David Sweet Column: Helping victims find peace

July 25, 2016

Submitted to the Flamborough Review
July 25, 2016

As I have done many summers over the past seven years, I attended a Parole Board of Canada (PBC) hearing at the federal correctional facility at Gravenhurst, Ontario last week. As in previous years, it was in support of constituents who have lived the pain of a triple murder 40 years ago on a continual basis.

Specifically, this was the case Jon Rallo — who murdered his wife Sandra and their 6-year old son and 5-year old daughter on Hamilton Mountain in 1976. I accompanied Sandra’s sister and her husband, prominent citizens of Ancaster, in 2009 for the first time and have every occasion since. They had called me as their federal Member of Parliament, representing the level of government responsible for the PBC, to ask why the parole board system re-victimized them so unjustly. To understand more fully, I asked if I could join them to see first hand.

Under similar circumstances, I also attended the parole hearing of the murderer of Glanbrook’s Donna and Arnold Edwards in 1991.

In both cases, it’s hard to put into words the anguish that the families endured as they fulfilled their moral duty to their beloved deceased, and legal obligation, to read a victim impact statement at each hearing.

Moved by witnessing these cases first hand and the cases raised by other constituents as well, I consulted with the federal Victims’ Ombudsman, police, lawyers, victims’ rights groups and a spectrum of other stakeholders to craft the Fairness for Victims of Violent Offenders Act – my first Private Member’s Bill which received all-party support to become law in 2015.

As a result of this legislation, and the advance age of the convicted, we pray that there may not be many more hearings for the family to attend.

As the Liberal government considers turning back many of the tough on crime policies of our previous Conservative government. I trust that they won’t turn back the clock on victims and their families – they have fought hard for fairness and we cannot allow it to be taken away.

On a more positive note, congratulations to Waterdown Rotary who partnered with the City of Hamilton to open the Skating Loop at Memorial Park. It was a pleasure to attend the grand opening on July 9th and looking forward to returning for a winter skate as well. Thanks to Councillor Partridge for hosting the celebration.