Mr. Speaker, I wholeheartedly support my colleague's initiative about life means life sentencing. I would like to share with my colleagues why I support the life means life act.
I would like to read a victim impact statement of a friend of mine regarding the 2011 murder of my lifelong and childhood friend's sister, friends who I consider family. My friend Paula has not yet read her victim impact statement at sentencing, but will do so. She asked me to share this with the House. She states:
Dana Jane Turner has been my little sister since October 28, 1979. I have 4 other sisters and two brothers. I am the oldest of the 8 children and Dana is my second sibling. Paula, Leah, Dana, Brendan, Jessica, Russell, Cara and Sarah.
From the moment that Dana was missing I felt sick to my stomach. I had an all consuming feeling Dana was cold and outside and I had no idea where to look for her. My friends, family and I immediately started hanging missing persons’ posters around Alberta and we all prayed for her safe return. I quickly became the liaison between the RCMP and my family relaying updates back and forth on a very regular basis. I made two appearances on the news hoping that someone would know something about where Dana was and that she would be brought home. I remember the morning in October when the RCMP called me at work to let me know they wanted to meet me face to face. I knew that I was going to be served the most terrible news of my life and that I would have to share this news with my Dad and family in Newfoundland. I wanted one more day to pretend that Dana was still alive, that life would go back to normal and we would not be here today. That was not the case.
To articulate the impact Dana’s murder has had on my life is very overwhelming and almost impossible to put into words. I have written this statement over and over in my head for more than 4 years but have never been able to commit it to paper as the impacts are gut wrenchingly painful, constant and ever-changing. The emotional and physical impacts of losing my sister in this tragic manner has forced me to live a life I did not choose and I have become a person at times I don’t even recognize as myself. I find it impossible to say that even one part of my life has not changed since Dana’s murder.
Dana’s death has left me often depressed, anxious, suspicious, scared and angry. Dana’s murder required me doing things that I would never wish on anyone. I, along with the help of my parents and siblings had to go through Dana’s belongings item by item, box by box, sorting through her clothes, baby memorabilia, mail, and personal belongings all of which made me feel like I was stealing and violating her privacy. I had to decide what items to keep for her children when they got older, and sold the rest at a garage sale almost giving it away like everything she had worked for her whole life was suddenly garbage. I made phone calls to and met with Dana’s pastor and helped arrange her memorial. I had to print large photos of her to place on a table at the front of the church as there wasn’t a body to put in a casket as her “remains” stayed with the medical examiner as evidence....About a year later, when Dana’s remains were released to our family and we were able to have a funeral for my sister. I will always be haunted by the image of my father falling to the ground at her casket in a small room at the funeral home and there wasn’t anything I could do to comfort him. I wanted to hold Dana’s hand and say good-bye but when I felt in Dana’s casket for her hand I wasn’t able to find it in the vacuum sealed bag of bones that was placed under a satin sheet where an inflated pillow was where her head would have been.
Dana and I had a very close relationship. Most of my early childhood memories include Dana. As teens and young adults we enjoyed live music, singing in the car or just evenings in doing a puzzle. I was there when Dana had her first son Ethan, and was with Ethan making a pumpkin pie with blue whipping cream to bring to the hospital after Dana gave birth to her second son. Dana and I worked together for about 8 years just cubicles apart...Along with spending countless lunch hours and coffee breaks together we spent many evenings together with her children or I would take the boys for her to give her a much earned break. Dana was a single mother to 3 young boys and I often referred to her as my hero. I miss Dana every single second of every single day but I missed her the most for me when I was planning my wedding....I tied little ornamental angel wings around the stems of our bouquets and pretended she was with us....She was not able to stand up for me, dance with us, or toast my marriage....
After Dana’s murder and after finding Dana’s last will and testament I chose to fulfill her final wishes and raise her youngest two sons. Dana’s oldest son will no longer grow up with his younger brothers. He is now living in New Brunswick with his father, step-mother and little sister.
Although I made the decision to parent the younger boys quickly, it was not one that I took lightly. I had to appear before a judge and ask for parental rights for two amazing and strong little boys. Without parental rights I was not able to do simple things like take the boys to the doctor, enrol them in school or counselling. I was not able to grieve the death of my sister as I had to engage in my new role. I had to do things most sisters would never have to do while grieving. I had to pack up my whole life into boxes, move across the country, take a year off work, try to manage Dana's estate, and learn to be a single parent to two all at the same time. I had to rely on my family for support at age 35 like I [have] never had [to do] before in my adult life. Dana's youngest son, only 2 at the time of her murder and clung to me like a koala bear for the first year we were together...[never] letting me out of his sight. Dana's middle son, 4 at the time was anxiously waiting for his Mom Dana to come home and was very confused as to why I was in his life as much as I was. I love being a mother to Dana's sons but there are many challenges with raising your murdered sisters' children that most mother's don't have to face. These little boys have questions that little boys should never have to ask like, “Where is my Mom?”, “Why did my Mom die?”, and “Why can we take a plane to Newfoundland to see Poppy but we can't take a plane to Heaven to see our Mom Dana?”. Simple school projects like filling in a family tree become confusing for the boys and often leave them sad. I do my best to share with them memories of their Mom Dana but this usually ends with me trying my best to hold back [my] tears. I tell them she is always with them and they can see her in the sky. I let them know if they ever need her in the day that they can find her near the sun and if they need her at night she is watching over them with the moon. I will forever be saddened that they will never remember her touch, a lullaby she sang to them or her infectious laugh. The boys and I have placed many angels around the house and yard to remind us of their Mom Dana. I overheard a conversation the boys had while looking at the angel lawn ornaments in Walmart, trying to decide which one is their Mom Dana. I have taken the younger boys to visit Dana's gravesite many times. This past Christmas break I took her oldest son Ethan who was guided by his younger brothers directly to her tombstone. I stayed near the car trying not to cry and so proud of how strong they all are. My heart aches that she has missed out on so many wonderful milestones of their lives already and so many more to follow. I am doing my best to raise good boys that will grow up to be good men.
Because of Dana's murder I will also mourn the loss of my own identity. I was once an independent, carefree soul with a love for adventure. I had very close friends that I used to enjoy spending time with for many years. I no longer contact them as much as I used to, they all know I have changed as a person, and now that I am a parent I have even less in common with many of them than I did before. I often used to seek out social events and coordinate plans, activities or vacations before Dana died and now I struggle to even keep in touch. My friends will never see the fun and free-spirited person I used to be as that Paula no longer exists.
I do not know if that is true.
I feel isolated and lonely with my grief. I have found some solace in others that have lost a sibling or a loved one to homicide. Some days I am seeking support and some days I am strong enough to provide it. There are no words to explain how one feels after losing a sibling to murder. I have actively attended counselling since Dana was missing, not only for myself, but with my boys and my family. The boys will continue to have harder questions and I will do my best to have the age appropriate answers.... I mourn the loss of my family as it once was, although not perfect, it was ours and we were always there for each other. For the rest of our lives we will have family gatherings and holiday celebrations that were once joyous and are now overshadowed by sadness that Dana is not there. We were a giant puzzle and now a piece is missing. I will never see my Mom smile like she did when all of her children were together with her. I cannot remember the last time I heard her laugh. I have seen my Dad cry more than a daughter ever should have to see her Dad cry. My family is not the same without our Dana Jane.
My heart breaks to know that if anyone, especially Dana's children Google her name they will not find anything about who she really was. The internet is filled with stories about a very small window of Dana's life and how it was violently ended. Today and always for the rest of my life I will mourn the loss of my sister Dana Jane. [She]...was a mother, daughter, sister, co-worker and friend...[who] saw the good in people and was often able to see past the bad. [She]...loved everyone, even those that did not deserve her love and everyone loved Dana.
I have not calculated the financial impacts of Dana's murder....There have been [so many] expenses....[and] Although [they]...are plentiful I am glad to be the person that Dana trusted enough with her children.
The last four and a half years have been hell for my whole family. We have all been served a terrible life sentence of grief and loss....I am looking forward to my family not saving vacation days and money to spend here in Red Deer in the same room as my sister's killer but instead trying to find our new normal.
That was during the trial.
I am thankful to my colleague for putting forward an initiative to ensure that life means life.