I was planning to make this column about the often-forgotten pandemic which is the logging of B.C.’s old growth forests but on Saturday morning I came across a story that made me postpone my topic until next time.
Last week, John Quesnel, a resident of Salt Spring Island, ambushed and killed his recently estranged wife, Jennifer Quesnel. A week before, she had finally decided to leave him him after 18 years of ‘controlling and abusive behaviour’ according to a statement released by her family.
It’s impossible to imagine the heartbreak of their three young sons, and her family’s too. What angered me past the obvious though was how a reporter relayed this tragic story. It reads like a mix of excuses and occasional praises to the man who cowardly killed his wife before killing himself.
Someone on social media called it a hagiography and you can see for yourself why. For one, it brings up excuses as to why he did it. There are no excuses for abusing and ultimately ambushing and killing your partner in cold blood.
This was a blatant case of domestic abuse which had unfolded over many years. The usual ups and downs of marriage are as far away from domestic abuse as the Earth’s poles are from each other, yet that is how their marriage was portrayed by a family friend.
Before the story veers to letting us know that ‘Jennifer Quesnel was also memorable,’ we have already learned how great her abusive husband was, according to the family friend. The story ends with yet another portrayal of John Quesnel’s love for his family. It is so bad it makes you queasy.
That’s glorifying a person who commits domestic abuse and that is inexcusable. No reporter should ever do that.
John Quesnel killed his wife and mother of their three children after making her life hell for a long time, according to their oldest son and the statement released by Jennifer’s family. They honoured her memory with the truth: ‘It was a selfish act by a coward and bully and committed in the most cruel and premeditated way.’
What can we learn from this? That when it comes to people suffering from domestic abuse, we should never avert our eyes, drape the story in some positive politically correct verbiage and, never ever excuse it.
Domestic abuse is rampant in Canada. 1 in 5 women experience some form of abuse, and 83 percent of victims are women. On average, every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her partner, with Aboriginal women being five times more at risk.
The pandemic has exacerbated the violence against women and children because they are being trapped at home and unable to seek safety. At least 10 women, Jennifer Quesnel included, have been killed in Canada since the pandemic started, and we only know that because their stories have reached the news. But let’s not excuse the killers. Abuse had existed prior to the coronavirus in most cases. Sadly, the pandemic made violence worse, but it did not create it. Domestic abuse knows no social status either – it happens in families who struggle financially and it happens in the well-to-do ones too.
Which is a why conversation at society level is overdue.
We ought to make resources available for the women and children escaping abuse, legal counsel too, as well as protective measures that will see them safely rebuild their lives once they leave violence behind.
We ought to speak up when we witness domestic abuse or when a victim comes forward. We ought to call out the abuser.
Too many police calls have to do with domestic violence. And yet, what protection do these battered women have once the case is known to the police? Sadly, not much. Some reported they were not believed when they told their story.
Plus, in case of John Quesnel, there is a disturbing detail. The RCMP had his firearms confiscated weeks before, but a few days before he killed his wife, a friend sold him a gun. The friend had no idea ‘this would happen’, though Quesnel was known to be ‘mentally unstable’ according to his son.
This little but important detail which has now been removed from most published stories (it still exists here) attests to why we should never condone any acts of violence or say ‘that’s not my business.’ Because that’s what could ultimately help save someone’s life.
We must listen to victims; we must believe them, protect them and generally we must stop being bystanders to domestic abuse. We must stop turning a blind eye to domestic abuse and stop these stories from happening.
One death is one too many.