Marcel Charron's sister, Chantal, killed 19 years ago by ex-boyfriend
“She was a smart, intelligent girl, always bubbly, always upbeat, always had a smile on her face,” Charron said.
Chantal was murdered by an ex-boyfriend on Aug. 22, 1994. She left him after having suffered his verbal abuse.
Charron, who was 27 when his sister was killed but is now 46 years old, shared his story with more than 30 people who gathered at YWCA Sudbury's Genevra House on Dec. 6, which marks the anniversary of the murders in 1989 of 14 women at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal. They were targeted and died simply because they were women.
When Chantal was 16, she met a man nine years older than her, Charron said. He convinced her to leave home and move in with him. She ended up getting pregnant, and gave birth to Charron's nephew when she was 17.
“He made her quit school, wouldn't allow her to talk to her friends, and would hardly let her talk to us,” he said.
Eventually, she ended up leaving him, Charron said.
In time, she ended up in another relationship with another controlling man who often verbally abused her. It would prove to be her last relationship.
“She left him, too, and while she was looking for a new place to live, she went back to that apartment (where they both had lived),” Charron said.
Chantal was being driven around by a friend, and she left her son in the car because he had fallen asleep. She went into the house and that's where her life ended.
“We're not sure if he knew she was planning to go back to the apartment that day,” Charron said. “He came down from upstairs and shot her in the head, then took his own life.”
Charron said he is thankful his nephew had fallen asleep in the car, because he doesn't know if he'd be here today if Chantal had brought him into the house with her.
“Right after it happened, there were feelings of guilt on my part. I felt I should have been there to protect her, and it took counselling to work through those issues.”
Charron said events like National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada need to happen.
“The awareness needs to be there. We're in 2013, and there's no reason that violence against women should be a taboo subject. It needs to be in the forefront, and that's why I'm sharing Chantal's story.”
Unfortunately, it's a story that happens all too often across Canada, said Marlene Gorman, executive director of YWCA Sudbury.
“It's sad that Marcel's story is the story of many families across this country,” said Gorman. “We are joining our sister agencies across Canada in remembering those 14 women, and all women who have been murdered.”
Currently, Genevra House is home to 24 residents, but that number changes day to day, she said.
“We provide a 32-bed shelter for women and children escaping abuse, and to older women who are escaping abuse from a caregiver,” she said. “Often around the holidays, these beds are full.”
Residents of the shelter are provided the necessities to live, thanks to the generosity of Sudbury, which allows for the purchase of items such as pyjamas and hygiene products, Gorman said. They receive the support they need to help transition them into safe, affordable housing in the community.
“Sometimes, they just come here with the clothing on their back,” Gorman said.
Violence against women is the largest, and most persistent human rights violation with more than 50 per cent of Canadian women experiencing an incident at some point in their lives.