The coroner’s office asks those named in inquest recommendations to provide responses and indicate if there is any progress. In this case, the deadline was last Friday. The province’s 55-page response was released on Monday.
The Ontario government says 29 of the recommendations made by a coroner’s jury probing the 2015 murders of three women in Renfrew County will require “further analysis.”
That includes the first recommendation made by the inquest jury: “Formally declare intimate partner violence (IPV) as an epidemic,” as well as the second recommendation, which urged the creation of an independent commission dedicated to eradicating IPV.
The inquest into the deaths of Carol Culleton, 66, Anastasia Kuzyk, 36, and Nathalie Warmerdam, 48, at the hands of Basil Borutski lasted about three weeks last June.
On Sept. 22, 2015, Borutaski strangled Culleton, who was at her cottage near Combermere, then stole her car and drove to Wilno, where he shot Kuzyk. He next drove to Warmerdam’s home on Foymount Road and shot her. Borutski had a long history of defying the justice system. He had been convicted of assaulting Kuzyk and Warmerdam and was stalking Culleton.
The inquest was tasked with making recommendations to prevent IPV deaths. The wide-ranging process heard from about 30 witnesses ranging from academic experts to senior police officers.
The five jurors — three men and two women — made 86 recommendations aimed at a number of public bodies, including the federal government, the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and the province’s chief firearms officer. The vast majority of recommendations were directed at the province.
Kirsten Mercer, a lawyer for End Violence Against Women Renfrew County, said Monday that some of the most substantial recommendations for the province fell into the “requires further analysis” list.
“This is where a lot of the heavy lifting remains, and no timeline has been provided. We were hoping for a timely response,” Mercer said.
“It’s discouraging. Every six days, a woman in this country is killed by her intimate partner. Days matter.”
The chief coroner’s office can’t compel anyone to implement or respond to inquest recommendations, but the coroner’s office asks those named in inquest recommendations to provide responses and indicate if there is any progress.
In this case, the deadline was last Friday. The province’s 55-page response was released on Monday.
Some of the inquest recommendations were accepted by the province. For example, one recommendation urged Ontario to expand cellphone service and high-speed internet in rural areas to improve safety. The province responded that it recognized the importance of getting people connected to high-speed internet for every community in Ontario by 2025.
Another recommendation called for consistent and stable funding for IPV service providers. The province said this recommendation was “accepted in part.”
This was encouraging to see, but workers on the ground still spend too much time piecing together unstable funding from various sources, Mercer said.
“It would be a huge step forward for people who do this kind of work if they were not constantly worried about keeping the lights on,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve seen a huge difference on the ground. But we welcome the idea of having this conversation.”
That is why it was disappointing to see that the province had placed the inquest’s fifth recommendation on the “further analysis” list, Mercer said. That recommendation called for the immediate implementation of a committee of senior representatives from provincial ministries and IPV experts to ensure that all 86 recommendations were considered and responses were reported and published.
“It should have been the first thing they did,” Mercer said.
The province is also still mulling over another recommendation calling on it to recognize that implementing the recommendations would require stable and adequate funding, significant investment and commitment to providing that funding.
The inquest jury also asked the federal government to explore adding the term “femicide” to the Criminal Code as a separate offence from homicide.
In response to questions from this newspaper, the Department of Justice said the government was committed to ending all forms of gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence, and addressing any gaps in the Criminal Code to ensure a robust criminal justice system response.
“The government is carefully reviewing the inquest recommendations and other input,” a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said.
While the province is still pondering whether to recognize IPV as an epidemic, other Ontario jurisdictions have already taken that step. In December, Lanark County Council adopted that recommendation.
Other municipalities may be following suit. Early in March, Bay ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh and Bay ward Coun. Ariel Troster plan to table a notice of motion asking the City of Ottawa to take a similar step.
Of 16 homicides in Ottawa in 2022, seven of the victims were female: six women and one girl.
“I think people will pay attention. These are not isolated incidents. Some kind of light has to be shone on it,” Kavanagh said.
Every time a woman is killed because she is a woman, that is a devastating and predictable loss, Mercer said.
“We know we have to do better. That’s what this exercise was about: providing a roadmap to do better.”
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