BY MATTHEW PEARSON, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN DECEMBER 30, 2012 3:00 PM
Sharon Rosenfeldt's speaks to media after serial killer Clifford Olson was denied parole in November 2010 at the Regional Reception Centre in St. Anne des Plaines Quebec. Rosenfeldt's son Dayrn, was one of Olson's victims.
Photograph by: Bryanna Bradley, Postmedia News Files
OTTAWA — The mother of a boy killed by Clifford Olson praised the Conservative government Sunday for announcing new income support for parents who take time off work when their children are murdered or go missing.
Under the new federal program, the parents of children under the age of 18 who die or disappear as the result of a probable criminal offence will get up to $350 per week for up to 35 weeks as long as the applicant earned $6,500 in the previous calendar year or the previous 52 weeks and take leave from their job.
The money would have helped Sharon Rosenfeldt and her husband, Gary. Their son Daryn was missing for a month in the spring of 1981 before his body was located in Coquitlam, B.C. The 16 year old was the notorious killer Olson’s third victim in a series of murders that would eventually include two children and nine youths.
Neither Rosenfeldt nor her husband worked during those dreadful weeks as they were busy distributing pictures of their son and contacting the media for help.
The discovery of his body plunged the family into totally new traumatic terrain at a time when there were no services or supports to help families facing such tragedies.
“We were thrown into a justice system we didn’t understand,” Rosenfeldt said.
The family later moved to Ottawa after founding Victims of Violence, a charity that supports victims and families of violent crime and pressures government to introduce tougher legislation to protect people.
The decades since her son Daryn’s death have brought much progress for victims of crime and the latest announcement — made at the charity’s Centrepointe Drive office — marks another step forward, Rosenfeldt said.
“It’s very heartwarming for me. Each time there’s a step forward in assistance for victims of crime, it is very emotionally healing for me.”
In addition to the income support, the government has also amended the Canada Labour Code to allow for unpaid leave and to protect the jobs of parents whose child is murdered or goes missing.
Kellie Leitch, MP for Simcoe-Grey and the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and the Minister of Labour, called the announcement “an important milestone for the Conservative government.”
Leitch said the holidays can be a difficult time for many people, but this time of year also brings out great compassion on the part of Canadians who give to foodbanks or help an elderly neighbour by shovelling their driveway.
It’s in that spirit that the government will begin to provide this new income support as of Jan. 1, she said. “I genuinely wish this announcement didn’t have to be made.”
The initiative, first announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in April, will cost the government $10 million annually, Leitch said.
The grant is not retroactive, meaning for instance the parents of missing Quebec girls Shannon Alexander and Maisy Odjick are not eligible. The two teenagers were last seen in Maniwaki on Sept. 5, 2008.
The parents of Tori Stafford, whose high profile disappearance and brutal murder captivated the public’s attention in 2009, are also ineligible.
Leitch said she knows the measures can’t reduce the pain of a parent who loses a child, but hopes the assistance will reduce some of the financial burden that often comes with it.
“Losing a child is a deeply traumatic experience and many parents need time away from work to cope and to recover,” she said.
Many parents take time off work to cope with the trauma, take care of other children or to actively search for their missing child, and the loss of income only adds to the pressure.
“Mortgage payments continue, car payments continue, the daily necessity of expenses continue so it would really alleviate a lot of that extra financial pressure that we don’t need so we can just focus on ourselves and our families,” said Yvonne Campbell.
Her daughter Chrissy Predham, who grew up in Ottawa, was murdered in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 2007. The case went to trial in November 2012 and ended in an acquittal, which is now under appeal.
More than 1,100 children go missing for more than a week every year in Canada, while more than 100 are murdered.
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