False claims made in committee on Bill C-21
I would like to bring to the Committee’s attention a few false or misleading claims made in SECU on October 4 2022 when examining bill C-21 as well as presenting more appropriate statistics that may be able to provide a better understanding.
There may well be other false claims but these caught my eye.
I. Liberal MP Noormohamed made false or misleading claims on October 4 2022.
Liberal MP Noormohamed said, “In 2021, 173 women were killed by either present or former intimate partners, and 40% of them were killed using guns, or just about 40%.”
This sentence contains two false or misleading claims:
First, the correct number of women killed in 2021 by a present or former intimate partner is 50 women — not 173 women, according to Statistics Canada.
Second, in the same sentence Mr Noormohamed appears to claim that 40% of spousal homicides involved guns. This claim contradicts available information. The true number historically has been much less. Typically, knives are involved in more spousal homicides than guns.
Statistics Canada hasn’t yet reported publicly how many domestic or spousal homicides involved firearms in 2021, but the results of my earlier analysis of spousal murders (1995-2009], based on a Special Request to Statistics Canada, found that on average, firearms were involved in approximately 25% of female victims of spousal homicides. Note that a knife or other cutting tool was involved in 32% of female victims of spousal homicides. The problem isn’t firearms but dysfunctional relationships involving drugs and alcohol.
II. At least one other false or misleading statement was made to SECU on October 4 2022; it was made by Bryan Larkin, Deputy Commissioner, RCMP, Specialized Policing Services.
D/Commr Bryan Larkin said: Mr. Chair, we do know that obviously there’s a chance, a five times greater chance, of a fatality involving intimate partner violence when there’s a firearm present, …
Mr Larkin’s claim that there is a “five times greater chance” of a fatality if a firearm present is disinformation.
Apparently, Mr Larkin has misinterpreted the results of a “case-control” study of an unrepresentative sample of American battered women. His claim is not even accurate for intimate partner violence in the United States; and certainly has no relevance to Canada.
The “five times greater” factoid can be traced to a paper in the American Journal of Public Health. The AJPH study compares police or medical records for 220 intimate-partner female homicide victims with the interviews of 343 abused women in 11 American cities who were chosen to act as controls. All study participants were abused women.
Mr Larkin misrepresents the study by implying a causal link between firearms ownership and intimate partner violence. The AJPH study is a case-control study of spousal abusers, not a study of the general population of firearms owners, American or Canadian. As with all case-control studies, findings are considered “risk factors,” that is hypotheses, not causal links.
The study found that spousal abusers are more likely to kill their spouse if they have access to a firearm. It also found that abused women who have access to a firearm are less likely to be murdered.
Because the study was not representative of Americans, not even American abused women, it is incorrect to generalize the findings to imply spouses of American — or Canadian –firearm owners are at risk as Mr Larkin did in his testimony to SECU.
The Committee will be interested in more appropriate Canadian statistics.
There is no evidence that women are in any danger living with a Canadian firearm owner. Methodologically sound research suggests just the contrary. Firearms owners are responsible citizens who are good parents.
First, in a series of studies Statistics Canada finds that firearms are rarely involved in domestic violence cases (under 1%), even though at least one-quarter of all households in Canada have firearms.
Second, spousal violence typically involves repeat offenders. See here on page 33 and here on pages 23 and 24.
Third, a large majority of offenders (65%) who murder their spouse or partner have criminal histories which would prohibit them from legally owning firearms. See the bottom paragraph on page 23.
Fourth, Pursuant to the Firearms Act, offenders who commit spousal violence are prohibited from owning firearms. To ensure that applicants are not spousal abusers, the applicant’s spouse [or partner] must co-sign the application and may be contacted by the RCMP.
There are over 2 million Possession and Acquisition Licence holders. Each licenced firearm owner has been vetted by the RCMP, and every single one is checked nightly for any violation through the “continuous eligibility screening” program.
Between 2000 and 2020, the number of PAL holders accused of homicide varied from 6 to 21, averaging 12 accused [C/SC] per year out of approximately 2 million PAL holders. The number of PAL holders increased from 1,979,054 to 2,206,755 over this same time period, so the annual rate was 1.04 accused per 100,000 PAL holders.
This rate is considerably lower than other adult Canadians who commit murder at a much higher rate (2.12 per 100,000 adult Canadians). For comparison purposes the average Canadian national homicide rate was 1.79 over the 22 years from 2000 to 2021. This rate is for the entire Canadian population including children under 18 years of age. Fewer than 1% [0.13% in 2020} of PAL holders are revoked for any kind of violence or legal problems and just 0.01% for domestic violence.