Ontario woman lives in fear 6 months after latest assault

Sabrina L'Heureux says authorities should have done more to protect her and her young son before she was allegedly beaten and stabbed by her former boyfriend. That was the third time police were called to her home, and the perpetrator is now on the run.

Police in Kingston, Ont., say alleged perpetrator is still on the run

Sabrina L'Heureux says she wishes police had provided more protections for her and her son after Paul John MacDonald's initial arrest for uttering threats against her in March 2020. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

WARNING: This article contains details of abuse.

Thin slash marks still stand out on Sabrina L'Heureux's arms and legs — scars from the September day she says her former partner came after her with a knife. 

She thought she and her toddler son would die in their Kingston, Ont., home that day.

"He tried stabbing me in the head," said L'Heureux, 35. "I grabbed my son … and went to my neighbour's house."

Six months later, 44-year-old Paul John MacDonald, her child's father, is still on the run. 

Twice last fall, Kingston Police put out news releases detailing the events that left L'Heureux bleeding and bruised. Police asked for the public's help to locate MacDonald, who's wanted on six charges, including assault with a weapon and uttering death threats.

But those are just the latest charges. 

There's a history of violence that predates the September incident, including unresolved charges from their tumultuous relationship and a prior criminal conviction unbeknownst to L'Heureux until recently. It all leaves L'Heureux and her family wondering if authorities could have done more, sooner.

And still, she lives in fear.

"I don't even know who's looking for him," said L'Heureux. 

"Does mine and my son's life not matter at all? I just don't understand. How many other victims are going through the exact same thing that I'm going through, not having help?"

Initial charges in 2020

In March 2020, MacDonald was charged with uttering death threats, assault and threatening to use a weapon —charges that are still before the court.

KIngston Police issued this photo of Paul John MacDonald in a news release in September 2021. (Kingston Police)

"He had grabbed the knife that was on the counter and he had chased me out of my house with it. He stood at the front door and yelled for me to get back in the house so he could kill me," recalled L'Heureux, who escaped the house with her son that day.

It wasn't the first time he'd been violent, but she said it was the first time he'd threatened her with a knife. 

He was abusing drugs and had signs of mental health problems, she said, so they were no longer living together. 

Despite the charges, no conditions were imposed and no protections were offered to her and her son, according to L'Heureux. 

"There should have been an order of protection put in place for my son and I, almost like a restraining order where he would have to stay a certain distance away from both of us," she said. 

He showed up at L'Heureux's home again in December 2020, yelling threats from outside. She said she barricaded herself and her son in a bedroom and called police, who came and arrested MacDonald. 

"Then five hours later, I had an officer show up at my door and tell me that he was released," said L'Heureux. "They never released him with any conditions, not any protection order." 

Kingston Police are saying little about the case "to preserve the integrity of the investigation."

The force did say the province's Repeat Offender Parole Enforcement (ROPE) Squad is assisting with the MacDonald case. ROPE helps locate and apprehend high risk violent offenders.

Prior conviction

In Ontario, some police services work with victim and women's organizations to provide protections for those at risk of intimate partner violence. 

Sabrina L'Heureux was treated in hospital after an alleged beating in her Kingston, Ont., home last September. (Submitted by Sabrina L'Heureux)

Enhanced security and other precautions usually kick in after a first violent event, according to Pamela Cross, legal director at Luke's Place in Durham Region, a resource for women and children fleeing abuse.

"One of the things that's very frustrating for those of us who work with survivors of intimate partner abuse is how often the ball gets dropped at the beginning," said Cross. 

In L'Heureux's case, it would take another nine months and more alleged threats from MacDonald before authorities connected her with victims services, which included arming her with a panic button.

In the meantime, she discovered yet another detail from MacDonald's history: he had been found guilty of a violent crime in 2004 involving another former girlfriend.

CBC confirmed MacDonald was convicted of aggravated assault in that case and sentenced to time in jail.

L'Heureux didn't get this information from the police or the courts, as there's no law in Ontario that permits authorities to divulge this kind of information. Instead, she found out from someone close to MacDonald.

"It would have made a difference," said L'Heureux.

"There are so many things that I could have done to make sure that what ended up happening [in September 2021] didn't happen." 

She still doesn't know the exact details of MacDonald's prior crimes. 

Pamela Cross is a lawyer and the legal director of family law support centre Luke's Place. (Janice McLean)

'Clare's Law'

In Saskatchewan, police are allowed to provide victims information about a perpetrator's former convictions through a process referred to as "Clare's Law," which was initiated in the U.K. 

That process allows a person who feels at risk to seek information about a partner's prior record of violence. Officers can also trigger a disclosure if they feel someone is in danger.

That's not the law in Ontario, and some advocates and police officers believe the protocols already in place are sufficient, when they are applied.

"What we need is accountability," said Cross. 

She emphasized a need for police to not only get domestic violence training, but to make sure they impose necessary conditions and make sure women have protections and support. 

"One thing we know about domestic abusers is that they are repeat offenders." 

Sabrina L'Heureux says thanks to victim services, she now has a panic button and alarms on her doors to better protect her and her son from her former boyfriend. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Lost confidence in system

Even if L'Heureux didn't know about her former partner's record, she said police should have been aware after he threatened her life and officers arrested him the first time.

She wonders why it took three calls before she finally was put in touch with victims services.

"They are the only ones that have actually helped protect me," she said. 

L'Heureux has a strong support system of close family and friends, but as long as her former partner is on the run, she said she's living in limbo. And she's lost confidence in the system. 

"I haven't even heard back from the main detective for three months. That's not OK. They need to be held accountable."


Julie Ireton

Senior Reporter

Julie Ireton is a senior investigative reporter with CBC Ottawa. She's also the multi-award winning host of the CBC investigative podcasts, The Banned Teacher found at: and The Band Played On found at: You can reach her at