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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.

Members’ Statement

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 unsolved.

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 under advisement.

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 award.

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.


"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Aaron's Story