Woman whose brother slain says victims need better emotional support

By , on October 9, 2014


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SASKATOON—A woman whose brother was slain says more money for victims of violent crime is fine, but what they really need is better support.

Some of the recent changes to the Victims Compensation Program include funding counselling services for homicide witnesses and children who witness domestic violence.

But Melanie Holdner tells radio station CKOM she believes there is a lack of services specific to helping relatives of homicide victims.

She says when her brother, 25-year-old A.J., was found dead inside his broken-down pickup truck a year ago, her family wasn’t able to receive the counselling they needed in the immediate aftermath.

She says most of the assistance from victim services focuses on the court process rather than offering emotional support.

Two people have been charged with first-degree murder in her brother’s death and the case is still before the courts.

“When you’re dealing with something like this, there are times where you have to have someone to talk to right away,” she says.

Although there are grief workshops and support groups for dealing with loss, Holder says there were no counselling services in Saskatoon that dealt with homicide.

“When it comes to murder, it’s not that the person is gone and you have to deal with it. It’s the whole court process and you have to try and deal with what happens afterwards and the media,” she says.

“Having someone who has been murdered kind of adds a whole other dimension so that, in an essence, it prevents you from dealing with your grief right away because there’s so many other things that you have to deal with.”

But even if counselling were available, Holdner says she and her parents would not be eligible for compensation because A.J. was over 18 years old, although he was still a dependent.

Pat Thiele, of the government’s community justice divisions, says parents and siblings of homicide victims who are under 18 years old can receive compensation for counselling services, but for adult victims there is only coverage for their spouses and children.

“In terms of broadening the definition of secondary victims, we’ve had some interest from families over the years, and it’s something that we may consider for future amendments to the act down the road,” Thiele says.

Holdner has since moved to Winnipeg, where she receives support through the Manitoba Organization for Victim Assistance.

Counselling is geared specifically towards victims of violent crime, and Holdner says the group brings in prosecutors and homicide detectives who speak with victims and their families.

The provincial government recently announced that certain victims are now eligible for up to $100,000 in compensation for any one incident that occurred on or after Oct. 1, increased from $25,000.