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Vernon group highlights rising femicide ahead of local manslaughter sentencing

Archway Society for Domestic Peace comments on the “heartbreaking” killing of Heather Barker
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Heather Barker, 37, died in hospital after she was found unresponsive in a Vernon home in March 2018. (File photo)

A Vernon group that defends victims of domestic and sexual violence is speaking out about the “heartbreaking” killing of a local mother ahead of the suspect’s sentencing next week.

Shaun Ross Wiebe has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in relation to the death of Heather Barker, who was found unresponsive in a home on Cordon Place at The Rise in Vernon in 2018. The mother of three, originally from Langley, was taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital and died from her injuries.

Wiebe, a former local pharmacist, was arrested in January 2021. He pleaded guilty in B.C. Supreme Court in Vernon May 1 this year.

Wiebe will be sentenced on Monday, June 5.

Ahead of that sentencing, Archway Society for Domestic Peace has issued a news release commenting about the case, while referring to a new report on femicide in Canada that shows a “dramatic increase” in the killing of women and girls since before the pandemic.

“Our hearts go out to Heather’s children, her family and her friends,” states the release from Sherry Demetrick, Archway’s co-executive director of administration, and Monica Kriese, community engagement coordinator.

“Since Heather’s murder in 2018 the wheels of justice have turned slowly. This often impacts the healing journey for people who were close to the victim. We know that a guilty plea and sentence will not bring Heather back and there can be mixed feelings about pleas and sentencing. It is a heartbreaking loss for our community and is difficult for everyone involved.

“Heather is yet another woman lost to femicide, which is defined as the killing of a female simply because they are female.”

Demetrick and Kriese cite a new report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, which found that the number of killings of women and girls in Canada was up 27 per cent in 2022 compared to before the pandemic in 2019.

The report, which looks at the number of killings from 2018 to 2022, showed that more than 850 women and girls had lost their lives, equal to one every two days. In 83 per cent of cases, the accused killer was a man.

Archway highlights comments from Marci Ien, minister for women, gender equality and youth, who said the information in the report was welcomed and that consultation to include femicide in the Criminal Code has begun.

“These are not just numbers — these are women and girls whose lives were forever changed by violence and abuse. This report is a reminder that gender-based violence is a public health risk, a human rights violation and a national security concern that requires a response from every level of government,” Ien said.

Archway says gender-based violence and femicide continues to impact women and families in the North Okanagan.

“At Archway we have seen firsthand the increase in intimate partner violence as well as an alarming rise in the severity and potential lethality of these cases,” the group said.

Archway highlighted that it provides free and confidential support to women and girls through its emergency safe shelter, counselling programs, support through the justice system and assistance with housing options for when women choose to leave their partners.

Anyone seeking information, support or resources can visit archwaysociety.ca or call 250-558-3850. Those in crisis who need immediate support can call Archway’s 24/7 number at 250-542-1122.

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Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started at the Morning Star as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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