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Taylor calls on government to offer relief to families
of unsolved murder victims
May 28th 2009
Edmonton – Alberta Liberal MLA Dave Taylor believes
the government has an opportunity to make a significant symbolic
gesture to support the immediate families of unsolved murder
victims, in the form of a modest annual payment to these families
through the Victims of Crime fund.
“I propose that the province make a commitment to the
families of Alberta’s unsolved murder victims, providing
a small but symbolic memorial gift every year until each case
is solved,” Taylor says. “The Victims Restitution
and Compensation Payment Amendment Act gives us the capacity
to act, and the Victims of Crime Fund has sufficient existing
resources to make this gesture a real possibility.”
Taylor was joined in the Legislature today by Steffi Stehwien,
whose son Aaron Shoulders was murdered in 2003, and Donna
Eaton, the mother of Brooke Clapson, murdered in 2000. Brooke’s
murder was solved; Aaron’s remains unsolved.
“Donna and Steffi are still suffering the loss of their
children,” Taylor says. “Steffi has an additional
burden – she can never have closure until – and
if – Aaron’s murder is solved. I believe a modest
annual payment to families like Steffi’s will not only
help mourning families deal with the everyday repercussions
of their grief, but also serve as a reminder for all of us
that many murder cases remain unsolved in Alberta today.”
Taylor also had words of support for Eaton, who is concerned
by the day passes granted to her daughter’s convicted
killer last year.
“Less than a decade has gone by since Brooke was murdered,
yet a man given a life sentence gets to roam around, even
if for a limited time?” Taylor says. “Donna’s
outrage is justified.”
Introduction of Guests
Mr. Taylor: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
I have two guests to introduce today. It’s my pleasure
to introduce a constituent of mine, Steffi Stehwien, and a
friend and colleague of hers, Donna Eaton, who are guests
in the public gallery today. Steffi is the mother of Aaron
Shoulders, who was murdered in 2003 and whose murder remains
unsolved in Calgary. Donna Eaton is the mother of another
murder victim, Brooke Clapson. Brook’s killer was caught,
convicted, and sent to prison in 2000 and granted escorted
day passes in 2008. I’ll be talking about this some
more in my private member’s statement later on this
afternoon. For now I would ask my guests to rise, please,
and accept the warm welcome of the House.
Mr. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Martha
and I are delighted to have our daughter, Jenn, back home
for the summer after she spent this past school year studying
in England, and I’m really looking forward to getting
out to Victoria in a little over a week to spend a couple
of days with our son, Scott, who decided that after three
school years on the coast it was time for him to spend a summer
there to fully appreciate living next to an ocean, big bodies
of water being rather hard to find in his hometown of Calgary.
Our children are adults now and spend more of their lives
under their own roofs than under ours, which is as it should
be, but it doesn’t change the fact that we miss them
and look forward to the times we do have to spend together.
Mr. Speaker, I do not want to imagine what it would be like
not to be able to see them ever again, and I cannot imagine
how much greater the pain of losing a child would be if that
child had been murdered and, years later, the murder remained
I understand that sometimes police cannot solve the case
or that even when they’re pretty sure they know who
did it, they can’t accumulate enough evidence to get
a conviction. I understand that no unsolved murder case is
ever closed but that they can go cold, that the file gets
put away on a shelf pending the discovery of new evidence
someday. The detectives move onto other cases they can solve,
and, Mr. Speaker, the rest of the world moves on as well.
But the case never does get cold and the pain never does go
away for the unsolved murder victim’s loved ones, and
they need to know – we need to tell them – that
we haven’t forgotten them. Mr. Speaker, we have the
capacity under the Victims Restitution and Compensation Payment
Act and the resources within the victims of crime fund, and
I propose that the province make a commitment to the families
of the unsolved murder victims to make a modest annual payment
to them from a memorial fund every year until their case is
solved. It’s not meant to be a compensatory payout for
their loss but a symbolic gesture to remind people like Steffi
Stehwien that we haven’t forgotten about her murdered
son, Aaron, anymore than she has, that we share her pain,
and to remind us of our duty to support the police in their
efforts to solve these difficult crimes. Thank you, Mr. Speaker
Victims Restitution and Compensation
Mr. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last
fall this Assembly passed the Victims Restitution and Compensation
Payment Act, which allowed for the seizure and sale of property
obtained during the commission of a criminal offence and the
distribution of these proceeds to victims of crime. Often
the most profoundly affected, whose health, safety, and livelihood
are compromised possibly forever, are the loved ones of unsolved
murder victims. To the Premier: seeing that homicide investigations
often do hit dead ends and may go unsolved for years, will
you create a memorial fund under the Victims Restitution and
Compensation Payment Act to provide a modest symbolic annual
payment to families who are suffering through this experience?
Mr. Stelmach: I’ll take the suggestion
Mr. Taylor: Thank you to the Premier, and
thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the Premier again. Awards from
the victims of crime fund to families who have lost a loved
one because of a homicide are only available as a one-time,
lump-sum benefit. I would ask that he would consider changing
this restriction to allow family members to access a modest
portion of the fund’s $50 million surplus as an annual
Mr. Stelmach: Once again, I believe he’s
giving some suggestions to the minister who’s responsible.
I’ll take it under advisement.
Mr. Taylor: Thank you again, Mr. Speaker.
Thank you again to the Premier.
This time to the Minister of Justice, if I may: can the
minister provide – and if she doesn’t have these
numbers right at her fingertips, I would appreciate a written
answer when she has the opportunity – the exact dollar
value of all property seized to date under the Victims Restitution
and Compensation Payment Act and the total amount made available
to Albertans so far who have been victimized by crime?
Ms Redford: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The
hon. member is right; I don’t have that information.
But I will provide that to you.