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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

When Will Governments & The Courts In Canada Get Serious About Violence Against Women


Courts 'failed' murder victim Bridget Takyi 


BY  ,TORONTO SUN

TORONTO - This is what he should have been wearing last month, orange prison coveralls, and with a prison guard at his side.
Charged with first-degree murder, Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah made a brief appearance by videolink at the Finch Ave. W. courthouse and just as quickly, he was returned to his cell at the Toronto West Detention Centre.
If only he’d been sent there in the first place, perhaps Bridget Takyi would still be alive.
Instead, despite facing eight serious domestic violence charges involving the mother of his two children — one count of threatening death, three counts of assault, two of assault with a weapon and two of weapons dangerous — Owusu-Ansah, 30, was granted bail last month.
And six weeks later, his former girlfriend is dead.
How was that allowed to happen? How many more vulnerable women must die before the courts treat domestic abuse as the ticking time bomb it can be?
“We have failed a woman yet again,” said Susan Young, director of Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses.
“I don’t think any of us are doing a good enough job — not the police, the shelter system or the legal system. We have a lot more work to do to keep women safe.”
Instead of being kept behind bars for a Jan. 30 appearance, Owusu-Ansah was released on house arrest under the strict supervision of his surety. But whatever the conditions imposed by the justice of the peace, Toronto Police say he breached them all when in the darkness of 4 a.m. Saturday, he allegedly lay in wait for Takyi as she left for her waitress job at Pearson Airport.
Her death was vicious and it was brutal. Just outside her Etobicoke apartment building, the beautiful young woman was stabbed repeatedly and then doused with gasoline, she was set ablaze. Burned beyond recognition, her two little sons won’t even be able to gaze on her face to say their final goodbyes.
Friends have planned a vigil for Saturday evening and some took to Facebook to express their outrage.
“I am sad and angry!” wrote Sandra Frempong, who is trying to raise money for Takyi’s two children. “How can any one do this to the mother of their children?? Bridget was the sweetest roommate I ever had and she had a big heart! Never cause anyone any trouble, she didn’t deserve this! She didn’t!”
Added Michael Amanfi: “Wasn’t he granted bail just on Dec. 5 for (allegedly) assaulting her? What is sad in this is a system that failed this lady.”
And then he said what so many of us are feeling.
“This guy should have been kept exactly where he was, and not granted bail with those stupid so-called ‘conditions.’ None of those conditions prevented him from going about his life and including (allegedly) killing this lady — sad.”
Somewhere the system broke down — again. How many inquests must there be?
There are between 20 to 30 domestic murders each year in Ontario and more often than not, the warning signs scream loud and clear. In 1996, on International Women’s Day, Arlene May was killed by former lover Randy Iles, who was free on bail with 11 pending criminal charges against her — including attempted murder. An inquest jury made 213 recommendations.
In 2000, Gillian Hadley was murdered in her Pickering home by her ex-husband after he’d been granted bail on charges of criminal harassment. The jury made still more recommendations, urging that no accused abuser get bail if their partner can show that their safety is in jeopardy.
As a result, there are supposed to be bail safety programs in place where dedicated teams of Crowns and police have checklists to identify high-risk situations. Owusu-Ansah, it seems, was not flagged.
On Dec. 5, 2012, he was handed his bail papers and told he was free to go. How ironic that the next day was White Ribbon Day, the annual call of action on violence against women.
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