'An immense void in my life': Mother of girls killed in Oak Bay applauds changes to Canada's divorce act
VICTORIA -- Sarah Cotton-Elliott's two young daughters were murdered by their father – Cotton-Elliott's ex, Andrew Berry – on Christmas Day in Oak Bay in 2017.
The mother is now remarried and is trying her best to move forward with her life.
"(There's) an immense void in my life and there always will be, and I don't think that will ever get any easier," she told CTV News Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Cotton-Elliott decided to speak out and show her support for recent changes to Canada's Federal Divorce Act.
The new federal law defines family violence, and includes in that definition non-physical acts like coercion and financial abuse. Under the Divorce Act, courts will now consider these factors when determining who gets to care for a child.
Cotton-Elliott doesn’t know whether her situation would have unfolded differently, but does says it's an important step forward for courts across Canada — including B.C.
"If these changes had been in place when we were in court in 2016, I think the outcome could have been different," said Cotton-Elliott. "I don't know for sure, but I think it could have been.”
Cotton-Elliott's daughters, six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey, were stabbed to death by their father, Berry.
Cotton-Elliott and Berry shared custody of their daughters after an acrimonious break-up.
“Our relationship ended because of violence towards me, and I was always very concerned about his time with the girls and his capacity to care for them," Cotton-Elliott said.
The Oak Bay mother now hopes that changes to Canada's court system will help save others in the future.
The family law changes came into effect this week, and couldn't have come soon enough, according to staff at the Cridge Transition House for Women in Victoria
"The severity of the violence is more pronounced this past year," said Marlene Goley, who works at the centre.
"We suspect it's because women haven’t been able to leave – to reach out and to leave," she said.
Cotton-Elliott says the hardest part of her whole ordeal – including a months-long jury trial that ended with a life sentence for Berry with no chance of parole for 22 years – is simple.
"That they're not here anymore."