Aunt of Sask. teen killed in Candle Lake shooting calls for compassion for family
Ashley Armstrong wants domestic violence victims to seek support
The aunt of a teenager killed in Candle Lake is asking the public for kindness and compassion as more details of the tragic death emerge.
Chase Althouse, 14, was killed in the Saskatchewan resort village — about 200 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon — on Saturday. He and his mother, Pamela, sought refuge at the home of Pamela's daughter, after Pamela was allegedly assaulted by her common-law partner. The man followed the two to the home, where Chase was fatally shot.
Chase's aunt, Ashley Armstrong, said judgmental comments posted on social media have been unfairly directed toward the family members who tried to help the night of the killing.
"If you've never been in a domestic violence situation, you don't know how hard it is to get out in this situation," said Armstrong, who is Pamela's sister.
She said the judgment appears to be directed toward Pamela's daughter and the daughter's boyfriend, who tried to help Chase and Pamela.
Pamela says she was assaulted that night by her common-law partner, 49-year-old Troy Thompson, in the home where they lived with Chase, her youngest child.
Armstrong said her sister and nephew sought refuge at the home of Pamela's daughter.
"My niece and her boyfriend did everything they could," Armstrong said. "They thought that they were bringing their brother and their mother to a safe place.… Nobody would have expected that he would have followed."
Thompson did follow them. He showed up at the home, armed with a gun. More violence broke out, according to police, and the people in the home intervened. Chase was fatally shot before Thompson was disarmed by someone else in the house, police say.
Thompson fled the scene. Police found his body early Sunday morning at the home he shared with Pamela and Chase, with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The family has started an online fundraiser to help with the funeral costs for Chase. Any money left over will go toward buying a gaming console for a kid who couldn't afford one otherwise, the GoFundMe page says, in memory of Chase, who loved gaming.
"He was a kid that was really hard not to love. He was kind. He was sweet. He was just a good kid with a bright future ahead of him," Armstrong said.
She's now calling out to other victims of domestic violence.
"We can't change what happened — it happened. But if we can make something better for Chase, if we can if we can try and save a life, then that's that's what I'd like to see come out of this," she said.
"Don't ever be afraid to seek help."
High rate of domestic violence
The province has repeatedly charted high rates of domestic violence.
"Here in Saskatchewan, we have the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of intimate partner violence among the provinces," said Crystal Giesbrecht, speaking on behalf of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses in Saskatchewan. The organization works with domestic violence support services across the province.
"Our rate here is over double the national average."
Those numbers don't even present the full picture, Giesbrecht cautioned, because they are rely on Statistics Canada data based on police reports. Many people experiencing domestic violence never report it to police, she said.
Furthermore, some situations of domestic violence, like "coercive control," aren't technically criminal, so police-report data doesn't exist for those incidents.
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There are fewer resources for victims living in rural populations, said Giesbrecht, calling on the province to consistently fund remote outreach services like counselling and support centres.
People who are struggling in remote communities can access help to make an exit plan or find out what resources are near them by phone, if they don't have access to in-person support, she said.
"You don't always have warning before a tragedy happens," Giesbrecht said, but the province needs to do more to raise awareness of domestic violence warning signs and risk factors.
In January 2020, the province put out a tender looking for someone to create a multi-year advertising campaign to change attitudes and behaviours around violence against women and girls. The government had committed to the awareness campaign in 2018.
In March, Tina Beaudry-Mellor, the provincial minister responsible for the status of women, said work was underway prior to the tender going out, but said she wished the province moved faster on the awareness campaign.
The campaign has yet to be launched.
What happened to the Althouse family was horrific, says Giesbrecht.
"We're saddened and we're angry and we want to find ways to do better to prevent future incidents."