Fekete tragedy led to change
Saturday marks 10 years since the Fekete murder-suicide, a tragedy in Red Deer that changed the way Albertans respond to domestic violence.
On Sept. 28, 2003, Josif Fekete gunned down his wife Blagica and their three-year-old son in a Red Deer apartment building, before turning the shotgun on himself.
Recommendations from the 2005 Fekete fatality inquiry resulted in community organizations working with domestic violence victims to partner closely with the criminal justice system, police and corrections.
“I think the biggest change has been the collaborative partnerships that have been created. That collaborative process has allowed us to work together as a co-ordinated team to identify high-risk cases and begin to strategize and case manage to mitigate the risk,” said Ian Wheeliker, executive director of the Central Alberta Women’s Shelter, on Thursday.
“Each month we’re looking at an average of six high-risk cases.”
Some of high-risk cases are under scrutiny for months and cases judged to be lower risk also get a second, careful look, he said.
A monitored exchange and safe visitation program was also developed at Central Alberta Women’s Outreach to improve the safety of any children involved.
But Wheeliker said only a limited number of families can participate in the program and more should be done to co-ordinate the protection of children by getting family and criminal courts to work together.
Or better yet, he suggested, unify those courts into one court for domestic violence cases. After all, family court is where child custody and visitation are determined.
“I often see cases where I have grave concerns for the children and the victim because there’s been a lack of information shared between the criminal court and the family court.”
More education must also be done to reach out to young families in conflict before abuse and violence can start and before the cycle continues to the next generation, he said.
“It has to be a collaborative project. It’s got to include multiple agencies in the community and the school divisions have to be major stakeholder in the process.”
Wheeliker said the Red Deer RCMP’s Domestic Violence Unit has responded to more than 9,000 calls since it was created after the fatality inquiry.
Calls to the police plateaued at about 150 per month so the number of high-risk files may have plateaued as well, he said.
“We have made significant improvements. The domestic violence court program and the creation of police units have definitely enhanced the safety of victims.
“Can we guarantee there’s not going to be another tragedy? No. We’re not at that point. I don’t know honestly if we’ll ever be able to guarantee that.”
But as Saturday approaches, it’s important to “keep the Feketes in our thoughts and in our prayers” and to let the community know that there has been positive change since the tragedy, he said.