OTTAWA - A major federal investigation into spousal violence says it cost society at least $7.4 billion for the thousands of incidents that occurred in just one year.
The Justice Canada study examined a broad range of economic impacts, from policing and health-care to funerals and lost wages, for every incident of spousal violence in 2009.
Drawing on a Canada-wide police database, researchers found almost 50,000 cases of spousal violence reported to police that year, more than 80 per cent of them involving female victims. The cases included 65 spousal homicides, 49 of them women.
The study also mined an annual Statistics Canada telephone survey, which estimated some 336,000 Canadians in 2009 were victims of some form of violence from their spouse. The definition of spouse included married, common-law, separated, same-sex and divorced partners.
The authors then meticulously accounted for all costs associated with the violence, from the obvious legal bills for prosecutions and emergency-room visits to the painfully personal.
The latter includes purchasing special telephone services such as call display to identify a stalking spouse or ex-spouse, usually male; or moving expenses incurred to escape harassment and assault by relocating to another community.
Altogether, total costs were conservatively estimated at $4.8 billion for female victims and $2.6 billion for male victims.
"Spousal violence is a widespread and unfortunate social reality that has an effect on all Canadians," says the 145-page report, completed this fall and obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
"Victims of spousal violence are susceptible to sustaining costly and long-lasting physical, emotional and financial consequences. ... Every member of society eventually feels the impact of spousal violence through the additional financial strain imposed on publicly funded systems and services."
"There's this 'you've come a long way, baby' kind of ethos in Canada ... where people have a sense that perhaps violence is lessening, perhaps it's less of a problem, perhaps women have greater equality, and that translates into less violence," Colleen Varcoe said in an interview.
"There simply isn't any evidence of that."