Kirsten Mercer speaks to media about inquest
Kirsten Mercer is representing End Violence Against Women Renfrew County (EVA) at the inquest into the murder of three women in Renfrew County.
As the inquest got underway, Kirsten participated in and was interviewed at an opening ceremony. You can see the video in this report on the first day of the inquest.
In an interview with City News, Kirsten explained some of the challenges rural communities face in dealing with intimate partner violence:
“Just the vast distances between places and the lack of transportation infrastructure,” explained Kirsten Mercer, a Toronto-based-lawyer representing the coalition of organizations and stakeholders focused on intimate partner violence. “If you’re living with intimate partner violence on a farm and your partner takes the vehicle, you are a long way from help.”
She said that leads to isolation, which is a critical ingredient that leaves women in fear of speaking up.
Another aspect is the sense of community one typically finds in a small town.
“That’s a real strength in rural communities, but it can make it really hard to come forward, you know if the person who runs the women’s shelter also coaches your kid’s little league team it can feel very intimidating to come forward and seek out their help,” added Mercer.
Women also deal with a lack of housing infrastructure and options to go to when they leave an abuser, along with a higher prevalence of firearms in rural communities, compared to more urban ones.
“When firearms are present, even if they’re never used, it creates an environment of fear and terror, it’s an implicit threat,” stated Mercer, adding that this is the case whether or not the gun has ever been used before. “If they sit across the kitchen table from you and slowly clean their weapon while berating you about something, there is a level of terror that’s associated with that that can’t be overlooked.”
Mercer noted to CityNews that there was a reference in Basil Borutski’s record of a domestic violence arrest when he was in his 20s, and wonders about the missed opportunity.
“Maybe it was better intervention at that stage, because by the time we get to 2015 and the years leading up to 2015, in a lot of ways there wasn’t a lot that could have been done to change this perpetrators outlook.”
The Lawyer with Goldblatt Partners LLP explains that’s one of the things she’d like to see come out of the 15-day long inquest, determine how best to prevent intimate partner violence, rather than respond to it.
She’d also like to see people treat offenders with IPV histories like the ‘real danger that they are’, and provide better protections and supports for women.
On the Rob Snow show, Kirsten Mercer explained how the inquest process works and discussed the inquest into the murders of three Renfrew County women. The full interview can be heard starting at 21.25 of Hour 3 of the Rob Snow Show.
Kirsten also spoke to the CBC about the missed opportunities to more closely monitor the perpetrator, who repeatedly defied his release conditions:
“Although we know this was a perpetrator who was in a sense a ticking time bomb in the community, you can’t help but feel a bit like maybe things would have been different if he had been more carefully supervised when he was released,” said Kirsten Mercer, a lawyer representing End Violence Against Women Renfrew County during the inquest.
“Nathalie Warmerdam was pleading with probation and parole for more information, better protections, steps to be taken,” said Mercer, the lawyer representing End Violence Against Women Renfrew County during the inquest.
“She was terrified at the idea of him reporting to a PAR program across the street from where she worked. He never showed up for the program. But she lived in fear and she was trying to prevent that.”
“He clearly had no intention of attending the program,” Mercer said.
“This is a guy that didn’t have any trouble getting a car on the day of the murders … but claims that he wasn’t able to access a vehicle in order to get to the program.”
He was never charged with breaching his probation orders and officers didn’t document why they didn’t take any action, according to the report.
The inquest heard on Friday that probation officers, alongside police officers, have the power to lay such charges.
“What sits with me about this report is the sense that there actually might have been reason that he should have been back in jail on the day of the murders,” Mercer said.
Burns and Mercer commended Ontario’s probation and parole services for critically self-examining their work and recognizing changes were needed.
“It’s exactly the kind of thing that we hope our institutions do when something goes wrong,” Mercer said.
Kirsten also spoke to CTV News as the inquest entered its second week. You can listen here: