Kristin Raworth: Desperate for consistent moral leadership on domestic abuse
Many partisans continue to struggle with it, conservative and progressive alike, and until they change, nothing will change for vulnerable women.
By: Kristin Raworth
In January 1983, when I was a baby mastering the skill of walking, JoAnn Wilson was fighting to rebuild her life after leaving her ex-husband. He was a Saskatchewan MLA named Colin Thatcher, the epitome of wealth and privilege: his father had been premier.
It had been a long, bitter battle in the courts, and a violent one. JoAnn had been shot and injured by an unknown party already. Then, on January 21, 1983, two weeks after my first birthday, she walked into her garage and was savagely beaten and fatally shot in the head. She was 44 years old.
In 1984, Thatcher was convicted of killing Wilson. He appealed all the way to the Supreme Court and to the federal justice minister, but his conviction was upheld. He was sentenced to life without parole for 25 years, and was ultimately released in 2006.
Many of you will have no idea who Colin Thatcher is, or who JoAnn Wilson was. Sadly that is in part because so many women have been murdered by their intimate partners in the past 41 years that the stories and names get lost. There are many reasons this name should matter, but for today’s purposes it is because this week Colin Thatcher was invited by Saskatchewan Party MLA Lyle Stewart to attend the throne speech at the legislature.
The speech’s theme was “tough on crime.”
It’s easy for many of us to forget JoAnn. Or the countless women who died both before and after her. I was a baby when she was killed, so it would be easy for me to forget too. Except I almost was JoAnn. I have been abused in relationships, and threatened with death and ruin when I left. I have known the fear of truly believing that your abusive ex-partner is willing, even eager, to kill you. I know how hard it is to decide to leave anyway and to take that chance.
JoAnn made that decision. She left. She remarried. She started to see hope, despite being shot and badly wounded in her new home.
And then Colin Thatcher killed her.
This matters because since COVID-19 we have seen a growing crisis of domestic violence. One that is minimized when the Saskatchewan government gives a convicted ex-wife killer a place of honour in the seat of power.
Thatcher isn’t the only man so honoured of late. Wab Kinew, the leader of the Manitoba NDP, was a featured speaker at the Alberta NDP convention earlier this month. Kinew, who has admitted to violent acts during his youth, was accused by a former romantic partner of throwing her across a room, inflicting injury, after a domestic argument. (He has denied these allegations.) When the story of his accuser came out, leaked against her will when Kinew was running for the NDP leadership, she was harassed by his followers and had to go into hiding.
How very progressive of everyone.
I have argued here before about a terrible habit among our political partisans: we tolerate abhorrent behaviour by those of our own party. The Saskatchewan Party wouldn’t invite a convicted murder to an event if he were a New Democrat. I doubt the NDP would have much time for someone accused of beating his partner if that person were a Tory.
I am a conservative and I went on a national podcast calling out a UCP cabinet minster for harassment. Was that easy? No. Were there consequences to me, including professional ones? Yes. Do I regret it? Not for a moment.
Some things are more important. Making the world safer for women is more important. Taking a consistent moral stand against those who hurt and kill their current or former partners is more important. Many partisans continue to struggle with it, conservative and progressive alike, and until they change, nothing will change for vulnerable women. Our politicians consider themselves leaders. This is an issue crying out for leadership. What are they waiting for? How many more women must die?
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