Donna Irwin, the sister of a Penticton woman killed by her common-law husband, said families need to continue to push for changes to victims rights.
Lynn Kalmring was brutally murdered in the summer of 2011 when her common-law husband, and former RCMP officer, Keith Wiens shot her in the face with a handgun in their Penticton home. He was sentenced to life for second-degree murder and has to serve 13 years in prison before he can apply for parole. Irwin, is one of many family members left behind to stand up for her dead sister’s rights.
Irwin believes there is still more work to be done, despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper announcing the introduction of legislation to create a Canadian Victims Bill of Rights last week.
“We are starting to finally have a voice and we never had one. There is still a long way to go though,” Irwin said. “It is a big first step and we have to keep up the pressure. I just don’t want to be a victim anymore, I want to have a voice and help others. Something good has to come out of tragedies like this.”
Irwin and the rest of Kalmring’s family have been fighting for justice and changes to the court system ever since she was killed.
They collected signatures soliciting changes to victims rights and the bail proceedings system after Wiens was granted bail just a few weeks after being arrested. He eventually was put back behind bars for allegedly breaching his conditions. That matter is still before the courts.
Their petition, Lynn’s Law, appeals for new restrictions on bail for violent crimes and other changes. It was read in the House of Commons by Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas in December of 2012.
Their requests were not included in the latest proposed bill.
The federal government held consultations over the past year during which victims of crime shared stories of their interactions with the criminal justice system. The proposed legislation would create statutory rights for victims of crime, including a right to information about programs available to them, progress on the case relating to the investigation, prosecution and sentencing.
“You are sort of left alone and you don’t know how this is going to happen,” said Irwin, adding her family was lucky to have such supportive victims’ services workers and Crown counsel. “If we have more rights, people won’t feel so alone when they have to go through something as horrific as this.”
In the proposed bill, victims would also have the right to convey their views about decisions made by criminal justice professionals throughout the process and present a victim impact statement among other things. Irwin said her family was not allowed to read their victim impact statements at the sentencing. She still isn’t sure why.
“That was taken away from us and they never really said why. We had them ready and we wanted to, it was going to be part of us talking to him. It would have given us a voice,” said Irwin.
According to the prime minister, participants in the year-long consultations expressed a desire for victims of crime to be kept better informed and involved at every stage of the justice process and called for an increased understanding of the needs of victims.
“Our government wants victims of crime across this country to know that we have listened to their concerns and that we are squarely on their side. Victims will have enforceable rights in Canada’s criminal justice system, will be treated with the respect and fairness that they deserve and will have a strong voice,” said Harper.