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New Willow House shelter in Corner Brook will provide enhanced service to women leaving unhealthy relationships

Michelle Branton, executive director of the Community Youth Network in Corner Brook, blows out a candle in memory of one of the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre, which happened 28 years ago Wednesday.
Michelle Branton, executive director of the Community Youth Network in Corner Brook, blows out a candle in memory of one of the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre, which happened 28 years ago Wednesday. - Gary Kean

As women, and a handful of men, too, marked another anniversary of the Montreal Massacre Wednesday, one Corner Brook group is looking forward to a new chapter in helping women leave abusive relationships.

The anniversary of the massacre of 14 women killed by gunman Marc Lépine at École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989 has evolved into an event drawing attention to the broader problem of violence against women.

Several dozen people gathered in the lobby of the College of the North Atlantic building in Corner Brook for Wednesday’s vigil to remember the women killed and the other women and men who were injured on this date 28 years ago. A candle was lit for each and every one of the women killed and then extinguished as a red rose was placed by each one.

After the sombre ceremony, Heather Davis was asked by The Western Star about the progress of plans for a new residence to house Willow House, a shelter for women who need to escape abusive relationships.

There had been a bit of a delay in the building’s construction after a bit of a redesign was needed, but Davis said the project is now back on track and the new Willow House should open this spring.

The new shelter won’t be able to house any more women than the current one does, but it will afford them more privacy. Until the new one is built, women needing the shelter often find themselves sharing a bedroom with four, and sometimes more, other women.

“We feel our capacity is a good fit for our region … It’s about enhancing our service, not enhancing the size of our service,” Davis said of the new residence project.

The existing Willow House was built more than 30 years ago. It was designed to accommodate larger families and, not only has its design become less appropriate, its condition has become dilapidated.

These days, said Davis, the shelter sees more women coming on their own. They are often younger women who have not yet had children or women who have waited until their kids have grown and left home before the women extricated themselves from their unhealthy relationships.

“The dynamics of our clientele have changed,” said Davis.

Once the new Willow House has opened, the old one will be torn down.

 

Emma Peckford performed during Wednesday’s vigil marking the 28th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
Emma Peckford performed during Wednesday’s vigil marking the 28th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

 

 

Tanya McFayden, house project co-ordinator for the Corner Brook Status of Women Council, delivers the keynote address on acting to prevent violence against women during the ceremony for the 28th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre Wednesday.
Tanya McFayden, house project co-ordinator for the Corner Brook Status of Women Council, delivers the keynote address on acting to prevent violence against women during the ceremony for the 28th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre Wednesday.

 

 

Heather Davis, executive director of Willow House women’s shelter, holds a rose in memory of one of the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre during Wednesday’s vigil in Corner Brook on the 28th anniversary of the event.
Heather Davis, executive director of Willow House women’s shelter, holds a rose in memory of one of the 14 women killed in the Montreal Massacre during Wednesday’s vigil in Corner Brook on the 28th anniversary of the event.

 

 

Const. Shawna Park, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s community relations officer in Corner Brook, blows out the last of 14 candles lit for each of the women killed in the Montreal Massacre 28 years ago Wednesday.
Const. Shawna Park, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s community relations officer in Corner Brook, blows out the last of 14 candles lit for each of the women killed in the Montreal Massacre 28 years ago Wednesday.

 

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