‘Their stories need to be told’: Advocates want police to release names of women killed by domestic violence

Women’s shelter directors from across Alberta want police to improve the way they communicate about cases of domestic violence. 

Three days after Christmas, 53-year-old Wen Zhou Zhang allegedly killed a woman in the west Edmonton home they shared. Police did not release the victim’s name. 

It was Edmonton’s 28th homicide of the year — and the sixth time a female was the victim. In five of those cases, police did not release the victim’s name.

Court records show Zhang is accused of killing Wen Lan Bu, who is listed as a co-owner of the home in the Breckenridge Greens neighbourhood. Police have described the case as a “domestic violence incident.”

Zhang is also charged with possessing a firearm for a dangerous purpose.

In 2018, police did not release the names of victims in 11 of the city’s 28 homicide cases — or about 40 per cent of the time. It’s an approach incoming Edmonton police chief Dale McFee has pledged to review.

It’s also an issue the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters will raise in its meetings with the new chief, said Jan Reimer, the organization’s executive director.

‘Their stories need to be told’

Shelter directors from across the province discussed the issue of naming women killed in domestic violence at a meeting last month.

“It was unequivocal that we should not be covering up, silencing, or minimizing the death of women who have been killed by their partners, and that their stories need to be told,” Reimer said.

“They count and they’re important in the community.”

We should not be covering up, silencing, or minimizing the death of women who have been killed by their partners … their stories need to be told.– Jan Reimer , Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters

Reimer said she is pleased to see police refer to cases as involving “domestic violence,” rather than referring to two people who were simply “known to each other.”

“Words matter,” Reimer said.

The council will be discussing various issues with the new chief, including the rise in cases where women are considered to be at “serious or extreme level of danger.” Cases are evaluated using a tool known as a danger assessment, which helps to determine the level of danger an abused woman has of being killed by her intimate partner. 

“We’re seeing an increase in a likelihood of [women] being threatened with a gun or subjected to strangulation. Those are two very serious warning signs of femicide and we’re seeing increases in those areas,” Reimer said.

About 54 per cent of Alberta cases assessed in 2011-12 were put into the category of “serious or extreme level of danger.” That increased to 65 per cent for 2017-18. 

There are 20 factors considered in a danger assessment, which also include whether a woman is pregnant and whether there is a child in the relationship who is not biologically related to the man.

“Pregnancy means he’s losing control and domestic violence is always about power and control … and during pregnancy that control is seen to be lessening,” Reimer said.

Last year, the council of women’s shelters recommended that the Court of Queen’s Bench consider danger assessments when determining things like restraining orders and child custody orders. 

Back in court this week

Zhang made a brief court appearance on Wednesday. A Mandarin interpreter had been requested for his bail hearing but none was present, so the matter was put over until Friday.



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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.

History

Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
Geography

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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