Dec. 6, 2016

President's Message: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada, this day marks the anniversary of the murders of 14 young women at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989.

According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, 1 in 2 women experience at least one incident of physical or sexual violence after the age of 16. 

On this day we acknowledge the important role family doctors play in the lives of women who are at risk of or may be experiencing violence, particularly those suffering at the hands of intimate partners. It is often to their family physician that women present with symptoms of abuse that are not always easily explained. And it is also often to the family physician that women confide their fear.   

While the Canadian Preventive Task Force does not recommend screening all women for intimate partner violence, the US preventive task force and the most recent SOGC guideline do recommend screening.  

Asking the simple question “Do you feel safe in your current relationship?” can help women to begin to explore the issue of partner violence, particularly those who display symptoms or a frequency of visits that are not easily identified or explained. 

Addressing a patient’s safety, the safety of her children and helping women to find local resources for support, like a local women’s shelter, are all part of our role as family physicians. 

Today is a day to remind ourselves of the importance of the role we play in supporting those who are at risk or are experiencing intimate partner violence. The unique personal relationship we have with our patients is fostered throughout some of the most stressful and significant stages in one’s life – including childhood, pregnancy and elder care. It’s important that we continue to act as listening ears and patient advocates in the face of this often unseen abuse. 

Dr. Glenn Brown, MD, CCFP (EM), FCFP
President, Ontario College of Family Physicians
Twitter @OntarioCollege

For more information on abuse in Canada, please visit:

Canadian Women’s Foundation - The Facts About Violence Against Women  

World Health Organization – Violence Against Women Fact Sheet