Derksen drops plan to turn Dalnavert Museum into Candace House

Wilma Derksen has abandoned her plan to turn the former Dalnavert Museum into Candace House, a sanctuary for victims of crime.
Wilma Derksen poses on the porch of the former Dalnavert Museum last month, when she announced plans to turn it into Candace House. (Meagan Fiddler/CBC)

Wilma Derksen has abandoned her plan to turn the former Dalnavert Museum into Candace House, a sanctuary for victims of crime and their families.

Derksen said on Friday that she didn't realize the plan would stir up contention with heritage groups, even though the Manitoba Historical Society agreed to the plan.

"We just didn't realize the controversy or the protection of the house that was still there. We thought that it was negotiable and that people were open to a new plan, a new re-purposing of Dalnavert," she said.

"We want to respect other peoples' opinions and for them to work it out."

Heritage Winnipeg said it had submitted a proposal in January to save the museum and was shocked to find out through the media that its bid wasn't accepted and instead, the building would become the centre.

Dalnavert House, a Victorian mansion in downtown Winnipeg, was built in 1895 and was originally the home of Hugh John Macdonald, the son of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald. (Marjorie Dowhos/CBC)
​Derksen had hoped to make the Victorian mansion on Carlton Street in downtown Winnipeg similar to a drop-in centre, staffed with counsellors and support workers, and possibly add a restaurant component one day.

She said the location was ideal, being only a few blocks from the Law Courts building and giving victims of crime easy access to a safe place, whether to escape the spotlight or have lunch when court is not in session.

"I do have to admit, we are very disappointed. It seemed to be so perfect," Derksen said, adding she will continue looking for another location to open Candace House.

The Manitoba Historical Society closed the museum last September due to funding issues and a drop in attendance.

Last month, Derksen said she had an agreement with the society to take it over and have the property transferred to the agency that owns Candace House.

She estimated it would cost $2 million to complete the deal, including the cost of doing some necessary work to the house, which was built in 1895 and was originally the home of Hugh John Macdonald, the son of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald.

The house was to be renamed for Derksen's daughter.

Candace, was 13 when she disappeared on her way home from school in November 1984. Her body was found six weeks later, bound and frozen, in a storage shed not far from her home in Winnipeg's East Kildonan area.

Mark Grant was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced in 2011 to life with no parole eligibility for at least 25 years. He has repeatedly denied killing Derksen and appealed the sentence.

In October 2013 the Manitoba Court of Appeal ordered a new trial. 

The Crown is challenging that appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. No date has yet been set to hear those arguments.


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