Ottawa

Marchers say Basil Borutski guilty verdict was too little, too late

About 100 people marched through Ottawa's downtown Saturday afternoon, one day after Basil Borutski was found guilty of murdering three former partners in what's been called one of the worst domestic violence cases in Canadian history.

Candlelight vigil, march held day after verdict delivered in triple homicide

About 100 people, mostly women, marched to the Human Rights Monument in Ottawa on Nov. 25, 2017, one day after Basil Borutski was found guilty of murdering three eastern Ontario women in 2015. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

The guilty verdict — according to the bright pink sign — was too little, too late.

That slogan was among the dozens adorning placards that marchers carried through Ottawa's downtown Saturday afternoon, one day after Basil Borutski was found guilty of murdering three former partners in what's been called one of the worst domestic violence cases in Canadian history.

The marchers, mostly women, walked from the Women's Monument in Minto Park to the Human Rights Monument near Ottawa City Hall — and just next door to the courthouse where Borutski was convicted 24 hours earlier.

"He was arrested before. He was meant to be in counselling. He was meant to be on probation," said 20-year-old Rylee Kloek, a University of Ottawa student and one of Saturday's marchers.

"And every single time there seemed to be a reasonable measure of justice that was put towards him — it failed." 

Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton were murdered on a single day in 2015 by Basil Borutski, who was convicted Friday in their deaths. (CBC News)

Borutski refused to stand as the verdicts were read Friday afternoon: guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam, and guilty of second-degree murder in the fatal strangling of Carol Culleton.

During the trial, jurors heard that Borutski had been convicted of assaulting and attempting to choke Kuzyk the year before she was killed — an attack that happened while he was on probation for other offences against Warmerdam.

Court also heard that Borutski ignored an order to participate in a domestic violence response program.

Multiple red flags

Saturday's march and candlelight vigil was attended by Because Wilno, a group that advocates against violence against women and which formed in the wake of the 2015 killings.

Holly Campbell, the group's organizer, said that while the verdicts meant that Borutski would at least not be "terrorizing a community anymore," the red flags should have been sufficient to prevent the deaths from happening in the first place.

Campbell called for multiple improvements to the justice system — such as making sure information about previous convictions gets shared between police jurisdictions, and ensuring women have easy access to restraining orders.

"Someone's got to fight for us. Who's it going to be? Who's listening? I don't know," she said.

"But I do know that Basil Borutski's first victim reported and was brave enough to come to court three decades ago." 

Rylee Kloek holds a sign ahead of a Nov. 25, 2017 march through downtown Ottawa, one day after Basil Borutski was convicted of murdering three eastern Ontario women. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Day to end violence

The march coincided with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women — the launch date for an annual United Nations campaign to end gender-based violence against women and girls.

After holding a brief vigil at the Human Rights Monument, the marchers walked into Ottawa City Hall, where Mayor Jim Watson declared the day at the local level.

Afterwards, Watson cited the need to educate children at an early age about speaking up against domestic violence or harassment.

He also hoped the federal government's $40-billion housing strategy announced last week would help cities like Ottawa eventually open more women's shelters.

"There's a long wait list to get into these places," Watson told CBC News.

"These individuals are escaping violence, and even though they're put on the top of the priority list, if there's no housing available, being at the top [of that] list doesn't really help them out."

Borutski will automatically be sentenced to life in prison for the three murders, but the length of time before he is eligible for parole — which could be anywhere from 25 to 75 years — will be determined at a sentencing hearing next month.

That hearing will take place from Dec. 5-6 at the courthouse in Pembroke, Ont. At the very minimum, Borutski will remain in prison until he's 85 years old.