One of many things I have learned in my time as a Member of Parliament is that when it comes to serious acts of senseless violence and the traumatic loss of loved ones is that while media attention is often very intense when these acts occur, they are more often than not short lived. Family and friends left behind from these brutal acts of violence never forget and even decades later are still impacted in ways that forever change their lives. In 1982 a disturbing act of violence took the lives of a loving family of six while on a camping trip in Wells Gray provincial Park. The shock of losing a local family including two young girls devastating many in the community of Westbank. Friends, co-workers and classmates to this very day are still reminded of this tragedy as every two years they are forced to re-live their loss and this horrific event.
Why do I say they are forced? The individual responsible for taking the lives of this family: David Shearing (who has since changed his name to David Ennis), is due for yet another legislated review that could potentially lead to being paroled. For the family and friends left behind, this means another trip they must finance to travel a significant distance in order to appear at the review.
I believe we should all take a moment to reflect on this situation. September is a time of year when children and families are getting ready for a new school year. It should not be a time when families and friends are forced to travel a significant distance at great expense solely to relive a life-altering tragedy and face the individual who forever destroyed their families and friendships. The fact that the victims are forced to continually make this journey and relive this horror every few years is in my view unthinkable. It seldom makes the news these days but when I hear from the victims, friends and classmates this is a situation that continues to cause great pain and suffering for all of them. Many live in fear to this day in the event that parole is ever granted. As I shared in the House of Commons in June of last year, it should not have to be this way. No family should be forced to endure reliving such a horrific tragedy over and over at parole hearings. Many citizens I have heard from in Westbank/West Kelowna agree and currently a petition and other advocacy campaigns are underway to help gain support to take action in this situation.
I support the citizens of Westbank in these efforts and that is why I am also supporting Private Members Bill C-587 from Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes. Bill C-587 (formerly Bill C-478 from Selkirk-Interlake MP James Bezan) “Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons Act”. Bill C-587 is a very specific bill that is intended to impact only those individuals convicted of very serious criminal acts involving abduction, sexual assault and ultimately murder. Bill C-587 does not propose to alter the period of time a criminal convicted of these combined acts would spend in jail. What Bill C-587 does propose is to offer a judge the added discretionary ability of increasing the period of parole ineligibility from the current 25 year maximum up to a maximum of 40 years. The intent of this bill is solely to spare family’s and victims the trauma of having to appear at a parole hearing every two years as is currently the case for those in West Kelowna appearing at the Alberta located hearing for David Ennis. This Bill, if passed, would have also been of benefit to families who lost loved ones from other convicted murderers such as Clifford Olson (now deceased) Paul Bernardo, David James Dobson and others. This Bill is currently awaiting second reading debate. If you would like further information on this or any bill before the House of Commons please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.