Category:long-term recovery

OWEN’S STORY –

How one young man turned shock and fear into forgiveness

By: Kurtis Herrington

On the morning of Monday, April 24, 2000, Art and Marjorie arrived at their daughter Cory’s Winnipeg apartment, only to find their three-year-old grandson alone, peacefully asleep. It didn’t take them long to realize that their daughter was nowhere to be found, and that something was clearly not right. Soon after, Art and Marjorie contacted the authorities, and what ensued is undoubtedly the worst day of their lives.

The little boy’s name is Owen, and on the day before his grandparents found him, his mother was brutally murdered in his presence by her estranged boyfriend. Over the following day investigators were able to connect the dots, which lead to the apprehension of the perpetrator. A thorough investigation resulted in the offender confessing to the murder, and leading them to where he concealed Cory’s body under his grandmother’s cottage. He was charged with second-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after ten years served. Although a seemingly proportionate sentence, it serves as little reparation for the inconceivable loss experienced by Owen, Art and Marjorie, for the murder of their beloved family member.

Owen has had a tough road; navigating his childhood and adolescence without the guidance and love of his biological mother. In addition to the impact this left on Owen’s emotional wellbeing, he has also had to deal with psychological repercussions, including an ongoing diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder during his elementary school years. This seems to have been kept in check since Owen has taken many steps for self-care. While his loving and capable grandparents Art and Marjorie assumed custody of their grandson, Owen was still left with an unimaginable void in his life due to the irrational, hateful, and brutal acts of the offender.

At the age of nineteen, Owen has had to endure more hardships than most will have to within their entire lives. In turn, he has had no choice but to grow up fast, leading to the mature, assured, and spiritual man he is today. During his recent four-month Bible school semester in Costa Rica, Owen was able to take considerable time to reflect on his life through prayer, and try and make meaningful interpretations of the events that he has experienced. It was on this trip that Owen came to a startling conclusion; he wanted to confront the offender in a face-to-face meeting with the hopes of better understanding why he murdered his mother, and potentially offer forgiveness for the heinous acts he committed.  He felt he needed to let go of the past.

In August of 2016, Owen made the difficult trip to British Columbia, where his mother’s killer is currently imprisoned. On the 26th of August, Owen sat across from the offender, with the accompaniment of a mediator and a support person. The meeting was long, lasting two hours in the morning, and two hours in the afternoon. Finally, Owen was offered the chance to confront the evil monster he had built up in his head for all of those years.

Owen’s main intention going into this meeting was to find out who the offender was, and try to understand how he could have possibly done what he did. He didn’t want to carry around the anger he was feeling any longer, and he hoped to finally find a sense of peace. Over the course of the encounter, the offender was able to explain the details of what happened, and try and convey the context of who he was at the time of Cory’s murder. He talked about his difficult childhood, his struggles with substance abuse, and explained that his crime was a result of jealousy and anger. Although this could not have been easy to hear, Owen felt that the offender was open and honest with him, and that he had genuine remorse for his crime.

Following the events of that day, Owen describes a personal sense of peace, and said that the meeting was an overall success. He felt he could finally forgive the offender for what he did to his mother, and that their interaction could potentially set him on the right path. Owen’s grandfather Art also describes how Owen’s demeanor has become calmer since the meeting, and that he believes he has come away a more confident and strong individual.

Owen is an impressive young man and will undoubtedly take what he has learned from this restorative justice encounter, and try apply it to his life. He is a very driven individual, and has recently applied to the University of Winnipeg, the Armed Forces Reserves, and the United Nations to become a youth ambassador.

Although Owen’s healing journey continues, his progress has been tremendous. He serves as an example of the difficult path a victim of crime must endure, but also how one can come out the other side a stronger, stable and more understanding individual. Owen’s story serves as an inspiration to other young people impacted by violence.  The CRCVC is excited to see where his life will lead him, and everything he will be able to accomplish along the way.

National Aboriginal Day

June 21, 2016 – A new Heritage Minute was released today on the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day, representing those who suffered and were victims of Indian Residential Schools. These schools had long lasting effects on those who were forced to attend them.

This Heritage Minute follows a survivor of a Residential School. It uncovers the story and real life events of Chanie Wenjack, narrated by his sister Pearl, who both attended a Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. Chanie had run away from the school at the age of 12, and only a frozen body was found.

Educating Canadians on the effects and the victimization that Indigenous peoples endured while they were attending these schools, and for generations after, is the intended goal of this minute.

Not easy to watch

Doris Young, a Cree educator and residential school survivor, said this is not an easy Heritage Minute to watch.

“It brings back my own memories of experiencing, of having to watch a child being beaten to death. So when I see that, it brings back those horrors. I hope I don’t have a nightmare tonight,” she said.

While Young says the Heritage Minute might help Canadians understand what residential school survivors went through, she doesn’t think National Aboriginal Day — a day of celebration of identity and culture — is the day to focus on it.

“This little child on this railway track is not our culture. This is about what happened to him because of a political and legal decision that was made for him, for his family, for his community.”

Wenjack’s death prompted the first inquest into the treatment of children at the schools.

“He’s a powerful symbol of those innocents who ran, just trying to be home, and didn’t make it, who didn’t survive residential school,” said Novelist Joseph Boyden who welcomed the opportunity to write the script for the video.

The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime offers support, research and education to survivors and stakeholders.

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