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.
November 18, 2015 – The Prime Minister of Canada has sent a mandate letter to each of his new Ministers. He expects them to deliver on the government’s top priorities. As Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould will be tasked with ensuring legislation meets the highest standards of equity, fairness and respect for the rule of law. She is expected to:
- Lead a process, supported by the Minister of Health, to work with provinces and territories to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada decision regarding physician-assisted death.
- Develop, in collaboration with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and supported by the Minister of Status of Women, an approach to, and a mandate for, an inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada, including the identification of a lead Minister.
- Review our litigation strategy. This should include early decisions to end appeals or positions that are not consistent with our commitments, the Charter or our values.
- Conduct a review of the changes in our criminal justice system and sentencing reforms over the past decade with a mandate to assess the changes, ensure that we are increasing the safety of our communities, getting value for money, addressing gaps and ensuring that current provisions are aligned with the objectives of the criminal justice system. Outcomes of this process should include increased use of restorative justice processes and other initiatives to reduce the rate of incarceration amongst Indigenous Canadians, and implementation of recommendations from the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith regarding the restriction of the use of solitary confinement and the treatment of those with mental illness.
- Work with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to address gaps in services to Aboriginal people and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system.
- Working with the Ministers of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Health, create a federal-provincial-territorial process that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.
- Undertake modernization efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, in cooperation with provinces and territories. This should include improved use of information technology to make the system more efficient and timely, exploration of sentencing alternatives and bail reform, and the creation of a unified family court.
- Support the Minister of Canadian Heritage to restore a modern Court Challenges Program.
- Work with the Ministers of Finance and National Revenue to develop a modernized regulatory and legal framework governing the Charitable and Not-for-Profit sectors.
- Engage all parties in the House of Commons to ensure that the process of appointing Supreme Court Justices is transparent, inclusive and accountable to Canadians. Consultations should be undertaken with all relevant stakeholders and those appointed to the Supreme Court should be functionally bilingual.
- Support the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in his efforts to repeal key elements of Bill C-51, and introduce new legislation that strengthens accountability with respect to national security and better balances collective security with rights and freedoms.
- Support the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in his efforts to repeal key elements of Bill C-42 and implement our commitment to reduce the number of handguns and assault weapons on our streets.
- Implement our platform commitments to toughen criminal laws and bail conditions in cases of domestic assault, in consultation with stakeholders and with the goal of keeping survivors and children safe. You should undertake this work in consultation with the Minister of Status of Women and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
- Work with the President of the Treasury Board to enhance the openness of government, including supporting his review of the Access to Information Act to ensure that Canadians have easier access to their own personal information, that the Information Commissioner is empowered to order government information to be released and that the Act applies appropriately to the Prime Minister’s and Ministers’ Offices, as well as administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts.
- Introduce government legislation to add gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and to the list of distinguishing characteristics of “identifiable group” protected by the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, also has a long mandate to fulfill based on election promises:
- Assist the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons in the creation of a statutory committee of Parliamentarians with special access to classified information to review government departments and agencies with national security responsibilities.
- Work to repeal, in collaboration with the Minister of Justice, the problematic elements of Bill C-51 and introduce new legislation that strengthens accountability with respect to national security and better balances collective security with rights and freedoms.
- Create an Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Coordinator.
- Lead a review of existing measures to protect Canadians and our critical infrastructure from cyber-threats, in collaboration with the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, and the President of the Treasury Board.
- Take action to get handguns and assault weapons off our streets by working with the Minister of Justice to strengthen controls on hand-guns and assault weapons, including by repealing some elements of Bill C-42.
- Enhance compensation benefits for public safety officers who are permanently disabled or killed in the line of duty, including the creation of a compensation benefit for firefighters, police officers, and paramedics.
- Work with provinces and territories and the Minister of Health to develop a coordinated national action plan on post-traumatic stress disorder, which disproportionately affects public safety officers.
- Restore funding to provinces and territories to support Heavy Urban Search and Rescue teams.
- Work with provinces and territories, Indigenous Peoples, and municipalities to develop a comprehensive action plan that allows Canada to better predict, prepare for, and respond to weather-related emergencies and natural disasters.
- Support the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health on efforts that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.
- Work with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to address gaps in services to Indigenous Peoples and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system.
- Take action to ensure that the RCMP and all other parts of your portfolio are workplaces free from harassment and sexual violence.
The CRCVC looks forward to the upcoming work of Parliament to address all of these important issues. We will pay close attention to: the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls; the toughening of criminal laws and bail conditions in cases of domestic assault; sentencing reforms and increased use of restorative justice processes; the use of information technology to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system; the creation of a counter-radicalization office and the work done to ensure the RCMP and all other Public Safety portfolio workplaces are free from harassment and sexual violence.