Editorial: Preventing tragedy

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Pain. Outrage. Sorrow. Shock.
Those are just some of the emotions that overwhelmed our community last week upon learning that lifelong island resident John Quesnel had murdered his wife Jennifer and then shot himself.
It is too easy to say that if Jennifer Quesnel had requested a police escort to their Fulford-Ganges Road property on June 1 she would still be alive. Instead, that action could possibly have resulted in more deaths occurring that day. The path leading to John Quesnel’s murder of his wife and his own suicide began long before June 1, 2020.
Prevention of tragedies such as this one begins with halting inter-generational cycles of violence, and making violence and abuse of any kind — whether against intimate partners, children, elders or anyone at all — absolutely unacceptable in our communities and in our homes.
It is difficult to force or enforce respectful, non-violent relationships, however. Positive outcomes may sometimes occur through the judicial system, certainly, but by the time a crisis reaches that point much damage will have been done. Mass anti-racism protests like those seen in recent weeks in response to the murder of George Floyd can precipitate public shifts in attitudes and behaviour as well.
But preventing violence and the imbalance of power that fuels it in intimate relationships truly requires the fostering of deep awareness and hard work. That comes through individuals honestly assessing the health of their own relationships and seeking to improve them if necessary. It requires consistent access to education programs such as those presented by Salt Spring’s own Salt Spring Women Opposed to Violence and Abuse and Islanders Working Against Violence organizations. It demands wholehearted financial and philosophical support being directed to those kinds of programs and to mental health services for youth and adults. It requires families and communities to be on board with prevention of violence and abuse and for them to not make anyone feel ashamed for seeking help.
The deaths of John and Jennifer Quesnel must be a wake-up call for us all. We all have a role to play in preventing another tragedy like this one from unfolding on Salt Spring Island.
Our community is shaken and our deepest sympathies and sincere condolences go out to the Quesnel children, their families and their friends.

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