Program for treating abusers scrutinized during Day 7 of triple-homicide inquest

·4 min read
From left: Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton were murdered in and around Renfrew County west of Ottawa on Sept. 22, 2015. (CBC News - image credit)
From left: Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton were murdered in and around Renfrew County west of Ottawa on Sept. 22, 2015. (CBC News - image credit)

A provincial treatment program for perpetrators of intimate partner violence is under scrutiny during an ongoing coroner's inquest examining issues stemming from the murders of three Ottawa Valley women killed by the same violent offender.

On Sept. 22, 2015, Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam were all murdered in Renfrew County by the same perpetrator who had a known history of violence against women.

Basil Borutski was convicted of three counts of murder in a jury trial and is in prison. Before the murders, he was convicted and jailed for acts of intimate partner violence against two of the victims and then released on probation conditions that he continually defied without reprimand.

Five inquest jurors hearing from experts and first-hand witnesses are being tasked with recommending changes to policies and protocols to better protect and support survivors of intimate partner violence in rural communities in the future.

The inquest has heard that he was required by court to attend the partner assault response (PAR) program but never did, offering probation officers a number of excuses.

Deborah Kasdorff, a former manager of Ontario's Victim/Witness Assistance program — which guides victims through the court process — said he likely would not have been a good candidate for PAR given he deflected blame onto his victims.

"I know they have refused to accept people into the program who were just trying to get themselves through" without meaningfully engaging in the program's 12 group sessions, Kasdorff said.

Kasdorff and a representative of the Ministry of the Attorney General's victim services programming, Jill Dubrick, were questioned at length about the program on Day 7 of the inquest on Tuesday.

Same program for all abusers

While the groups contracted to carry out PAR do have "some flexibility" to tweak the focus of sessions, all referrals to the program — no matter how severe or frequent their past abuses — go through the same nine-topic curriculum, Dubrick said.

She was expressing concern about being compelled to come to court. — Deborah Kasdorff

"You don't differentiate between ... a 19-year-old [who] slaps his girlfriend at a party where everyone's had too much to drink ... [and] someone who has 20 or 30 years and has done this numerous times," a male juror remarked.

"I certainly see your point about different offenders, clients, having different needs," Dubrick said, adding that the province looks forward to receiving the juror's recommendations.

Another male juror — as well as Warmerdam's daughter Valerie Warmerdam — asked about how the province evaluates whether PAR is working.

Dubrick said research indicates PAR-like programs generally lead to changes in behaviour and reduce the chances of reoffending. But she said the province does not check "at the granular level" about the educational credentials of program staff.

"[If] somebody brings forward a concern to our attention through regular kind of an engagement with that agency, it comes to the attention of our ministry staff. We would take action on that," she said.

Victim said murderer needed treatment

Earlier on Tuesday, the inquest heard testimony from Kasdorff about her different experiences dealing with Warmerdam and Kuzyk through the Victim/Witness Assistance program.

Borutski threatened Warmerdam's son and brutally beat Kuzyk. He was convicted and served jail time for both crimes.

I never heard from her again. And I actually never heard from Nathalie again. — Deborah Kasdorff

"Nathalie was very engaged in getting as much information as she could. Anastasia, I felt, was moving on," Kasdorff said.

Kuzyk was worried about him being charged, Kasdorff said. A report submitted during the inquest says he threatened to kill a different former partner if she ever took action that might put him in jail.

"She felt that what was needed in this case was counselling and not charges or prosecution and she was expressing concern about being compelled to come to court," Kasdorff said of Kuzyk.

"She felt what he needed was mental health help [and] help dealing with addictions."

Submitted by the Kuzyk family
Submitted by the Kuzyk family

Kuzyk didn't want to write a victim impact statement when he was convicted either, Kasdorff said.

"Do they really want the offender to know that they're afraid and can't sleep at night? That feels like you're giving that person back some more power," she said.

Kasdorff recalled being "quite concerned" about Kuzyk in the lead-up to his release in December 2014. She wanted to make sure Kuzyk knew she could reach out for help.

When Kasdorff missed Kuzyk dropping off a Christmas ornament, she chased after Kuzyk, saw her driving away and later left a voicemail again offering her assistance.

"I never heard from her again. And I actually never heard from Nathalie again."

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