Advocates concerned as 3 women killed in the Lower Mainland in a week – BC

Advocates concerned as 3 women killed in the Lower Mainland in a week – BC

Warning: This story contains disturbing details and is about violence against women and may anger and upset some readers. Discretion is recommended.

In a week, three women were killed in the Lower Mainland, each femicide suspected to have involved a family member or intimate partner.

Their names are Stephanie Forster, Harpreet Kaur Gill and Dominga Santos.

It’s a worrying outbreak of violence against women, and Metro Vancouver women’s support groups are concerned that wives, daughters, sisters and mothers continue to fall through the cracks.

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More violence is likely in the coming weeks, said Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services. Women are often under increased pressure during the holidays to make sure things “go well at home” for everyone – including their male partners, she said.

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“They often carry the weight of what that means for the holidays,” MacDougall explained.

“Of course, every day is a potentially bad day for someone living with violence, but this season is a good opportunity to reassess safety planning … and be ready to take action and leave if necessary.”

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Forster, 39, was shot dead in her car in Coquitlam on December 8. Two days later, her estranged husband Gianluigi Derossi fatally shot himself amid a traffic stop in Surrey.

Derossi was due to appear in court this week on “fear of injury/property damage” in connection with an incident in September. He had been ordered not to communicate with Forster and, as a result, not to visit her home, place of work, or school.

He was charged on October 2 with violating his terms. Global News also learned that Derossi also went by the name Reza Moeinian and was a convicted “romantic scammer”.

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According to her family, Forster had learned of his identity and contacted the police, but still faced months of agony and harassment.

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Gill, 44, was fatally stabbed in a Surrey home on December 7. Her husband, 40-year-old Navinder Gill, has been charged with second-degree murder.

Santos, 68, was fatally stabbed in a North Vancouver home on December 13. Her nephew, 46-year-old Anthony del Rosario, was charged with second-degree murder.

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“In general, 2022 was a deadly year for women, a deadly year for battered women in British Columbia,” said Hilla Kerner, spokeswoman for the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter.

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The shelter has counted at least nine women killed or allegedly killed by their current or former partner in BC this year.

“We want British Columbia’s chief medical examiner to publicize every time a woman is murdered by her male partner. We have to be able to mourn these women, we have to know who they were,” said Kerner.

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3 murders in the Lower Mainland in the last 24 hours

Forster was described by her family as “an absolutely amazing, beautiful person”. She was an award-winning social and technology entrepreneur and humanitarian working in Haiti, taking on-site portraits of patients at BC Children’s Hospital and residents of the Downtown Eastside.

“She was just a very, very spontaneous, effervescent light – a person who, once you met her, you just couldn’t love anymore,” her brother Tyson Forster told Global News.

“You know, she literally gave herself to the world.”

Gill had been described by a neighbor as a “teacher” and “nice woman”. Gill was a mother of three children under the age of 10 whose parents and siblings live in India.

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At least 88 women and girls were killed in Canada in the first half of 2022, including 15 in BC. the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability reports. By the end of June, 77 suspects had been identified, 62 of whom were male.

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But most domestic violence cases go unreported, Kerner said, because “women know that the criminal justice system is very likely to let them down, provide no protection, and maybe even make things worse.”

“Society has not been able to address women’s vulnerabilities,” she said.

“Some of these women have been murdered while the men who killed them have already been arrested and charged with crimes against them or other women.”

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Kerner said more data is needed on femicide in BC, which reports deaths from toxic drugs and certain diseases, but not intimate partner violence. That makes it difficult for advocates to grasp the scale of the crisis and push for change, she explained.

Maureen Berlin of the Ishtar Women’s Society said more affordable housing was also needed for women fleeing domestic violence.

“If they want to take care of their children or themselves, they either have to live on the streets or stay in the situation they are in,” she explained. “It’s certainly something our provincial government is as aware of as our federal government. We need more living space.”

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According to Public Safety Secretary Mike Farnworth, the provincial government funds more than 400 victim support and violence against women programs that support survivors and help with safety planning. There are also nine domestic violence units that link police officers with community victim services and, in some areas, a child protection officer to improve case coordination.

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He addressed concerns about suspected perpetrators who are not in custody and referred to BC’s Victim Safety Unit, which provides alert services to registered higher-risk victims.

“Once registered with the unit, victims and protected parties receive ongoing information while a suspect or offender is in the community (on bail or on parole) and in custody,” Farnworth said in an October statement.

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The BC government website is currently urging anyone who observes another person to have violated the terms of their protective order to call the police immediately. An alleged offender also has the right to bail unless the Crown can justify his continued detention.

“Bail supervisors and probation officers are vigilant in overseeing compliance with court-ordered conditions,” Farnworth told Global News. They also have the legal power to report violations to the police or the Crown Attorney, who in turn can bring charges or revoke bail.

The 2022 budget included $22 million to fund approximately 50 community-based sexual assault response organizations over a three-year period. Roundtable discussions to develop a plan of action on gender-based violence in BC began in March and will involve men and boys with an emphasis on “awareness and prevention,” according to former Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Justice Grace Lore.

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With files by Catherine Urquhart

Women and people of mixed genders experiencing violence can obtain assistance from Battered Women’s Support Services by calling the 24/7 toll-free crisis hotline at 1-855-687-1868.

Legal and psychiatric resources for adults and children experiencing violence can be found on the Public Health Agency of Canada website.

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