Durham communities mark 25 years since Montreal Massacre

Original Article by Durham Region.com, 5 December 2014

DURHAM -- In Jaki MacKinnon’s early days working at Bethesda House, she met a young mother and her little boy she will never forget.

The boy said he missed his daddy, and added his father only hurt him when he was “really bad.”

He hated it most when his father would rip off his mother’s “long, beautiful fingernails.” Ms. MacKinnon later realized the husband had done this for fear that the painted fingernails would attract attention from other men.

“They were talking as if it was just a normal situation,” says Ms. MacKinnon. “I realized, ‘boy am I ever glad that we’re here, that this young mother and her son have a place to go.’”

Ms. MacKinnon has been with Bethesda House for 11 years and today, not much has changed. Even 25 years since Dec. 6, 1989, when Marc Lepine shot and killed 14 women in the Montreal Massacre, Ms. MacKinnon says there are more supports in place, but domestic violence isn’t going away.

“I think people have forgotten there’s still a connection between the violence he demonstrated then and the violence that’s going on today,” she says.

The 18-bed Bethesda House is one of four shelters for women and children in Durham.

“We have over 165 women and children go through our shelter each year and we support an additional 200 to 300 women who don’t come in the shelter but do need support,” says Ms. MacKinnon.

She says Durham police receive 13 domestic calls per day.

“That’s one every two hours,” she says.

Herizon House, a 30-bed facility in Ajax, receives around 700 crisis calls per year.

“In an average year, we see 115 women and 105 children stay at the shelter,” says Vanessa Falcon, executive director.

Ms. MacKinnon feels the answer to decreasing domestic violence is first, reaching out to young people.

“If we can instill what it is to have a healthy relationship in both young men and young women, they will go ahead in their lives and will have healthy relationships,” she says.

Ms. MacKinnon says fathers can raise their sons to be respectful young men who believe in the equality of the sexes, and the community has to hold perpetrators of abuse accountable, and understand that it’s a community issue, not just a women’s issue.

“Lately there’s been some really active work with men taking a leadership role on the issue,” says Ms. Falcon. “I think that’s going to have great impact. I hope it does.”

When there’s “ugly” talk about wives in the lunch room, the office or the construction site, people should speak up.

“The perpetrator needs to hear it because silence is consent,” says Ms. MacKinnon.

Both executive directors have seen an increase in elder abuse in recent years. Also, Ms. MacKinnon sees many abused pregnant women.

“One of the most dangerous times for women is when they’re pregnant,” she says.

Ms. MacKinnon explains abusers will often threaten an unborn baby and use it as a coercion.

Similarly, she says women often find themselves staying with their abusive partner for fear that their pet will be harmed if they are left behind, and their abuser will use this fear to hold their family hostage.

New to the local shelter system is Safe Families Safe Pets - Durham, a system for caring for pets of women fleeing abuse. It’s run by a coalition of domestic violence representatives, animal welfare advocates and community members.

Both executive directors want all women facing abuse to know help is available.

“They aren’t alone, they’re not the only ones, it’s not their fault and it can be different. Life can be different,” says Ms. Falcon.

Calling doesn’t mean the person has to come into the shelter “but they will listen to you and help you figure out what your choices are,” says Ms. MacKinnon.

Anybody can support someone they think is being abused by helping them call a crisis line at one of the shelters by either simply sitting with them when they call, or even calling and talking on their behalf if the victim doesn’t feel comfortable.

They can also visit www.endabusenow.ca which helps neighbours, friends and families find support for people they feel are being abused.

YWCA Canada has launched a new initiative, #NOTokay and states that every six days, a woman is killed in Canada by her intimate partner. Visit www.notokay.ca/ for information and resources.

Ms. MacKinnon says 97 per cent of reported cases of domestic violence are against women, but Bethesda House will refer men to the correct resources if they are experiencing abuse.


  • Visual Arts Centre of Clarington, 143 Simpson Ave., Bowmanville on Saturday, Dec. 6 at 4:30 p.m.
  • Unifor Local 222 Union Hall, 1425 Phillip Murray Ave., Oshawa on Saturday, Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m.


Bethesda House statistics from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2014

Total and average per month

  • New women entering the shelter 947, 7
  • New children and youth entering the shelter with their mothers 662, 5
  • Total shelter clients 1,609, 12
  • Calls to the 24-hour crisis support line 14,017, 106
  • Women and youth receiving service through Bethesda House community-based programs (crisis counselling, special support counselling, transitional and housing support) 3,183, 24
    • Some clients received support through more than one program

Emergency shelters, support in Durham

  • Bethesda House, Bowmanville - 905-623-6050, Toll Free 1-800-338-3397
  • The Denise House, Oshawa - 905-728-7311, Toll Free 1-800-263-3725,TTY 905-728-4394
  • Herizon House, Ajax/Pickering - 905-426-1064, Toll Free 1-866-437-4966
  • Y’s WISH,Oshawa - 905-576-2997
  • Durham Region Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Care Centre – Lakeridge Health, Oshawa - 905-576-8711, Kid’s Helpline 1-800-668-6868


  • Durham Regional Police receive 13 domestic calls per day
  • On average a woman is killed by her intimate partner every six days in Canada