This year marks 30 years since Shirley Taylor-Seydel, 29, was beaten to death in Ucluelet’s small craft harbour.
The July 10, 1991 Westerly News clipping notes that alcohol was almost certainly involved and that the “murder climaxed an already hectic and tension filled week of incident in Ucluelet following a troller fishery strike”.
Fisherman Steven Roland Hillairet, 29, from Delta was charged with second degree murder after Ucluelet RCMP found Taylor-Seydel’s body upon boarding the vessel ‘ShoTime’ in the early morning. Hillairet was apprehended on the vessel.
A cherry blossom tree was planted in Shirley’s memory and there is a plaque on a nearby bench dedicated to Shirley and all the women killed in violence. Shirley’s death also led to the creation of the Westcoast Community Resources Society (WCRS), a place for women to go and get the help they might need.
“When I come down here, it reminds me that the work needs to keep happening and we need to keep offering the support that we can for women to remove as many barriers as we can for them to get safe,” said WCRS women’s outreach program co-ordinator Jill McQuaid on a blustery coastal morning at Shirley’s Tree.
With Nov. 25 being the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, McQuaid highlights the importance of her work, especially in a time when domestic violence against women and girls has been intensified.
“Finding ways to support women during the pandemic is a whole new layer. COVID has led to more isolation for women and children because they have been separated from support networks and may be suffering from a decline in mental health,” she said.
WCRS has a safe and confidential transition house run by women for women and children who have experienced or are at risk of violence, and they recently purchased a minivan to transport clients safely.
From April 2020 to March 2021, the Transition House provided bed stays for 121 women and 92 children.
“The most dangerous time for a women is when she is fleeing,” McQuaid cautions. “Use your network of people. Reach out to a friend.”
In June 2020, Jennifer Quesnel, a Salt Spring Island mother of three boys, was shot and killed by her estranged husband when she returned to the home to retrieve some of her belongings.
The husband shot her twice then turned the gun on himself. In a media statement, the family of Quesnel said she had recently left an 18-year-marriage with a clear history of controlling and abusive behaviour by her husband.
The hit Netflix series ‘Maid’ helps demonstrate coercive control and what emotional abuse looks like, notes McQuaid.
“I’m really happy that ‘Maid’ exists because it’s bringing a lot of attention to that kind of abuse where people would normally dismiss it or you have to convince people that you are being abused,” said McQuaid.
“But, it’s often a lot harder than it was (depicted) in ‘Maid’. You know, society does as much as they can to remove barriers, but even in that series she had a scholarship, she had a car and even still, you could see how hard it was for her. In my reality, it’s usually a lot harder than that.”
Nov. 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) kicks off 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, and ends on Dec. 6 (National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women).
For women in need of phone support, safety planning and more information, WCRS has a 24-hour support line: 250-726-2020. For more information on the Women’s Outreach Program, visit wccrs.ca or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Men can also connect with WCRS for supports (such as the tax program or community lunch program) and referrals to mental health and substance use services by calling the main office at 250-726-2343.
If you are in urgent need of help in your community, call 911. You can also visit Island Health’s website to access mental health and substance use services.