Canada looks to Chicago to reduce ‘honour crimes’

The Globe and Mail – January 23, 2012

At first glance, gang crime in a U.S. city would seem to have little in common with the violence against women in Canada in recent years. But one Canadian group is taking ideas gleaned from the streets of Chicago to tackle the troubling phenomenon of so-called honour crimes.  The Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration in London, Ont. will announce that it has a partnership with the renowned Chicago anti-violence group CeaseFire to develop the Family Honour Project, which its creators hope will soon spread to other communities.

The initiative, the first of its kind in Canada, is based on the work of epidemiologist Gary Slutkin, whose public-health approach to violence reduction has been credited with contributing to a significant reduction in gang shootings in Chicago. Although gang shootings and family honour crimes seem quite different, at their core they share one important cause: Both are driven primarily by the fear that a person’s reputation or image will be harmed if he or she doesn’t respond violently to being treated with a perceived lack of respect.

Norman Kerr, who was a director at CeaseFire for more than a decade and who is working with the MRC, said much of the work depends on building relationships. In Chicago, CeaseFire used ex-gang members as counsellors. In London, they expect to use social workers. Those social workers will need to be tapped into all aspects of a community’s life, from school, to the health system to the justice system, in order to gather all kinds of information about who needs support and how to provide it.