The Calgary Police Service has received kudos from Rona Ambrose, minister for public works and status of women, for their innovative approach in addressing violence against women and girls committed in the name of honour.
Over the past year, the Calgary Police Service (CPS) has undertaken training and networking with community-based groups to gain skills and understanding on how to detect, deal with, and prevent honour-motivated violence.
“I applaud the work of the Calgary Police Service in addressing family violence and violence against women and girls committed in the name of ‘honour,’” Ambrose said in a press release.
“It is only by working together, and by enhancing our knowledge and understanding of this issue that we will end all forms of violence against women and girls.”
John Guigon, a CPS staff sergeant who was assigned to the domestic conflict unit for over four years, told The Epoch Times that Calgary police officers are gaining more understanding of honour-based violence as they undergo training and work with community partners.
The more we learn about it the more that we are able to identify it, and that’s a big thing.
Sergeant John Guignon
They are also becoming more effective at detecting honour crimes. He estimates there have been 30 to 40 cases of honour-based violence in Calgary this year alone.
“The more we learn about it the more that we are able to identify it, and that’s a big thing,” he says.
“We knew it existed in the past, but we were never really sure how widespread it was or really how to recognize it, because the victims of honour-based violence are not going to tell you that, ‘Hey, I’m a victim of honour-based violence.’ They don’t see it in those terms.”
Guigon says the training started with a presentation by Punjabi author Aruna Papp, who travelled to Alberta to talk to officers about her own experience with honour violence and how to recognize it in communities. The experience was a wake-up call for many officers, he says.
“[Papp] made us and our community partners aware of the issue and what to look for, just by telling her story, what happened to her, what she experienced,” he says.
“[Now] we’re in the process of adjusting our recruit training to reflect the reality of honour-based violence.”
Guignon says that while honour violence manifests in many ugly ways, it always comes down to families punishing perceived “shameful” behaviour in efforts to restore the family name.
“It could be simply threats, it could be assaults, it could be unlawful confinement, shaming by the family or community—it can even go so far as international kidnapping and even murder,” he says.
“Fundamentally, it is attempts by certain cultural groups to impose what we consider a medieval code of honor and shame on Canadian girls, and really, [the girls] have a right to be completely free of that kind of stuff.”
Guigon says the most important method of combating honour-based violence in Calgary has been to work closely with community partners in “the true spirit of community policing.”
“We understand we need the coordinated response, and that means schools, child protection services, police, shelters, and government agencies of all sort of working together towards the same end. Otherwise it’s just a piecemeal approach,” he says.
“We’re just at the start of it all,” he adds. “Right now we’re learning about it, we’re getting our members to be aware of it, and we’re just developing ways to deal with it more effectively.”
Minister Ambrose has campaigned nationally and internationally since 2010 to end “honour-motivated violence” against women and girls in Canada.
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