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The Original 'Candace House'

A first-of-its-kind place providing wrap-around support for family survivors of homicide that started with a camper van. 

In November 1984, 13-year-old Candace went missing on her way home from school in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Six and a half weeks later, her body was found in a shack not far from her home. It would be 22 years before a suspect was identified the Derksen’s journey through the court process began. 

At the preliminary hearing in 2009, Candace’s parents, Cliff and Wilma Derksen, discovered firsthand there was so safe place for their family to go. No private space that didn’t have media, lawyers, or the public watching them. The bathrooms were shared with supporters of the accused. Defence counsel ate lunch next to them in the cafeteria. 

However, it was a beloved camper van that gave the Derksen’s the privacy and comfort they needed throughout the process. 

“My sister Lu and her husband Jake drove their Road Trek camper van from BC to attend the preliminary hearing. If I look back, it was the preliminary hearing that was the hardest - that's when we learned about the tying and all of that. I was an emotional wreck before, during, and after. 

I remember the first day as we were leaving the house. My sister asked if we might all travel together in our car so as to save parking fees. I nodded. Then I looked at their van parked on the street. "No," I said. "We need your Van. I need some place to escape during the day." 

They conceded. Actually they were able to obtain a pass from the Legislative Building because of their tourist status. 

So during the breaks we would cross the street to the Leg where the van was parked and picnic. Crossing the street, sitting in a private space with close friends and family - felt like a healing retreat centre. One day we even had boiled hot corn on the cob -- comfort food. Oh yes - there was also always a stash of chocolate in the van. 

As you can see in the picture - there were moments when we could forget all about what was happening across the street. Which was exactly what we needed.”

After talking with other family survivors of homicide, the need was confirmed and the work to build Candace House began. 

Since opening in November of 2018, Candace House has expanded in both size and services. Growing from a small space for families to go during court, to now providing a homelike day refuge with wrap-around care at all stages following a homicide loss. 

We are honoured to have walked with over 1500 people in connection to over 140 homicides, bearing witness to incredible courage. Thank you to our community for your incredible support that ensures we can continue to offer comfort, care, and love. 


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