In late August, Ontario’s Ministry of the Solicitor General announced that an inquest will be held into the deaths of Anastasia Kuzyk , Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton. (Shown above) The three local women were murdered by Basil Borutski in what has been described as one of the worst cases of domestic violence in Canadian history. Since that announcement the Ministry has not stated where the location of the inquest will be and there has been no commitment to hold it in Renfrew County.
This has provoked concern that it is intended that the provincial Coroner’s Office will decide to choose a location unconnected to the scene of the crimes. This concern culminated in a decision by Renfrew County Council last Wednesday to appeal to the Coroner’s Office to hold the inquest in the County. A recorded vote demonstrated that Council was unanimous in agreeing to send such a letter to the Coroner.
Admaston Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue said during the meeting, “Consideration of holding it anywhere else would be unacceptable.” He added, “I can’t see that there is anywhere else in Ontario that would have a triple murder in Ontario and not expect the inquest to be held in that community.”
Whereas on an emotive level one can understand the appeal of such entreaties, the very reasons that Council gave provide arguments against Renfrew County being an appropriate venue for the inquest.
This is because one of the tasks of the jury will be to make recommendations, based on the evidence presented to them, in order to avoid similar deaths occurring in the future. In the Borutski case, this will potentially include such wide-ranging questions of why he was released from custody despite refusing to sign a non-contact order, why the probation system appeared to break down in relation to his failure to participate in a Court-ordered domestic assault education program, as well as a review of the circumstances under which he came to be in possession of a firearm given his history of violence and threatening. See also Have lessons been learned from Borutski’s crimes?
These are all important questions that have relevance to every community in Ontario so any recommendations the jury hands down should not give the appearance of being influenced because the heinous crimes occurred in the jurors’ back yards so to speak.
Therefore the Coroner’s Office needs to ensure that jury members are as objective and unbiased as is possible so as to ensure that their recommendations are indeed based only on the evidence they hear and are not influenced by emotions arising from the proximity of the events under investigation.
It was for that reason that Borutski’s criminal trial took place in Ottawa out of concern that it would be difficult to find an unbiased jury in the Ottawa Valley.
Perhaps, with the passage of time, the Coroner’s Office might have thought that that is less of a concern now although if that was the case communications such as it has received from the County Council may be counter-productive as they demonstrate that feelings still run high hereabouts.