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VANCOUVER - The death of 16-year-old Asqa Parvez at the hands of her own family was top of mind for federal Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose on Friday, as she announced funding for a program that will try to tap the perpetrators of so-called "honour" crimes for information on how to prevent them.
Ambrose said the Mississauga, Ont., teen sought help at a shelter, but was returned to the care of her parents.
"Unfortunately, the violence was being perpetrated by the family, in general, by the father and the brother. She ended up being killed," Ambrose said at a news conference in Vancouver.
It was a situation the shelter had not experienced before, she said.
"It's an issue that takes place across many different ethnic communities and cultural communities, but it is a real issue and we need to address violence against women and girls in every community, in every culture in which it exists across Canada," Ambrose told volunteers and staff at MOSAIC, a multicultural and immigrant service organization.
The federal government will provide $200,000 to the group for a two-year project that will include consulting boys and men in multicultural communities to better understand the issues behind ethnic gender violence.
Ambrose said there have been 19 murders on record that are considered honour killings.
In B.C., an extradition hearing is set to resume next month for the mother and uncle of 25-year-old Jassi Sidhu, allegedly murdered in India because she married a poor rickshaw driver against her family's wishes.
Two years ago, Parvez's father and brother received life sentences for strangling her to death in the family's Mississauga home because she rejected traditional behaviour.
Last year, Mohammad Shafia, 58, and his wife Tooba Yahya, 42, along with their son Hamed Shafia, 21, were each found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of their daughters.
Sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 52 — their father's other wife in a polygamous marriage — were found in a car at the bottom of the Rideau Canal in 2009.
Those are the cases that make headlines.
"This happens every day in communities across the country and you don't hear about it," Ambrose said.
She said the Vancouver program is one of 600 the federal government has supported across the country with similar goals.
The ultimate aim of the project is to develop strategies for preventing honour violence and for recognizing and dealing with it when prevention fails.
"We want to learn from men who have used violence. We want to know from them what are the dynamics, what are some of the things that led them to their acts of violence," said Nimu Kang, director of family programs at MOSAIC.
It's difficult to engage both victims and perpetrators of such violence, but it's important to do so, she said.
"You do see some attitude changes. You do see people stepping up. You do see men saying no to violence," Kang said. "Unfortunately we still have a long way to go."
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