capellan, Joel and SimonPeter Gomez. 2017. Change and stability in offender, behaviours, and incident-level characteristics of mass public shootings in the United States, 1984-2015.

Dawson, Myrna. 2017. Homicide in Canada. Pp. 348-349 in The Handbook of Homicide, edited by Fiona Brookman, Edward Maguire, and Mike Maguire. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Dawson, Myrna. 2016. Punishing femicide: Criminal justice responses to the killing of women over four decades. Current Sociology 64(7):996-1016.

Dawson, Myrna, Danielle Sutton, Angelika Zecha, Ciara Boyd, Anna Johnson, & Abigail Mitchell. 2021. #CallItFemicide: Understanding gender-based killings of women and girls 2020. Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence.

Duwe, Grant. 2000. Body-Count Journalism: The Presentation of Mass Murder in the News Media. Homicide Studies 4(4):364-399.

Ellis, Tom and Koichi Hamai. 2017. Homicide in Japan. Pp. 388-411 in The Handbook of Homicide, edited by Fiona Brookman, Edward Maguire, and Mike Maguire. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Gerard, F. Jeane, Kate Whitfield, Louise Porter, and Kevin Browne. 2015. Offender and Offence Characteristics of School Shooting Incidents. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling 13(1):22-38.

Leveillee, Suzanne, Julie Lefebvre, and Jacques Marleau. 2009. Psychosocial Profile of Familicides Committed in Quebec – 1986 to 2000. The Annals of Medical Psychology, Psychiatric Review 167(8):591-596.

Liem, Marieke and Frans Koenraadt. 2008. Familicide: A Comparison with Spousal and Child Homicide by Mentally Disordered Perpetrators. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health 18:306-318.

Liem, Marieke, Jack Levin, Curtis Holland, and James Fox. 2013. The Nature and Prevalence of Familicide in the United States, 2000-2009. Journal of Family Violence 28(4):351-358.

Mailloux, Sharon. 2014. Fatal Families: Why Children are Killed in Familicide Occurrences. Journal of Family Violence 29:921-926.

Marganski, Alison. 2019. Making a murderer: The importance of gender and violence against women in mass murder events. Sociology Compass 13(9):1-15.

Mazerolle, Paul, Li Eriksson, Richard Wortley, and Holly Johnson. 2017. Homicide in Australia and New Zealand. Pp. 412-431 in The Handbook of Homicide, edited by Fiona Brookman, Edward Maguire, and Mike Maguire. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Statistics Canada. 2016. Homicide in Canada, 2016. The Daily, 22 November.

Taylor, Catherine and Susan Sorenson. 2002. The nature of newspaper coverage of homicide. Injury Prevention 8(2):121-127.

Taylor, Melanie. 2018. A Comprehensive Study of Mass Murder Precipitants and Motivations of Offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 62(2):427-449.

The Montréal Massacre is finally recognized as an anti-feminist attack. (2019, December 6). The Conversation. 

Funding: University of Guelph PhD program

Lead researcher: Emmanuel Rohn

Project status: Ongoing

Project Description:

Although considerable effort has been made in tackling all forms of violence against women in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) including Ghana, the phenomenon persists. Femicide, or the killing of a woman or girl because of her sex/gender by a man (and typically an intimate partner), is  a major cause of early mortality among women and girls around the world. Research on intimate partner femicide (IPF) has received little attention in many world regions, and specifically Ghana, with most studies conducted in western societies. In Ghana, for example, the paucity of scholarly work in this area represents a significant knowledge gap.

To begin to address this gap, this research seeks answers to the following research questions: (1) What is the relationship between perpetrator socio-democratic characteristics and IPF perpetration? (2) What are the motivations for IPF from the perspective of perpetrators? The research employs a mixed method design for gathering, analysing, and mixing quantitative and qualitative data at some point throughout the research process to gain a better understanding of IPF.

Addressing the knowledge gaps will contribute to the IPF literature in sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana. By developing a deeper understanding of the perpetrator’s motivation for IPF, this study will assist policy makers to strengthen existing policies and programmes and develop new ones to protect women against intimate femicide. This research will help raise awareness of violent crimes against women, particularly intimate femicide. Additionally, it will assist Domestic violence service providers in developing programs to help the victims’ remaining family members, particularly surviving children (i.e., ‘silent victims). This study also aims to generate a national discourse on protecting women against all forms of violence and addressing the patriarchal ideologies that foster IPF. Moreover, conducting this research within the African context will provide a comparative viewpoint that is necessary for homicide scholars in formulating a cross-cultural theory of lethal violence against women in the Global North and South.

Select Related References:

Rohn, E., & Tenkorang, E. Y. (2023). Femicide in Sub-Saharan Africa. In M. Dawson & S. Mobayed (Eds), The Routledge International Handbook on Femicide and Feminicide. (pp. 246-263). Routledge.

Rohn, E., Tenkorang, Eric Y. (2022). Motivations and barriers to help-seeking behaviour among female victims of IPV in Ghana. Violence Against Women, 1-27
DOI: 10.1177/10778012221137924

Rohn, E., Tenkorang, Eric Y. (2022). Structural and institutional barriers to help-seeking behaviour in Ghana. Journal of Family Violence, 1-13

DOI: 10.1007/s10896-022-00433-2

Tenkorang, Eric Y & Rohn, E. (2021). Help-seeking behaviour of male victims of intimate partner violence in Kenya. Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 0(0) 1–16
DOI: 10.1177/0192513X211042847

Funding: University of Guelph PhD program

Lead researchers: Ciara Boyd and Myrna Dawson

Project status: Ongoing

Project Description:

Between 2019 and 2021, there was a 26 percent increase in homicides involving women and girls in Canada (CFOJA 2021). In 2021 alone, 173 women and girls were violently killed; of these 173 cases, 89 percent of the identified perpetrators were male (CFOJA 2020). In line with the rates in 2021, literature shows that most perpetrators of femicide are male and, although uncommon, some perpetrators die by suicide following the femicide. Despite literature exploring femicide, studies have less frequently explored the role of suicide following femicide events (Dawson 2005).

Some scholars argue that femicide-suicides are primarily homicides that involve a suicidal component (Stack 1997; Allen 1983); in these cases, it is argued that the perpetrator kills their victim(s) and dies by suicide after realizing what they have done. Others argue that they are primarily suicides, where the perpetrator’s goal is to die, and the victim is killed in the process (Palermo 1994). Despite these perspectives, research rarely examines factors that are correlated with perpetrators dying by suicide after committing femicide.

Building on an earlier study (Dawson, 2005), the purpose of the current study is to build upon prior literature by examining factors that may correlate with femicide-suicide with the goal of helping future research better identify risk assessment and safety planning strategies to prevent future killings.

Methods: This study uses data collected from a larger study that examines homicides documented in Canada from 1974 to present. The current study drew a subsample of the data that includes all homicides involving female victims in Ontario between 1995 and 2017 because coding for these data has been completed. The current subsample includes 1,141 femicides; analyses will be updated when coding for more recent years is finished.

Findings: Preliminary findings show that several factors may be correlated with perpetrator suicide following femicide, including perpetrator age, the use of firearms, the location of the femicide, and whether or not the femicides involved more than one victim. Population density is also a predictor; however, its predictive effect is related to the number of victims killed in the femicide. To elaborate, the findings suggest that perpetrators are more likely to die by suicide when they are older, use a firearm, commit femicide in a private location, and target more than one victim. The chances of perpetrator suicide are also higher when femicides occur in urban areas and involve more than one victim.

Implications: Research has rarely explored predictors of femicide-suicide and, of the literature that does exist, it rarely focuses on those that occur in Canada. The results from this study can be used to help researchers better identify risk assessment and safety planning strategies to prevent future incidents of femicide-suicide, as they provide insight into several factors that may correlate with perpetrator suicide following femicide.

Select Related References:

Allen, Nancy. 1983. Homicide followed by suicide: Los Angeles, 1970-1979. Suicide and Life-

Threatening Behavior 13:155-165.

Boyd, C. and M. Dawson. Femicide-Suicide in Canada: Understanding Characteristics that Correlate with Perpetrator Suicide. Paper presented at the Canadian Sociological Association Annual Conference, York University, May 29-June 2, 2023.

Boyd, C., D. Sutton, M. Dawson, Angelika Zecha, J. Poon, AL. Straatman, and P. Jaffe. 2022. Familicide in Canada: Comparing familicides to domestic homicides. Homicide Studies

Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. 2020. Preventing Femicide.

Dawson, M. 2005. Intimate femicide followed by suicide: Examining the role of premeditation. Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior 35(1): 76-90.

Palermo, George. 1994. Murder-suicide: An extended suicide. International Journal of Offender

Therapy and Comparative Criminology 31:205-216.

Stack, Steven. 1997. Homicide followed by suicide: An analysis of Chicago data. Criminology 35:435-454.

Funding: University of Guelph PhD program

Lead researchers: Ciara Boyd and Myrna Dawson

Project status: Ongoing

Project Description:

Most victims of femicide are killed by a man they know (Manifold 2023); however, the victim-perpetrator relationship in cases of femicide can take many forms. For example, research shows that the majority of femicides are committed by male intimate partners (Dawson et al. 2021), but research has rarely explored the role of relationship state (i.e., whether the relationship was current or former) and relationship status (i.e., whether those involved were legally married, common-law partners, or dating) on characteristics of femicide (Dawson and Gartner 1998).

Research consistently shows that women are at an increased risk of violence when they leave an intimate partner (Campbell et al. 2003); however, less frequently explored is the state that the relationship was in at the time of the femicide. Earlier research conducted by Dawson and Gartner (1998) drew from data that examined intimate femicide in Ontario, Canada, between 1974 and 1994 to explore whether victim, offender, and incident characteristics in intimate femicides differed by type of relationship. Their findings showed that characteristics of what they referred to as intimate femicide did differ by relationship state and status (Dawson and Gartner 1998).

To build upon this research, this project draws from the same database to explore the role of relationship state and relationship status on characteristics of intimate femicide in the more recent period (1995-2022). The goal of this research is to identify and explore any changes that may have occurred over time in the impact of varying levels of intimacy in relationships prior to intimate femicide.

Selected Related References:

Campbell, J., D. Webster, J. Koziol-McLain, C. Block, D. Campbell, M.A. Curry, F. Gary, N. Glass, J. McFarlane, C. Sachs, P. Sharps, Y. Ulrich, S. Wilt, J. Manganello, X. Xu, J. Schollenberger, V. Frye, & K. Laughon. 2003. Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From a Multisite Case Control Study. American Journal of Public Health 93(7):1089-1097.

Dawson, M., D. Sutton, A. Zecha, C. Boyd, A. Johnson, and A. Mitchell. 2021. #CallItFemicide: Understanding Gender-Related Killings of Women and Girls in Canada, 2020 (88 pages). Guelph, ON: Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence.

Dawson, M. & R. Gartner. 1998. Differences in the Characteristics of Intimate Femicide: The Role of Relationship State and Relationship Status. Homicide Studies 2: 378-399.

Sutton, D. and M. Dawson. 2018. Do the characteristics of domestic violent incidents differ depending on the type and length of the relationship that exists between the accused and victim? Journal of Interpersonal Violence 36 (9-10): 167-191.

Funding: University of Guelph Research Leadership Chair funding. Prior funding provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canada Research Chair program.

Principal Investigator: Myrna Dawson

Project status: Ongoing

Project Description:

Little attention is given to variation in official responses to crime across Canadian jurisdictions despite recognition that courts operate in distinct environments that impact how cases are processed and disposed. In fact, no such official data exists in Canada that can link court outcomes to the characteristics of cases or those involved. Understanding variations in such outcomes, what groups are affected, where and why is integral to ensuring consistency in access to justice for victims and defendants.

To meet these overarching objectives, the larger Canadian Geography of Justice Initiative has four objectives: (1) To document jurisdictional patterns in case processing and dispositions by characteristics of the victims, their accused, and the incidents (i.e. individual, relationship factors); (2) To document jurisdictional patterns in case processing/dispositions by characteristics of the courts and the broader communities in which they operate (i.e. community-level factors); (3) To identify associations among particular types of cases, court sites or communities that may help explain identified jurisdictional variations; and, finally, (4) To determine if there have been changes over time in these jurisdictional patterns that parallel legislative and policy transformations (i.e. societal-level factors). Recognizing that we carry multiple identities, this research examines the combined effects of various characteristics such as gender, relationship, race/ethnicity, age, and geography.

The Focus on Femicide component of this project examines the killings of women and girls across the country to determine what charges are laid when the accused is identified, what types of convictions occur, and the length of sentences imposed. The continued absence of systematic Canadian court data allowing researchers to link case characteristics to punishments has so far prevented such research given that Canada’s official court program was discontinued in the 1970s. The data produced by this project represent one of the only over time, national databases that allows for the examination of a variety of research questions about the criminal justice processing of crime and its association factors at various levels of society. The project had its early origins in the Intimate Femicide in Ontario, 1974-1994 study which supported the subsequent examination of the role of intimacy and gender in law’s response to violence in Canada’s most populous province – Ontario. The more than four decades of data examining female homicide allows for the examination of detailed, case-based information on victim, perpetrator, incident and legal outcomes.

Selected Related References:

Dawson, M. 2017. Intimacy, geography and justice. Chapter 15 in Reading Sociology, edited by P. Albanese, L. Tepperman, and E. Alexander. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Dawson, M. and D. Sutton. 2017. Similar sentences, similar crimes? Using deep sample analysis to examine the comparability of crimes and punishments by victim-defendant relationship. International Journal of Crime, Law and Justice 49: 58-70.

Dawson, M. 2016. Punishing femicide: Criminal justice responses to the killing of women over four decades. Current Sociology 64(7): 996-1016.

Dawson, M. 2012. Intimacy, homicide, and punishment: Examining court outcomes over three decades.  Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology 45(3): 400-422.

Dawson, M. Intimacy, gender and homicide: The validity and utility of common stereotypes in law. 2016. Chapter 3 in Gender, Murder and Responsibility: An International Perspective, edited by K. Fitz-Gibbons and S. Walklate (Routledge).

Funding: This project was funded by the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime

Principal Investigator: Myrna Dawson

Project status: Completed

English version of report:

French version of report:

Project Description:

The recognition of Canada’s aging population as a diverse generational cohort is important for violence prevention, intervention, and programming. However, old age is a culturally specific and socially constructed phenomena that is also highly gendered. It is well documented that women grow older than men and, because they live longer, they are often vulnerable to various forms of exploitation, abuse, and violence. This vulnerability is often exacerbated by social isolation as well as the continued stigmatization and marginalization of the older population. As such, it has only recently been recognized that violence against older women is a widespread phenomenon that has received little targeted attention globally, including Canada. For example, one report noted that, of 131 government reports on violence against women, only 13 recognized the risk of older women and, similarly, a UN report found that domestic violence legislation does not tend to specifically include older women. As such, violence and abuse of older women is one of the most widespread crimes worldwide, acts that also often remain undetected and/or unpunished. This is also true with respect to the most extreme form of violence against women – femicide – with little current knowledge about trends, patterns, and/or responses. Given older women are one of the fastest growing populations in Canada, it is timely to explore existing knowledge about their violent victimization to inform the development of intervention and prevention initiatives. Given documented recording and reporting biases that lead to underestimates of violence, particularly relevant to older populations, this paper focused on the lethal victimization of older women – commonly referred to as femicide.

Select Related References:

Dawson, M. 2017. Patterns in femicides of older women in Ontario, Canada, 1974-2012. Pg. 8-15 in Femicide VIII: Abuse and Femicide of the Older Woman. Vienna: Academic Council of United Nations System.

Sutton, D. and M. Dawson. 2017. Femicide of Older Women. Learning Network Learning Brief (31). London, ON: Learning Network, Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children.

9) Prevention And Eradication

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