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Montreal vigil for Narjess Ben Yedder raises awareness about conjugal violence resources

Patricia Higgins, right, and borough Coun. Lisa Christensen comfort each other during a vigil held to remember Narjess Ben Yedder, 32. (Mélissa François/CBC - image credit)
Patricia Higgins, right, and borough Coun. Lisa Christensen comfort each other during a vigil held to remember Narjess Ben Yedder, 32. (Mélissa François/CBC - image credit)

A vigil held in Montreal Tuesday started with the reading of several names — women who were killed in an act of violence.

Narjess Ben Yedder, 32, is now a name among them, and tears were shed for her on Tuesday by those in the community who maybe didn't know her personally, but they know she didn't deserve to be stabbed to death in an apartment on Sherbrooke Street East in Pointe-aux-Trembles.

Police, politicians, citizens and community organizers came together near that apartment to call attention to her death and raise awareness of the resources available to women suffering from violence.

"It's terrible. We are all very sad," said Chantal Rouleau, the MNA for Pointe-aux-Trembles.

She encouraged women to seek help the moment they feel threatened.

"There are resources for women who live in that situation," she said. "They have to talk. They have to take the phone. 911. It's very important."

Narjess Ben Yedder, 32, died Friday after being stabbed with a sharp object, according to Montreal police.
Narjess Ben Yedder, 32, died Friday after being stabbed with a sharp object, according to Montreal police.

Narjess Ben Yadder, 32, died Friday after being stabbed, according to Montreal police. (From Narjess Ben Yadder's Facebook page)

Rouleau said women can also contact SOS violence conjugale or the local women's shelter, Centre des femmes Montréal-Est Pointe-aux-Trembles.

Ben Yedder died on Friday, and her spouse, a 42-year-old man found at the scene, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with her death. Mustapha Mechken appeared by video conference at the Montreal courthouse that evening, and isn't expected back in court until March 19.

Radio-Canada learned the couple was in the process of separating.

Etni Cortes is an intervention worker at the women's shelter. She said the goal is to listen to women and give them a safe space to express themselves. She said the centre also provides references and accompanies women as they seek help.

It's important that everybody knows about the centre, so all women — not just those suffering from violence — can seek help, she said.

Nathalie Pierre-Antoine, borough councillor for Rivière-des-Prairies, signs a poster full of messages of support and remembrance of stabbing victim Narjess Ben Yedder.
Nathalie Pierre-Antoine, borough councillor for Rivière-des-Prairies, signs a poster full of messages of support and remembrance of stabbing victim Narjess Ben Yedder.

Nathalie Pierre-Antoine, borough councillor for Rivière-des-Prairies, signs a poster full of messages of support and remembrance of stabbing victim Narjess Ben Yedder. (Mélissa François/CBC)

Pointe-aux-Trembles resident Patricia Higgins said, "It's unimaginable for this to happen here in my neighbourhood in 2024."

Higgins has volunteered at the local women's shelter since her retirement. She said the Centre des femmes Montréal-Est Pointe-aux-Trembles is putting the finishing touches on a facility with 20 housing units that can shelter women and their children.

It's slated to open Friday, and "this had to happen just before. It just breaks my heart," she said.

Higgins says people need to pay attention to their neighbours, looking for signs of isolation or violence. Those signs might be a woman who is never out alone, always accompanied by a man, she said. They might seem distant or unresponsive to friendly greetings, she said.

If a neighbour picks up on those types of signs, they can go to the women's shelter and ask for references, she said.

However, those signs are harder to spot these days, according to Lisa Christensen. She is the borough councillor for the Pointe-aux-Prairies district in Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles.

She said there was a time when neighbours used to talk more, but now people hide their emotions.

"You really don't see what's going on until something explosive happens," Christensen said.

"Men have needs as well. Are we not giving men enough attention to support them if they're having an issue — so they have somewhere to go and talk about it?"