The haunting question
Why couldn't the lifeguard save her own life?
By Jack Todd
The Gazette, April 15, 2006
Through a grim coincidence, the Supreme Court of Canada refused Thursday to hear the appeal of convicted killer Tommy Kane, the erstwhile football star sentenced to 18 years in prison for the manslaughter of his wife, Tammy Shaikh, stabbed to death with a kitchen knife.
The same day, sentencing arguments were heard in Montreal for convicted killer Martin Morin-Cousineau, found guilty earlier in the week in the murder of Kelly-Anne Drummond. In the Drummond case, she was the athlete but even her strength and athleticism were not enough to save her from being stabbed in the back of the neck with a steak knife.
There are other parallels: both men proclaiming their innocence and offering excuses so convoluted that they would be ludicrous in another setting. Families shattered, women slaughtered, men unrepentant: That the story line has aged a few millennia makes it no less painful.
The superb reporting of colleague Sue Montgomery has already told all you need to know about Drummond's death and Morin-Cousineau's trial. To extend sympathy to the Drummond family is a hollow gesture - there are acts so heinous that they mock human kindness and reduce our best impulses to the theatre of the inadequate.
The massacre of 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in December 1989 first brought home this truth. No words were adequate to describe the horror, no sympathy sufficient, no outrage equal to the magnitude of the crime. Millions of words have been expended on the murders committed by Marc Lepine in that awful winter and no writer has edged close to the black heart of the matter.
And yet even Lepine was in one sense less evil than Kane and Morin-Cousineau. Lepine slaughtered strangers: his weapon spewed death to people he had never met and never would. Kane and Morin-Cousineau killed their partners.
Therein lies what Hannah Arendt, writing on the Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann, called the banality of evil. That crime, the murder of a spouse, partner or loved one, is so appallingly common that it is banal, suburban, commonplace.
Perhaps you saw the statistics in the Gazette story written by Katherine Wilton this week: In 2005, 14 out of 22 women who were murdered in Quebec were killed by a boyfriend, an ex-boyfriend or a member of their family. In 2004, 23 out of 30 women who were killed were attacked by a man they knew. When Drummond was murdered in October 2004, she was one of four women to die at the hands of men in Quebec in an eight-day stretch.
There is no point giving equal time to the noisy men's lobby which insists that poor, put-upon males are victims as well; in 85 per cent of all domestic violence cases, the victim is the woman.
If the same brutal tally involved politicians, say, or lawyers or journalists, the outcry would reverberate through the land. Yet for reasons buried in some atavistic failure to recognize women as fully paid-up members of the human race, we tolerate the abuse, rape, harassment and murder of females as one of those regrettable but unavoidable aspects of life.
Police attitudes have improved since 1989, judges are far more aware of the need to protect women from violent or threatening men but the toll does not ease. The fight for gun control did lead to a limited and unsatisfactory form of gun control and the bureaucratic apparatus of the gun registry.
But men go right on stabbing women to death even in this province, where the massacre created unparalleled awareness of the need to protect women from violent men.
The troubling question at the heart of the Drummond murder is why such a strong, athletic, apparently confident young woman would remain in a relationship in which she had been threatened, why the life-saving champion could not save herself: Morin-Cousineau threatened to hurt Drummond's friends if she watched the 2003 Grey Cup game with them. Before she flew to Italy shortly before her murder, Drummond confided to a friend that Morin-Cousineau had threatened to murder her if she made the trip.
Again and again her parents, suspecting something wrong, tried to intervene; again and again, Drummond held them at arm's length.
"I don't know what we could have done to avoid this," Haddad-Drummond said this week. "There are things I did see, but I had never experienced conjugal violence myself. If I knew then what I know now, I think Kelly-Anne would be alive. But what could I do? I couldn't kidnap her."
Yet it may have to come to that. Is there not some point at which parents ought to be able to kidnap their own child, just as they would if she was being held by a cult?
It's a drastic step, but so is murder. Perhaps the solution lies in direct action to free women from such situations.
It may have to come to such an interventionist approach because somehow, we are still not conditioning young women in our society to refuse to subordinate themselves to cruel, vindictive, abusive or threatening males. There is too often a lack of self-esteem in play which makes it impossible for some women to insist that such behaviour is unacceptable and to walk out at the first hint of violence.
Tammy Shaikh, the mother of Kane's four children, was killed while trying to help her husband by persuading him to enter a drug-rehab facility. Drummond was murdered while trying to preserve a relationship that was not worth having.
Forget making sense of their deaths: it can't be done. To prevent such atrocities in the future - well, perhaps it can't be done, either.
But for Tammy Shaikh and Kelly-Anne Drummond and thousands of other victims of domestic violence perpetrated by men against women, we have to try.