Saskatchewan

Woman fundraising for mural to commemorate JoAnn Wilson

A master's degree student thinks the story of a convicted murderer has overshadowed the memory of his Regina victim — and she wants to change that.

'Oftentimes we forget about the woman, the victim,' says Alicia Yashcheshen

The mural will resemble a collage of photos of Wilson with a slogan urging victims of domestic violence to come forward and raise awareness. (CBC)

A master's degree student thinks the story of a convicted murderer has overshadowed the memory of his Regina victim — and she wants to change that.

As part of her sociology thesis on changing attitudes toward domestic violence since 1983, Alicia Yashcheshen had the idea to commemorate JoAnn Wilson.

Once we talk about it, it gives it power to stop it.- Alicia Yashcheshen

Wilson was former Saskatchewan cabinet minister Colin Thatcher's ex-wife. In 1984, Thatcher was sentenced to life in prison for Wilson's murder. He was granted parole in 2006.

Yashcheshen said it's Thatcher, his political career and the role he played in society, that people know most about. She said Wilson's death has become sensationalized because of Thatcher.
Colin Thatcher was convicted of murdering of his ex-wife, JoAnn Wilson. (Marianne Helm/Maclean's)

"Oftentimes we forget about the woman, the victim, how her legacy was cut short," Yashcheshen said. "She didn't have an opportunity to make her life meaningful." 

At first, Yashcheshen wanted a sculpture installed at the Legislative Building grounds. Then she heard of a downtown mural depicting the Regina restaurateur Robert Gardikiotis. It inspired her to commission a mural instead, which she hopes will be displayed prominently in Regina's downtown. 

"I want everyone to remember JoAnn Wilson because she's an iconic image [and] that no one is immune from domestic violence," she said.

Yascheshen said people often have a belief that domestic violence is limited to certain classes of people. 

Raising awareness

Manitoba's and Saskatchewan's rates of domestic violence are twice the national average.

Yashcheshen said corrective steps need to be taken to stop domestic violence and help those affected. 

"Tell somebody," Yashcheshen urged those who are affected. 

She hopes the mural will let people know Wilson's murder is not an isolated event and that it will start a dialogue about abuse. 

"Once we talk about it, it gives it power to stop it," she said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for the mural project.

With files from SRC's Marie-Christine Bouillon

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