Construction finally begins on Candace House refuge for victims of crime

Construction finally begins on Candace House refuge for victims of crime

The long road to creating Candace House has finally reached the point where construction can begin.

The Winnipeg haven for victims of crime and their families is expected to be ready by fall, four years after its first proposed location was scrubbed and close to a decade since the idea was first raised.

Wilma Derksen, the driving force behind the project, said Candace House will be a place for victims and survivors of crime to find refuge in order to bring about healing and justice. It’s named for her 13-year-old daughter, who was left tied up and died of exposure in 1984.

The space at 183 Kennedy St. will give families going through the court process a place to take a break. It will include a living room with chairs, pillows and blankets, a kitchen for preparing and eating meals or snacks and a space for ceremonies and smudging.

The downtown location, one block from Winnipeg’s Law Courts, was chosen in May 2017 and it was first thought it would open that fall, but it took time to raise the money for renovations.


Candace Derksen, seen in an undated file photo, was found dead in a shed in Winnipeg in early 1985. ((Family photo))

“Thanks to the generosity of some key donors, donations from the public and the hard work of so many, we will now start construction,” said Darryl Stewart, board chair of Candace House.

“Ultimately, we cannot undo the terrible trauma and loss that people have suffered, but we can offer a comforting place for them.”

In November 1984, 13-year-old Candace went missing on her way home from school in Winnipeg. Nearly seven weeks later her body was found, bound and frozen in a storage shed.

Mark Edward Grant was charged in 2007 with Candace’s murder and in 2009, the preliminary processes leading to a trial began. A jury found Grant guilty of second-degree murder in 2011.

A retrial was ordered after his defence team argued possible evidence of a different killer was improperly excluded from the first one. In October 2017, the judge-only retrial found Grant not guilty.

Derksen said years of trials and processing made her realize how badly Winnipeg needed a safe place where families involved in the court process can go to decompress and take a break.

“Being a mother of a murdered child can be very lonely,” she said. “It takes a community to help one through that kind of grief.”

‘Being a mother of a murdered child can be very lonely. It takes a community to help one through that kind of grief’ – Wilma Derksen

Her own long days at the courthouse were intense and she would have appreciated a place to go and simply close her eyes, even if only for a minute.

Derksen said she used to camp out in her sister’s van when she needed a break during court proceedings.

“You have to leave that building. It’s offender-focused,” she said about the courthouse.

After the first trial, Derksen joined the board of an organization whose focus was to help foster safer communities and the idea of Candace House was born.

Through the years it evolved from a project to an independent organization, eventually becoming incorporated and gaining charitable status in 2013.

The next step was to find a location and in 2014, Derksen thought she had secured the historic Victorian home that once belonged to Hugh John Macdonald, who served as Manitoba’s premier in 1900.

The building had been the Dalnavert Museum since 1975 but it closed in 2013 due to funding problems and plunging attendance. When Derksen announced her intention to use it for Candace House, heritage groups and longtime volunteers rallied to preserve it and created Friends of Dalnavert to raise money.

Derksen backed away from the plan and the museum reopened in 2015.

The location on Kennedy was then secured in May 2017 and fundraising began to raise capital for renovations.

In addition to the amenities of home, Candace House will offer resources as well as referrals to support services, workshops and training. 

‘These kind of moments are something that give her death meaning’ : Wilma Derksen on construction of Candace House0:46

Published at Tue, 13 Mar 2018 12:40:07 -0400