‘It’s not something that we get over’: Loved ones of violent crime victims gather on Parliament Hill to push for change

“People that don’t want to be involved are the people that we need involved.”

Author of the article:

Taylor Blewett

Publishing date:

Sep 25, 2021  •  5 days ago  •  3 minute read  •  7 Comments

Rodney Stafford, father of  murdered eight-year-old Tori Stafford, addresses the Protest For Change — Life Means Life rally on on Parliament Hill on Saturday.
Rodney Stafford, father of murdered eight-year-old Tori Stafford, addresses the Protest For Change — Life Means Life rally on on Parliament Hill on Saturday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

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Rodney Stafford thinks it could be the grief that prevents some people from coming out to events like Saturday’s.

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Every day, Canadians fume online over some failing of the criminal justice system. But, at a Parliament Hill protest Saturday, it was largely those who had suffered directly that showed up to push the powers-that-be to do more to prevent violent crimes and to better serve those victimized.

“These are all extreme cases. They’re all high-profile murder cases. And a lot of people just can’t handle it,” said Stafford, whose eight-year-old daughter, Tori, was abducted while walking home from school in Woodstock, Ont., sexually assaulted and murdered in 2009. The case returned to the headlines in 2018, when one of Tori’s convicted killers was moved from a medium-security prison to a healing lodge.

“People that don’t want to be involved are the people that we need involved,” Stafford said Saturday, before the protest. “The ones it hasn’t hit yet.”

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Torie Daniels was among those who spoke to the crowd of several dozen, sharing some of the trauma that preceded and followed the death of her aunt, Holly Hamilton. With just two years’ age difference between them, said Daniels, who lives in Ottawa, she and Hamilton were more like sisters.

It’s approaching four years since Hamilton, a single mom, was found dead in the trunk of her car and her ex-boyfriend, the father of her then-four-year-old daughter, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The judicial process is an open wound for Hamilton’s family, with a mistrial declared in January 2020, and a new trial date has been set for November.

Police have alleged that a history of domestic violence proceeded Hamilton’s death, and Daniels told this newspaper a majority priority for her was more help for people facing such violence.

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“So, for someone like Holly, who wanted to flee her city,” Daniels said, that would look like access to emergency funding, transportation, and shelter so they could get out before a worst-case scenario comes to pass.

She also believes it’s crucial to ensure that domestic-violence victims are contacted directly about the release of a perpetrator from prison or the end of a restraining order.

Torie Daniels, right, is comforted by family members after speaking about the death of her aunt, Holly Hamilton. Hamilton’s ex-boyfriend was charged with second-degree murder, but a mistrial was declared in January 2020.
Torie Daniels, right, is comforted by family members after speaking about the death of her aunt, Holly Hamilton. Hamilton’s ex-boyfriend was charged with second-degree murder, but a mistrial was declared in January 2020. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

“I am a victim of terrorism, but many victims are terrorized,” said speaker Maureen Basnicki, whose husband Ken was on the 106th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Centre in New York when the 9/11 terrorists crashed a hijacked plane into the building. She doesn’t know whether he jumped, or died inside.

Basnicki called for better support systems for those who’ve lost lived ones to violent crime — “It’s not something that we get over; in fact there’s times when we really need more psychological help than ever because we have to face many triggers,” she said — and  a parliamentary review of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.

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“We need political will, and we need a political advocate, I believe, to put this forward.”

On July 23, the sixth anniversary of the bill’s coming into force, the federal ombudsman for victims of crime released a statement calling statutory review of the legislation “overdue” and reiterating the findings of her office’s 2020 progress report on the bill.

Its implementation has been “sporadic and inconsistent,” Heidi Illingworth wrote, including the absence of a “major effort to systematically inform citizens of their rights,” to assign clear roles and responsibilities to criminal justice personnel when it comes to the delivery of victims’ rights and to collect and publish data on victims in a consistent manner nation-wide.

“The result for victims is that no one is accountable when their rights are infringed and the justice system falls far short of delivering on the promised rights,” Illingworth said.

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