Families of fallen call for action
Justice reform demanded at memorial honouring four Mounties, other peace officers
The Edmonton Journal
Monday, September 26, 2005
EDMONTON — The widow of one of four Mounties slain last March near Mayerthorpe called Sunday for changes to the criminal justice system "to prevent similar tragic events."
If Ottawa doesn't make changes, Kim Gordon said justice reform could become an issue in the next federal election. She added that the Mounties' families won't stop pushing until they see some action.
The young widow and mother of two young sons, Spencer, 3, and Anthony, 13 weeks, also asked Ottawa to acknowledge the country has a problem with drug control, specifically marijuana.
Her husband, Anthony, along with fellow constables Peter Schiemann, Brock Myrol and Leo Johnston, were gunned down by known cop-hater James Roszko, who ambushed them as they guarded a marijuana grow operation and some stolen auto parts found inside a Quonset hut on his farm.
Gordon, who wore her husband's gold wedding band on a chain around her neck that also held a diamond heart — his gift to her on their first wedding anniversary — spoke to reporters after the seventh annual Alberta Police and Peace Officers' Memorial Day, which commemorates those killed in the line of duty.
About 1,000 people — 400 uniformed officers and many of their family and friends — gathered on the south lawn of the Alberta legislature under the blue skies of a beautiful fall day to honour 90 officers killed since 1876. Added to the honour roll were the names of the four Mounties and Wetaskiwin RCMP Const. Jose Agostinho, who died in July when a truck rammed his cruiser as he sat on the side of the Queen Elizabeth II Highway investigating an earlier crash.
"I chose today, being as it's kind of the last memorial (to recognize the slain officers)," Gordon said. "Our family needed to grieve first, now we want to take some more action."
Brock Myrol's father, Keith, also spoke to reporters and issued a public challenge to every judge and parole board in Canada "to do what they've been appointed to do. Simply, remove dangerous, violent people from society.
"A child is kidnapped and raped. What else does this vicious animal have to do to a child to get the maximum? Does he have to kidnap and rape her twice? I believe justice involves recognizing the loss, assessing future risk and administering a penalty that is equal to the severity of the crime," Myrol said, reading from a prepared statement.
He cited the recent case of Yvonne Johnston, who was convicted and sentenced to life without parole for 25 years for violently torturing and killing Leonard Skwarok because she thought he was a child molester. Last Friday, an Edmonton jury granted her the right to apply for early parole after serving only 12 years.
Alberta Solicitor General Harvey Cenaiko, who spoke at the memorial day ceremony, later addressed reporters after Gordon and Myrol, telling them later that he supports "100 per cent" the families of the four slain Mounties and their search for justice reform.
He said he spoke to Deputy Prime Minister and Anne McLellan two weeks ago about "some of those issues that we see with individuals being released from our prisons early, some of the sentences that we've seen ... and she is going to take that message back to Justice Minister (Irwin) Cotler."
Cenaiko, a former police officer, said it's the job of provincial politicians to look at issues of concern to the public and to try to encourage their federal counterparts to look at them too.
"It seems Ottawa doesn't care, Ottawa doesn't move," he said. "I'm not sure if it's a fact that they're not providing opportunities for our federal justices to look at how society has changed, to look at the dangers involved," he said.
Alberta Justice Minster Ron Stevens shares his concerns, Cenaiko said, and both men will be stressing some of these issues with their counterparts from across the country during federal-provincial meetings in Yellowknife in early November.
On a policing level, the solicitor general said the policing community is looking to integrate more services to share their resources in their fight against crime.
"This has been done on a small scale in the past, but now we're looking at over 150 police officers from various police forces integrating and working together on such serious issues as serious crime and organized crime in Alberta," he said. "I think we're on the right track."
At the ceremony, Lt.-Gov. Norman Kwong offered thanks, respect and love on behalf of the people of Alberta to the officers who made the ultimate sacrifice while keeping the province safe.
"Our fallen officers may be gone," he said, choking back emotion, "but their memories will live on forever in our hearts."
SHINE A LIGHT FOR JUSTICE
The families of four Mounties slain by James Roszko are calling on Canadians to help them enlighten politicians, judges and the parole board that the justice system is not working and needs to be fixed. They're asking everyone to turn on a porch light or a balcony light from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 3. If people aren't home, they should honk their car horns wherever they are at 8 p.m. that day, Keith Myrol, father of Brock Myrol told reporters Sunday, after a ceremony honouring Alberta police and peace officers killed in the line of duty.
"We are tired of violent, horrible crimes being treated like they don't matter," Myrol said. "They do matter. The safety of our families and their futures are at stake here."
© The Edmonton Journal 2005
The Edmonton Journal