Montrealers march against conjugal violence in honour of 24-year-old Romane Bonnier

Nearly 1,000 people took to the streets of downtown Montreal to call for an end to conjugal violence. Romane Bonnier, 24, was fatally stabbed earlier this month by an ex-partner, police say. Advocates say there are concrete steps that can be taken to reduce this type of violence.

Bonnier believed to be Quebec's 17th death linked to intimate partner violence this year

Mourners gathered in front of the Rialto Theater to lay flowers and candles in honour of Romane Bonnier, 24, who was fatally stabbed earlier this month by an ex-partner, police say. (Valerie-Micaela Bain/Radio-Canada)

Earlier this month, 24-year-old Romane Bonnier was killed in a brazen daylight stabbing in Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood in what police believe to be the province's 17th death linked to conjugal violence this year. 

Montrealers are saying no more. 

"What's happening in Quebec right now is disastrous, and we are tired of going through that," said Anne-Sophie Julien, a family friend and organizer of a march for action and remembrance for Bonnier on Saturday afternoon.

"There's so many things that we can do and we have to start right now to prevent other events like that."

Nearly 1,000 people packed into the courtyard of Bonnier's former high school in downtown Montreal before taking to the streets to march against conjugal violence and to honour the young woman, remembered as a talented actor, singer and musician.

The rally made its way to the Rialto Theater where mourners laid flowers and candles to pay tribute to Bonnier. 

Bonnier is remembered as a talented actor, singer and musician. She graduated from Marianopolis College four years ago and more recently, she had attended Randolph College for the Performing Arts in Toronto. (Facebook)

Bonnier, known as "Romy" to her loved ones, studied music and theatre at F.A.C.E School as a teenager and graduated from Marianopolis College four years ago. More recently, she had attended Randolph College for the Performing Arts in Toronto.

On Oct. 19, Bonnier was fatally stabbed in front of witnesses near the McGill University campus by her former roommate, 36-year-old François Pelletier, who is facing a first-degree murder charge. He is due back in court on Nov. 25. 

Montreal police have said they believe the homicide appears to be a case of intimate partner violence.

Julien says she organized the march because she felt the community needed to speak up and take action against this type of violence. 

"It's a question of support for men and women, not only women," she said, calling for better education for both youths and adults.

'A spectrum of services to address the issue'

Quebec has committed millions of dollars to tackle conjugal violence and recently created an emergency fund for victims who want to escape violent situations quickly.

But one advocate says there needs to be more education and follow-ups with victims as part of a global approach to combating the issue.

"We have to start from the beginning...It's really important to teach young boys, young girls about respect, about boundaries, what is right to do in a relationship," said Maud Pontel, a co-ordinator with Alliance MH2, a network of second-stage shelters in the province.

Maud Pontel is a coordinator for Alliance MH2, a group in Quebec representing second-stage shelters for women. (Franca G. Mignacca/CBC)

She says the province is moving in the right direction by working to create a tribunal specializing in cases of sexual and domestic violence, expected this fall. However, shelters, social workers and the justice system all need to work together to keep vulnerable people safe.

"We have to see it as a spectrum of services to address the issue of conjugal violence in our society," she said. 

She also says the system needs to do a better job at holding violent men accountable for their actions.

"Violence is a choice. You choose to be violent, you choose to assault a person, you choose to be violent with your words," she said. "Your partner is not your property. It's not because your partner is leaving you that you have to be violent."

Pontel says Quebec needs to move quickly with their plans to address conjugal violence as well as offer better support for youths to nip the problem in the bud.

"We have to teach boys and girls to express properly their emotions. And we have to teach young boys and young men to reach out if they feel they're not able to handle their emotions."

Based on reporting by Josh Grant, with files from Radio-Canada