After years of dreaming and planning, Candace House is proud to announce that our homelike day refuge has now opened!
Dedicated to supporting victims and survivors of violent crime, Candace House offers a first of its kind safe and comforting place to go during the day for families who have lost a loved one and are attending court proceedings. We are honoured to have welcomed our first family at the end of October.
Just four short weeks ago, families would have waited and wandered in cold and bare courthouse hallways during breaks and jury deliberations over the many days and sometimes months of court proceedings. Now, Candace House stands in stark contrast, offering all the amenities of a home, including a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, living room, meeting room, a welcoming place to smudge, and private washroom, all in a setting of warmth, care and love.
Darryl Stewart, Board Chair for Candace House, opened the morning announcement by welcoming guests. "Today, thanks to the generosity of donors, funders and government, I'm happy to say that Candace House is finally open," a statement met with tremendous cheers, applause and huge smiles all around.
Honorable Cliff Cullen, Minister of Justice, brought words of support on behalf on the Province of Manitoba. "It's a pleasure for me to be here on this momentous occasion. I want to offer our congratulations on the foresight, and the handwork, and the commitment by so many people, and so many organizations, that has brought this to fruition today... On behalf of our government we're certainly proud to support Candace House."
His Worship, Mayor Brian Bowman, brought greetings on behalf of the City of Winnipeg, acknowledging the incredible amount of work it took to get here, as well the incredible strength and drive to help others that so many have even in the face of horrific tragedy. "It takes a very special person to work in the various aspects of the criminal justice system. It's the best system we have. We have good people in the judiciary, we have good people in various aspects of the legal system. But it's changing the system for the better, it's making those changes that we all collectively desire to make sure that the system is more compassionate for those that need compassion at a very difficult time in their lives. And this space will create it."
Wilma Derksen, founding visionary for Candace House, shared words of gratitude and grief. "I'm very emotional. I have been ever since I came here last Friday. I've trying to unpack why, and I think it's so much coming together... There is nothing like this. And it's amazing how it accurately reflects the needs and the feelings that we as victims have. I walked through the door and it was warm and professional at the same time. Home and professional. We kind of are part of the legal system, but we need the comforts of a home, and the security. And the independence, the privacy of a home during those difficult trial days. So it was just amazing to see how this place reflects the needs."
"I am just filled with emotion, and I think I'm going to be for some time. Every time I come in here, it's just beautiful, it's kind of a miracle when I think of how it all came to be. It's just a recognition of Candace, of our family, and the journey. And I have to admit there is a real, oh dear, here it comes," pausing to wipe tears from her eyes, "there's a real grief that this wasn't here when we were going through it. It wasn't here for all those people, and then to think of all those will need this place.... I'm just so glad that underneath all that emotion is the comfort, the compassion, the beauty of this place."
Cecilly Hildebrand, Executive Director, then shared a few words about what Candace House offers families, and the impact it is already having. "I was honoured to have been entrusted by Wilma and Cliff Derksen with the incredible vision for Candace House a few years ago. Today, I stand before you humbled by how profound this supposedly “simple” idea really is, and overwhelmed by how full my heart feels having begun to deliver on this vision and having already witnessed the incredible impact it has had."
Having already welcomed the first few families in the weeks prior, an email sent by the family following their time at Candace House was read for guests, and filled with words of thanks and gratitude. (Read their letter here.)
Elder Betty Ross, then closed by offering a prayer and blessing. "I am so honoured to be here. So privileged to be here today. To be part of this beautiful legacy that we have."
Thank you to all who attended and who continue to support Candace House. We couldn't have done this without you.
See photos and media coverage below...