I think often about the double tragedy that struck my friend, Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu. It wasn’t enough that his daughter Julie was abducted and murdered in 2002. In 2005, his second daughter, Isabelle was killed in a car accident.
I met Isabelle twice. Once for supper at Pierre’s place in Sherbrooke. The second time was in Montreal. It was for some victims advocacy function, and in that way that only Pierre can manage – you know, how he somehow gets you out on a Saturday afternoon to wash cars at some fundraiser – he had convinced everyone to pitch-in and assist. Isabelle and I were tasked with stuffing envelops. We got placed together in some vacant banquet hall at some hotel – it might have been the Bonaventure – and were told not to come out until the job was done. So there we were, charged with this menial task for two hours. The two of us and small talk. I liked Isabelle a lot. She was smart and funny.
My father warned me never to get too comfortable with life. In early 1978 he was riding high. He was promoted to managing one of the most sophisticated engineering projects in the country – building the nuclear power plant at Point Lepreau, New Brunswick. He was able to buy my mother the house of her dreams, a Victorian beauty that once belonged to an old sea captain. He had a plush expense account, there were lavish dinners at fancy restaurants every weekend. Then in the fall of 1978, he got knocked on his ass when his eldest child disappeared. He was never the same again. The only advice he ever gave me was borrowed from Sinatra: “Life is nothing but a series of setbacks, you pick yourself up and get back in the race.”
The double-tap of tragedy hit another friend this week. I don’t often talk about Marcel Bolduc, mostly because I’ve never been sure of the lesson in his story. The Bolducs were also from Sherbrooke. In 1996 his daughter Isabelle was kidnapped and murdered by a repeat offender. Marcel has made it his mission to see that the man is never paroled. Together with Pierre Boievenu, Marcel co-founded the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared (AFPAD).
Believe it or not, murder is rare in the Eastern Townships. Sexual murder in the late ’90s and early 2000s was even more uncommon. Everyone knows about the horrible tragedies suffered by these two fathers and their families. I know Marcel casually. We may have crossed paths at some general assembly, but we mostly communicate through Facebook. He’s good for a joke, and it helps me practice my French. Marcel loves Pink Floyd, and he has a frothy hatred for Canada’s current prime minister, Justin Trudeau.
This week, on the eve of yet another parole hearing for Isabelle’s murderer, Marcel lost his second daughter, Julie. She died at 43 from a brain aneurysm. Julie Bolduc had been involved in the fight against sexual assault. Among other things, she participated in fundraising activities for the Center for Assistance and the Fight against Sexual Assault (CALACS). She and Marcel were preparing for the parole hearing together, as they always did. Marcel Blanchette submitted a request for escorted leaves. He has since withdrawn the request.
Marcel and Pierre were already joined at the hip in tragedy. The cruel symmetry of their daughters’ names only makes that sting worse.
I still don’t know what the lesson is here. The world is indifferent to our sufferings.