Victims of crime must not be forgotten

In 1997 a criminal was released on parole only to promptly skip his curfew at a half-way house in Calgary.

As I have stated previously, there is no formal requirement for Members of Parliament to submit reports to citizens nor are there guidelines as to what format or frequency reports to local residents should have.

From my  perspective, the primary reason why I submit reports is to pass on as much information as possible so that in turn I can hear feedback in the form of comments, concerns and questions from the people of Okanagan-Coquihalla.

Although seldom a week will go by without hearing from citizens I have noted that some reports generate far more responses than others.

I am always extremely grateful for the efforts of citizens to pass on comments and questions.

At times these comments sometimes share deeply personal information that may help to better illustrate a citizen’s perspective on a certain area of concern.

Citizens should know that all personal information provided to both an MLA and an MP are protected with the strictest of confidentiality and are not subject to freedom of information laws.

Personal information is never shared without the consent of the individual in question. I raise this so that citizens can have confidence to freely contact their elected officials and share information in a secure manner.

Recently I outlined proposed changes to life sentences to ensure that for extremely serious and disturbing crimes (such as a crime involving heinous acts such as premeditated abduction, rape and murder), a life sentence would mean a life sentence without a formal parole process.

While the majority of the feedback I received was supportive of these proposed changes, some of the opposing criticism was also noteworthy.

One such criticism was the suggestion that parole is largely an infallible process.

As I was reminded this past week long time residents of Summerland will know this is not the case.

Citizens in Summerland will recall that in 1997 a criminal was released on parole only to promptly skip his curfew at a half-way house in Calgary.

Located in Summerland was the ex-spouse of this recently paroled criminal. Like many victims of domestic violence this ex-spouse feared greatly for her safety and had specifically requested to be notified if her ex-spouse was released from prison on parole. No phone call ever arrived from the National Parole Board upon release nor when the curfew was breached at the half way house.

Sadly what did happen was a paroled criminal arrived at a Summerland motel where he located his ex-wife who was with her mother and the couple’s two children. In front of his own two children in cold blood he murdered their mother and grandmother in a truly disturbing act of violence.

These murders occurred while parole had been breached and also in spite of a no contact restraining order.

Further investigation found no evidence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the murder, no evidence of mental health disorders and without remorse, regret or responsibility shown by the murderer.

It should also be pointed out this murderer (under the rules at the time of the sentencing) is potentially eligible for parole in two years.

While these instances may be relatively rare, this is one of several tragedies I have encountered in Okanagan-Coquihalla.

While the circumstances may differ what remains constant is that all too often the victims are forgotten.

Out of respect for the now adult children I have refrained from using names in this particular case however we should not overlook that victims have rights and they should never be forgotten nor placed behind the rights of criminals.

I welcome your comments and questions on this or any matter before the House of Commons and can be reached at dan.albas@parl.gc.ca or 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the MP for Okanagan Coquihalla.