Relief, resolve follow sentencing in Renfrew County triple murder

About 20 people gathered at a library in Eganville, Ont., Wednesday night to remember three Renfrew County women who died in 2015, and to pay tribute to the 14 women killed in the Montreal massacre 28 years ago.

Basil Borutski, 60, murdered former partners Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam, Carol Culleton in 2015

JoAnne Brooks, executive director of the Women's Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County, attends a vigil in Eganville, Ont., to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on Dec. 6, 2017. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

About 20 people gathered at the Bonnechere Union Public Library to process the results of the triple murder trial that put a spotlight on the issue of violence against women in Renfrew County.

People held purple candle holders with the names of Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam printed on the side. 

Warmerdam's daughter, Valerie, was among the people at the gathering.

Basil Borutski, was convicted in late November of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder. And only hours before the vigil, he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 70 years.

JoAnne Brooks, executive director of the Women's Sexault Assault Centre of Renfrew County, has been helping people process the trial and raise awareness about the issue.

"There was a sense of justice today," she said. "Today, I heard that people felt relieved that he will never see the light of day, in terms of being free to walk the streets of Renfrew County or anywhere."

About 20 people gathered inside the Bonnechere Union Public Library. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

'People's resolve ... has been strengthened'

However, the community will still need time to move on, Brooks said.

"People in Renfrew County will need time to absorb all of this to perhaps have a feeling and sense of safety from, at least, this abuser."

The event included solemn tributes to the 14 women who died in the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre, as well as in Renfrew County and elsewhere in Ontario in the last year. 

Participants read their names and held red roses representing local women.

Attendees held candles with the names of triple murder victims Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam written on the side. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Brooks led a conversation about what kind of action individuals could take to fight violence against women. Issues ranged from reforms to the criminal justice and parole system to calling out sexist behaviour.

"The unintended side effect of the murders of Nathalie and Carole and Anastasia, is that people's resolve in this community has been strengthened," she told the group.

People are organizing and meeting regularly to decide how best to advocate for change and resources to end violence against women, she said.

Ottawa vigil

There was another gathering of about 200 people at the Women's Monument in Minto Park in downtown Ottawa for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Kira-Lynn Ferderber, a vigil organizer, said she hopes the Borutski trial will raise awareness about the risks of escalating violence from partners and stalkers, and that action is taken.

"Those women did everything they could do and everything that I might advise women to do to protect herself," she said.

"The problem is there isn't a sudden massacre that no one could have predicted. It's something we all could have predicted."

'Sexual violence only ends when men end it'

She said while greater awareness is an important step, real action needs to be taken to educate boys and men to put a stop to violence targeting women.

"We have to teach young men what consent means, how to deal with rejection, how to deal with break-ups, how to cope with anger or feeling rejected so they don't take it out on women and so they don't feel entitled to women's time and bodies," Ferderber said.

"No matter how empowered women are, sexual violence only ends when men end it."

Calls for inquest 

In Renfrew County, Brooks said there are calls for an inquest in the the triple murder and the circumstances that led to Borutski being free and able to possess a firearm on the day he killed three women.

She said similar processes have happened before.

"I'm hoping that through an inquest some of those gaps would be re-addressed and there would be a way forward to address some of them now," Brooks said.

An investigation into the murders by Ontario's coroner is ongoing, according to a spokesperson for the coroner's office. Now that Borutski's trial is over, the case is being handed to the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, which will investigate for several months.

Once the review is complete the file will be turned back over to the Office of the Chief Coroner for a determination about whether an inquest should be held.