December 9, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wellness Within, an Organization for Health and Justice, responds to RCMP charges against Lisa Banfield, survivor of gendered violence and the April Massacre.
Wellness Within is a registered non-profit organization working for reproductive justice, prison abolition, and health equity in K’jipuktuk, Mi’kma’ki (Halifax, Nova Scotia).
In 2020, in response to the violent arrest of Santina Rao by Halifax Regional Police officers at a Walmart store in January, we released demands for gender sensitivity in arrests: https://wellnesswithinns.org/campaigns-blog/2020/3/9/gender-and-halifax-regional-police-response-a-call-for-change. One of our recommendations is that police recognize the impact of domestic violence and gendered control on women’s criminalization. Wellness Within has repeatedly met with Halifax Regional Police, the Board of Police Commissioners and the Women’s Advisory Committee of the Halifax municipality to raise alarm about the gendered harm of policing and arrest. Training and education for police is not making a difference.
On April 18-19, 2020, after first violently assaulting her, Lisa Banfield’s common law spouse GW went on to kill 22 Nova Scotians. We now understand GW had a long history of gendered violence. On Dec 4, 2020, RCMP released sparse details about the first charges they have laid with respect to the massacre. They have charged Lisa Banfield and two others with providing GW with ammunition https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/spouse-portapique-gunman-lisa-banfield-charges-ammunition-1.5828411.
Last summer, Wellness Within was a key organizer in the successful call for a public inquiry into the massacre: https://wellnesswithinns.org/campaigns-blog/2020/7/25/22reasonswhy-we-demand-accountability-from-police-forces. We insisted that a feminist lens was necessary for an effective inquiry and were encouraged by the appointment of Kim Stanton to the inquiry in October.
That the RCMP would charge a victim of gendered violence- a victim who herself survived the massacre through luck, resilience, and persistence- in one of their first public actions in response to the massacre is glaring evidence of the institution’s inability to consider sex and gender in their work. In Canada, the federal government is committed to using sex and gender-based analysis to inform their policies and actions https://cfc-swc.gc.ca/gba-acs/index-en.html. The RCMP continues to be an organization that perpetuates violence and harm against women. Just last month, with the release of the Bastarache report, we learned over 2,300 women received compensation through the Merlo-Davidson class action lawsuit against the RCMP for sexual harassment https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/rcmp-merlo-davidson-final-report-1.5807022. In response to these cases, RCMP commissioner Brenda Lucki apologized and said, “We failed these women because they are women”.
The arrest of Ms. Banfield demonstrates the continued egregious failure of the RCMP to protect the safety of women. Intimate partner violence is about power and control. We can hardly expect any survivor of intimate partner violence to have any trust in the criminal justice system that is supposed to protect her safety after seeing this news. Criminalizing survivors of domestic violence will not end cycles of violence. Re-traumatizing survivors of domestic violence by subjecting them to state violence will not end cycles of violence.
If Lucki’s apology to women victimized by the RCMP is more than just words, the charges against Ms. Banfield will be immediately dropped. Sex and gender considerations must be central to the actions of the justice system. Defunding the police and directing those funds to community-based services that offer true safety and support and respect the right to self-determination of survivors will end cycles of violence.
Wellness Within: An Organization for Health and Justice