Canada wide support is needed for Bail Reform. We can’t leave it to one victim to seek justice.
Bail Reform Update – June 15, 2013 HEATHER STEWART'S PETITION FOR BAIL REFORM
URGENT MESSAGE TO OUR READERS Please refer to our posting of July 17, 2011
Dear web-site followers and new viewers:
In November of 2010, Heather Stewart accompanied by her daughter Amanda and members of both Sisters in Solidarity and Remember our Sisters Everywhere attended in Ottawa and met with MP Joe Comartin who was at the time the NDP Justice Critic.
Mr. Comartin was very committed on the need for Bail Reform to go forward and save women’s lives. He was sincere and compassionate upon learning that Heather Stewarts mother, Helen Slichta was senselessly murdered by Horace Weekes while attempting to save her from his savage attack. Ms. Stewart lost an eye and needed several reconstructive facial surgeries.
Since Mr. Comartin’s reassignment in the House of Commons, the Private Members Bill for Bail Reform has been in limbo.
A letter written on May 06, 2013 to the Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada (see attached) has not even had a reply.
It is our understanding that NDP, MP Niki Ashton and/or her staff have also been unable to get a response from the Minister indicating if his Conservative party is prepared to take the initiative to save women’s live and address the high rate of recidivism in bails specific to domestic violence.
We feel sufficient time has elapsed and that we need to put more pressure on the Federal government and it representatives to take a more pro-active approach where women and children have died at the hands of an abusive spouse or ex-partner.
If you agree, we are asking that you forward us your comments and support. We urge victims to tell us of their experiences. Their identity will be protected by providing pseudonyms or initials. We need our / your voices heard and we will take your voice to Ottawa with a clear and loud message that our bail system has serious flaws and women are being permanently mailed and killed because of a lenient court system.
BARBARA MILLS ENTERPRISES (1999)
Domestic Violence Advocate – Consultant –Trauma Counsellor - Lecturer
Founder of Sisters in Solidarity (A non-profit self-help & support group) for victims of partner violence. ♀ www.sisters-in-solidarity.com.
May 06, 2013 Via fax: 1-613-954-0811
The Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington St. Ottawa, ON
Re: Private Members Bill on Bail Reform URGENT
I am corresponding with you at the request of NDP, MP Niki Ashton and on behalf of Heather Stewart as I act as her advocate and liaison on the above referenced matter.
When speaking with Ms. Ashton on May 02, she indicated she had already written and/or spoken to you on this subject. She also suggested to me that she would contact you directly this week for a further discussion.
It is my understanding that by virtue of office you have the authority to enact into law changes to the Criminal Code of Canada. Thus the premise for this correspondence.
I am respectfully asking you to dialogue with Ms. Ashton in an effort to avoid the lengthily process of bringing an already scripted Private Members Bill forward. The other alternative would be for Ms. Stewart to once again reach out to the media to show the urgent need for Bail Reform in high risk situations where the propensity to re-offend is established.
The following is the basis for Ms. Stewart seeking the amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada.
On May 29th, 2009, in Mississauga ON, Horace Weekes, while on his third bail for domestic assaults upon Ms. Stewart broke into her home and hid in a closet. In the early hours of May 30th, 2009, while Ms. Stewart, her daughter Amanda and her mother Helen Slichta slept, he carried out his vengeance and attacked all three women. Ms. Stewart was his primary target. Amanda was the first to be attacked, her screams brought Heather and her mother Helen to her rescue. Mr. Weekes savagely struck Heather with a hammer which subsequently left her to lose one eye and require major reconstructive facial surgery. Her mother was slain by Mr. Weekes. He has been convicted of 2nd degree murder and sentenced to life without parole for twenty years. To this day, Heather Stewart suffers physical and emotional pain and has to adjust to being partially blind. Her belief is that although Mr. Weekes was sentenced to life and will eventually get parole, she is the one who actually got the life-to-death sentence and is reminded of it each and every time she looks into a mirror. Her main focus now, is to address the flaws in the judicial system where there is a high rate of recidivism of breaches of bail recognizance particularly in cases of domestic violence.
In the fall of 2010, Ms. Stewart accompanied by myself and representatives of Sisters in Solidarity and Remember our Sisters Everywhere attended a meeting with Mr. Comartin who at the time was the NDP Justice Critic.
At that time Ms. Stewart presented Mr. Comartin with a petition with several hundred names on it supporting her initiative. At that meeting Mr. Comartin pledged his support and that of his staff.
Mr. Comartin showed compassion and understanding of Ms. Stewart’s current physical condition and her physical and emotional pain. He offered her his assistance and support along with his sincere condolences on the loss of her mother.
Subsequently, Mr. Comartin presented the petition to the floor of the House of Commons. During that time and until Mr. Comartin assumed the responsibility of Deputy Speaker, his Executive Assistant Geoff Hall was excellent in keeping me apprised of the progress and both were eager to bring it forth in a timely manner.
At the time Mr. Comartin took on his new responsibilities of Deputy Speaker, the PMB had been drafted and reviewed by legal counsel to ensure it could withstand challenges of the opposition.
It was also my understanding that the late Jack Layton was aware of the PMB and gave it his support. As I had the privilege of being assisted by both Jack Layton and Olivia Chow on two projects within Toronto to assist victims of domestic violence, I felt secure in the knowledge this PMB would be handled with efficiency and be treated as a priority and that it would get the full support of all parties.
Herein lies the crux of my correspondence. Ms. Ashton is not high on the list to bring a PMB forward in an expedient manner. In an effort to avoid further delays of seeking others within the party to take on the responsibility, we are turning to you for assistance.
You may not be aware, but as recently as January 19th, 2013, Bridget Takyi, aged 27 of Toronto was brutally killed and set afire by her estranged boyfriend who had been previously charged for an assault against her and was under house arrest. Ms. Takyi leaves behind two small children to be raised by family members.
This leaves Ms. Stewart, myself and her supporters along with victims from coast to coast with the presumption that violence against women, leading to senseless and preventable deaths are of no to little importance to the our representatives in Ottawa.
Deaths such as those of Helen Slichta, Bridget Takyi and hundreds if not thousands Canada wide have occurred while the accused was on bail. A cursory review of my website under Memorials will provide you a sampling of how many women have died for no apparent reason other than they are the targets of vengeful spouses and boyfriends. We have no idea of how many children were left without mothers and how they have coped. Far too many women and children have died while they thought they were safe because their tormentor had bail restrictions of no contact.
On February 5th, 2013, the National Film Board released a documentary titled Status Quo? I was privileged to participate in this well researched documentary that poignantly points out that the Canadian Federal government is not addressing violence against women issues. To the best of my knowledge there was no mention of women in the Conservative Crime Bill. This documentary has already won one award.
Ms. Stewart is imploring you to involve yourself and your Ministry and take a pro-active role in legislating Bail Reform without further delay.
I have been working with abused women and being directly involved with the court system for over twenty-five years. I can attest that when a Judge orders bail, they are not under the false illusion that the ‘alleged’ perpetrator will abide by the conditions. The same holds true for the Crown, the defense attorney or the accused. The only person who leaves the court with a false sense of security is the victim.
The onus is then once again put on the victim to disclose / report breaches and go through the process again. These women leave the courts more cynical of the power of the courts to keep them safe by allowing ongoing bails while their abusers continue to taunt them and the judicial system.
They live in fear, every hour of every day and are subjected to what we deem relationship terrorism.
Regardless of all their attempts to keep themselves from harm, many have predicted thrown own deaths such as Arlene Mays and Valerie Lucas. Sadly, these women become another forgotten homicide statistic being left to be remembered and mourned by family and friends while their children become orphans, separated and raised by others.
Ms. Stewart is determined her mother’s senseless death will not be forgotten.
Women can no longer live under the false sense of security that bail conditions will keep them safe when most have been threatened by death.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. I am available to provide you any further information you require and will accommodate your work schedule.
c.c. Niki Ashton, MP Barbara Kay (National Post) Remember our Sister’s Everywhere Sisters-in-Solidarity Heather Stewart