An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Spousal Violence in Canada, 2009

6. Conclusion

6.1 Summary of Results

Table 6.1 below presents a summary of all economic impacts in the report. The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 in Canada is estimated at $7,420,301,324 ($7.4 billion). Figure 6.1 presents the breakdown of costs by who bears the impact.

Table 6.1: Costs of Spousal Violence, 2009 ($'000)
  Violence against females Violence against males Total
Justice System Costs
Criminal Justice System $271,965 $48,102 $320,067
Civil Justice System $182,257 $42,860 $225,118
Total $454,222 $90,963 $545,185
Victim Costs
Health Care $8,160 $12,766 $20,926
Mental Health Issues $146,868 $32,613 $179,482
Productivity Losses $37,126 $16,240 $53,365
Other Personal Costs $211,865 $59,397 $271,262
Intangible Costs $3,290,720 $2,169,480 $5,460,200
Total $3,694,739 $2,290,496 $5,985,235
Third-Party Costs
Funeral Expenses $1,023 $426 $1,449
Loss of Affection/Enjoyment to Family Members $26,268 $10,902 $37,170
Costs to Other Persons Harmed/threatened $9,047 $2,199 $11,246
Social Service Operating Costs $353,039 $57,556 $410,596
Losses to Employers $52,123 $25,795 $77,919
Negative Impact on Children Exposed to SV $153,242 $82,000 $235,242
Other Government Expenditures $96,270 $19,990 $116,260
Total $691,013 $198,869 $889,882
Total Costs $4,839,974 $2,580,328 $7,420,301

Note: May not add to stated totals due to rounding

Figure 6.1: Who Bears the Impact, 2009 ($ million)

Figure 6.1: A chart representing the proportion of economic impact borne by each group in 2009.

Figure 6.1 - Text equivalent

A pie chart illustrates the proportion of economic impact borne by each group in 2009. The three groups are the justice system, victims, and third parties. The majority of impact was borne by victims at $5,985 million, or 80.7% of the total economic impact. The next highest percentage of impact was borne by third parties at $890 million, or 12.0% of the total economic impact. The smallest fraction of impact was borne by the justice system at $545 million, or 7.3% of the total economic impact.

6.2 Costs by Who Pays

It is useful to know which party or system actually pays for the costs of spousal violence in addition to knowing which party or system bears the burden of the impact. These two classifications can lead to very different results as the party who bears an impact is often not the party who actually pays. For example, health care is required by victims of spousal violence who sustain injuries. Injuries are the most direct impact and are borne by the victim. However, health care costs are actually mostly paid by the state through the public health care system. Therefore, in the analysis of who bears the burden, the economic impacts of health care are attributed to the victim, but in the analysis of who actually pays, health care costs are attributed to the state.

This analysis of who actually pays considers three parties: government/state, individuals, and the private sector. This analysis only applies to tangible costs (excluding lost future income of children exposed to spousal violence) where an actual financial transaction is made. Tangible costs include losses of goods and services that have a price in the market or for which a proxy price is easily estimable through information and experience, whereas intangible costs include emotional costs to victims and the family. Intangible costs, which make up over 74.1% of the total economic impact of spousal violence ($5.5 billion), are therefore removed from the analysis by who actually pays. One reason that the lost future income of children exposed to spousal violence is also excluded is because this item only presents itself later in the child's life, and thus is highly subject to future changes in economic, social and judicial environments. Therefore, only tangible costs (excluding lost future income of children) are included in the analysis of who actually pays.

Figure 6.2 summarizes the main findings. Of the $1.7 billion of tangible costs, 63.8% ($1.1 billion)was paid by the state/government for cost items like the criminal justice system, the civil justice system and the health care system. Approximately 29.4% ($0.5 billion) was borne by victims through cost items including lost wages, lost education, damaged or stolen property, and moving expenses. The remaining 6.9% of tangible costs ($0.1 billion) was borne by the private sector through lost output, lost productivity due to tardiness and distraction, and associated administration costs.

Figure 6.2: Who Pays the Costs, 2009 ($ million)

Figure 6.2: One chart representing the proportion of costs in 2009 that were tangible, intangible, and lost future income to children, and a second chart representing the proportion of tangible costs in 2009 that were paid by the state, individuals, and the private sector.

Figure 6.2 - Text equivalent

The first pie chart on the left illustrates the proportion of costs by type of cost in 2009. The three types of costs are tangible, intangible, and lost future income to children. The largest section of the pie chart is intangible costs at $5,497 million, or 74.1% of total costs. The next largest section of the pie chart is tangible costs at $1,695 million, or 22.8% of total costs. The smallest section of the pie chart is lost future income to children at $228 million, or 3.1% of total costs. A second pie chart on the right illustrates the proportion of tangible costs in 2009 by who actually pays. The three parties who pay are the state, individuals, and the private sector. The state pays for the majority of tangible costs at 63.8%, individuals pay for 29.4% of tangible costs, and the private sector pays for 6.9% of total costs.

6.3 Concluding Remarks

The field of costing and cost/benefit analysis in the realm of criminal justice has advanced significantly over the past three decades. As in other fields, new methods and frameworks have been developed to replace older ones and the work continues to be reviewed and debated. Canada has not seen the same energy devoted to this area as the United States (see Cohen 2005 for a summary of developments), Australia or the United Kingdom (see Laing and Bobic 2002; Access Economics 2004; Walby 2004; 2009). The Cost of Crime in Canada, 2008 (Zhang 2011) is the first comprehensive work in Canada in the area of criminal justice. In the area of violence against women, the recently published work of Varcoe et al. (2011) on health impacts for separated spouses is the first research completed and published since the work from the mid-1990s(Greaves et al. 1995; Day 1995; Kerr and McLean 1996).

Estimating economic impacts, a process known as costing, is a way to measure the tangible and intangible impacts of, in the case of this report, spousal violence. By placing a dollar value on the impact, a common unit of measurement is provided. The dollar is a unit of measurement that all Canadians understand whether they are policy-makers, entrepreneurs, or the general public.

In the Methodology section, and throughout the report, the limitations of the data have been carefully articulated to ensure that the reader has a thorough understanding of exactly what is being measured and how to understand the results. The primary limitation is lack of data. Research could be undertaken through case studies if more feasible. In particular, this study would benefit from more comprehensive data in the following areas:

Justice System Costs

  • Policing resources expended in spousal violence cases;
  • Better data on restraining orders including number of applications in a given year in cases of spousal violence, as well as justice system costs for restraining orders in general;
  • Policing and court resources expended in cases of breaches of restraining/emergency protection orders;
  • Court costs for Domestic Violence Courts;
  • Costs associated with Review Boards and treatment in cases where the accused is found Unfit to Stand Trial or Not Criminally Responsible;
  • Legal representation costs of child protection in cases of spousal violence;
  • Costs of interpretation for police, courts where victims speak neither English nor French or have communicative disabilities;
  • Restitution orders (net benefit) and costs of enforcement;
  • Costs of legal separations;
  • Costs of mandatory family breakdown education sessions for spouses; and
  • In cases of death of victim, legal costs attendant to death – probate of will, establishment of legal guardian for children.

Victim Costs

  • Suicides caused by spousal violence;
  • Better understanding and data on the impact of spousal violence for victims who speak neither English nor French, who are newcomers to Canada (i.e. impact on immigration status), who have a physical or mental disability, who are Aboriginal or of a different religion or race;
  • Where there is more than one incident of violence in the given year (GSS 2009 or 2014 as examples) better data on impact of each violent incident such as trips to the emergency department, nights in hospital, etc.

Third-Party Costs

  • Additional detail on compensation;
  • Services related to Domestic Violence Courts such as programs for the perpetrator;
  • Services to victims not captured through the Victim Services Survey (which includes only those services that receive funding through a Justice or Public Safety Ministry or Department);
  • Social housing costs to municipal governments;
  • Comprehensive catalogue of all government costs.

These lists are by no means comprehensive, but provide an indication of some of the key data gaps. For those working in the area of criminal justice, there are numerous challenges to costing analysis in Canada that would be resolved with the linking of data from police reports and charging through to sentencing and corrections.

It is hoped that discussions on these and other important topics that have started through this study will continue with both stakeholders and others in the future. These discussions have worked to raise awareness amongst policy-makers in the federal, provincial and territorial governments and to researchers of several key data limitations in the Canadian justice realm. Additionally, awareness has been raised of the far reaching impact of a phenomenon that was once considered a private matter.

After all is said and done, the economic impact of spousal violence in Canada in 2009 is estimated to be $7,420,301,324. With this sum, it is evident that spousal violence has a significant impact on all of Canadian society. Today, as ever before, it is critical to continue efforts to prevent spousal violence, and where it does occur, to intervene, assist, and support to the extent possible so that the cycle does not persist for generations more.

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