Harden: How can we end violent crime?

A pink stuffed bunny and a blue stuffed bunny are placed next to flowers outside of a Barrhaven home.
Flowers and teddy bears lie outside of a West Ottawa home where four children and two adults were brutally murdered on March 6, 2024. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Submitted by Joel Harden, MPP for Ottawa Centre

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), and I had intended to write about the history of this important occasion.

But as I try to find the words, my mind is focused on yesterday’s tragic news from Barrhaven: the six murders of a family of newcomers to Canada from Sri Lanka, including four young children. 

  • 35-year-old Darshani Banbaranayake Gama Walwwe Darshani Dilanthika Ekanayake.
  • 40-year-old Amarakoonmubiayansela Ge Gamini Amarakoon
  • Seven-year-old Inuka Wickramasinghe.
  • Four-year-old daughter Ashwini Wickramasinghe.
  • Two-year-old daughter Rinyana Wickramasinghe.
  • Two-month-old daughter Kelly Wickramasinghe.

It is all so brutal, so unbelievable, and so unfair. 

I’ve told elected officials in Barrhaven we are ready to help. The moment I know of any community support initiatives, I will be sharing them with you. I am also attending a community vigil in Barrhaven tomorrow. 

And yet I wonder, in this tragic moment, if our ambitions to help are enough. We don’t know the circumstances of what happened in Barrhaven yet, but we do know the circumstances of other tragedies in our community. 

Charlie Senack — a longtime Barrhaven resident, and editor of the Kitchisippi Times — wrote a powerful column noting other instances of extreme violence that have shaken Barrhaven before. We have seen it elsewhere in our city too.

On June 27, 2022, Anne-Marie Ready (age 50) and Jasmine Ready (age 15) were murdered in their Ottawa South home by a young man with a history of violence and sexual assault. Catherine Ready (age 19), their sister, survived with serious injuries. 

I knew Anne-Marie and Jasmine, they were black-belt students in my son’s karate dojo. I had witnessed their strength and athleticism first-hand. Their untimely deaths were grieved in much the same way as we are grieving right now.

Since then, Ontario had 30 femicides in 30 weeks in 2023, including two horrific mass shootings in Vaughan and Sault Ste. Marie. With each case, a community is deeply traumatized. But what comes next? 

Joel Harden wears a peace button as he kneels down to lay flowers.
Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden lays flowers at a vigil in Barrhaven on March 9, 2024. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Professor Irwin Waller — from the University of Ottawa — is a local expert on violent crime. He argues for smart community-based interventions to address the precursors of violent behaviours before they manifest in tragedies. 

The Renfrew County Inquest Report in June 2022 also has no shortage of ideas, and they are informed by the best evidence available. But just over a year ago, advocates were frustrated that 29 of these recommendations were yet to be addressed

So that will inspire us to end violent crime, once and for all? In considering that question, I reflect on the words of the great James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

As we mark the occasion of IWD, let’s summon our courage, and call for action. 

Let’s face horrific violence with the same empathy, determination, and spirit that we now feel for our neighbours in Barrhaven. Let’s support community partners with expertise in reducing violence, and the behaviours leading to violence.

Better is always possible, and we should accept nothing less. 

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