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People take part in a vigil at the Women's Monument in Petawawa, Ont., following an inquiry jury's release of recommendations in Pembroke, Ont., on June 28, 2022.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Anti-violence experts are disappointed by the provincial government’s responses so far to recommendations from an inquest last summer into a triple femicide in rural Ontario.

A total of 86 action items were drafted by the jury, after a three-week inquest probing the murders of Carol Culleton, Nathalie Warmerdam and Anastasia Kuzyk – who were killed at their homes by a mutual ex-partner on a shooting rampage across the Ottawa Valley on Sept. 22, 2015.

The inquest jury heard the killer had a long history of violence against these three women and others. He had been deemed high-risk in multiple assessments, was well known to local police, and was on probation at the time of the murders. Yet, he flouted court orders without consequence, continuing to own weapons and skipping the group counselling program he was mandated to attend.

Though inquest recommendations are non-binding, they were hailed by experts last year as a “gift of solutions” to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

The vast majority were directed at the Ontario government. But when they provided their responses last month, the government addressed only 39 of the 68 items.

“I find it arrogant and infuriating that they just thought they could set 29 aside and say, ‘Sorry, we haven’t had time to look at those yet,’ ” said Pamela Cross, a lawyer who provided testimony at the inquest.

She said she is particularly aggrieved by the government’s silence on the first five recommendations, which include formally declaring intimate-partner violence (IPV) an epidemic in the province, and establishing a committee to oversee the implementation of the recommendations.

“I think that sends a very clear message from this government that it’s not interested in being accountable when it comes to the issue of intimate-partner violence,” Ms. Cross said, “and that is unacceptable.”

The provincial government has said it will provide responses to the remaining 29 recommendations by the one-year anniversary of the inquest in June.

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In an e-mail Wednesday, Hunter Kell, a spokesperson for the Solicitor-General, said the process is “complex and must be done with care and attention.”

“The Ministry of the Solicitor General has provided the Office of the Chief Coroner with an update on the ministry’s responses to the inquest recommendations while work continues. Our government is breaking the cycle of intimate partner violence and supporting survivors to help keep communities safe. We look forward to a completed review of all recommendations before the summer.”

The government has accepted the vast majority of the recommendations it has responded to so far. But in some cases, Erin Lee, the executive director of the Lanark County Interval House, a shelter for women and children fleeing violence, said the government cites policies or programs that were already in place, rather than future plans.

For example, one recommendation calls on the government to “provide specialized and enhanced training of police officers with a goal of developing an IPV specialist in each police detachment.”

The government marks this work as “complete,” citing a course offered by the Ontario Police College. But it does not cite statistics on the number of officers taking this optional course, or any targets for the future.

“We can say that we already do something in a system, but for me, it’s not about whether that exists or not – it’s about whether or not it’s effective,” Ms. Lee said. “And so, are you doing a review of that process?”

Kirsten Mercer, a lawyer at Goldblatt Partners LLP, who served as counsel to EVA (End Violence Against Women) Renfrew County at the inquest, acknowledged that some of these changes are long-term in nature, and will take time – but she said they will also take collaboration.

“The fact that the government has (so far) failed to meaningfully engage with EVA or others on the front lines of the fight to end IPV, and have yet to convene an implementation committee to learn from (and be accountable to) those with direct experience with these issues, is disappointing and concerning,” she said.

“If the government is serious about ‘accepting’ these recommendations, it seems obvious that they would want to engage with those who were most involved in the inquest and who work to support those who are experiencing IPV.”

“I think that the province needs to create a more solid demonstration of their commitment to ending intimate-partner violence in this province,” Ms. Lee said.

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