The killings of two young girls by their father last week in Gatineau could have been prevented if the system properly intervened, says an advocate for women experiencing domestic violence.
Gatineau police conducted a wellness check at a home on rue de Dunkerque in the city's Aylmer sector on Sept. 22. Once inside, officers discovered the bodies of a man and two children, later identified as Essodom Kpatcha, 51, and his two daughters, Orli Kpatcha, 3, and Liel Kpatcha, 5. Police said the father killed his two daughters before taking his own life.
Multiple neighbours told CBC that police had shown up at the Kpatcha home other times in the past for what appeared to be domestic violence, though Gatineau police would not confirm those reports due to confidentiality.
"There is a lot of questions in this situation ... and we were shocked when we had more information [through the news]," said Maud Pontel, co-ordinator of the Alliance of Second Stage Shelters for Women and Children Victims of Domestic Violence.
WATCH | Advocate says there were clear signs of domestic violence:
Radio-Canada reported last week that the Directorate of Youth Protection received a report at the end of August concerning the safety of the two girls. The report had not been retained due to the existence of a judgment of the Superior Court forbidding the two parents to see each other, according to Radio-Canada.
Despite that judgment, it is believed the parents shared custody of the children, which likely meant they had to see each other often, explained Pontel.
"This is where you see that there is incoherence in the systems," she said.
Pontel — who's also a member of Quebec's Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, which reviews deaths by intimate partner violence in the province — said better mechanisms and proper communication between stakeholders have to be put in place to make sure women and children are safe in these situations.
"There is a higher risk of homicide for both the women and the children after an imminent or recent separation," said Pontel. "Considering the risk factors, it's absolutely clear that there were multiple and clear indication of the danger posed by the father."
Pontel said deaths like these could have been prevented during the many instances of prior intervention, and it's "highly frustrating" to learn that the mom and daughters may have faced danger before the deaths of the girls.
"It's not a family tragedy. It's a killing in a context of post-separation domestic violence," said Pontel, in criticism of police and media's use of language around domestic violence and homicide within families.
Gatineau police said in an email to CBC that they'll be starting a pilot project within the next few months to train police officers in how to better respond to domestic violence and create a rapid intervention unit for situations where there's high or imminent risk of spousal or intrafamily homicide.