Manitoba

Floyd Wiebe, Winnipeg gang awareness activist and victims' rights advocate, dead at 61

Floyd Wiebe, a Winnipeg activist who helped at-risk youth avoid illegal drugs and gangs following the violent death of his son in 2003, has died. He was 61.

Wiebe worked with at-risk youth and families after his son, T.J., was murdered in 2003

Floyd Wiebe, seen in this file photo from September 2014, died on Monday night of a heart attack, his family says. (Katie Nicholson/CBC)

Floyd Wiebe, a Winnipeg activist who helped at-risk youth avoid illegal drugs and gangs following the violent death of his son in 2003, has died. He was 61.

His wife, Karen Wiebe, said he died of a "catastrophic heart attack" on Monday night.

"Floyd will be very missed by all who knew him and all who benefited from his advocacy on their behalf," she wrote in a statement issued Tuesday.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Wiebe started working with at-risk youth and their families, raising awareness of drugs and gangs and advocating for victims' rights, after his son, T.J. Wiebe, was murdered in 2003.

The 20-year-old had been involved in Winnipeg's illegal drug trade, which his father blamed for luring T.J. to a violent end.

In the years following T.J.'s death, his parents created T.J.'s Gift Foundation to provide financial assistance to students taking part in programs that promote peer-led drug abuse education.

"He was about turning his anger and his sorrow and his pain into something good, and he was on a path with huge enthusiasm," Wilma Derksen, a fellow victims' rights advocate in Winnipeg, told CBC's Up to Speed program.

"Only Floyd could be as enthusiastic as he was. He was a presence and he was eloquent and articulate, and he had this capacity to feel and draw people into his sphere … he was just big."

'The city has lost somebody huge'

Wiebe mentored people trying to avoid or exit gang life, championing outreach programs rather than incarceration so at-risk youth can consider alternatives to easy money and deadly crime.

He called for government funding for anti-gang strategies, saying there are not enough resources for young people who end up in trouble.

He also advocated for the rights of victims of crimes, both in Manitoba and nationally. As well, he served as vice-president of Compassionate Friends of Canada, an organization that supports bereaved families.

"He received the Queen's Jubilee Award for his support of victims and his work to help kids avoid drug involvement," Karen Wiebe wrote.

Derksen said Wiebe's death leaves a "big gap" in Winnipeg, especially among local victims' rights advocates.

"Some people have this 'bigness' about them, a capacity to be there even when they aren't in the room with you. I always knew he was a phone call away," she said.

"The city has lost somebody huge and I think it's going to take us a long time to recover, and I don't know if anyone can ever fill his exact position in our victim world."

Karen Wiebe said Floyd was excited to attend the 2014 weddings of his two remaining children, and was looking forward to the birth of his first two grandchildren in the coming months.

Manitobans took to social media to mourn Wiebe's death on Tuesday.

Statement from Karen Wiebe

Karen Wiebe, Floyd Wiebe's wife, sent the following statement to CBC News on Tuesday afternoon:

Last night, Floyd Wiebe, co-founder of the TJ's Gift Foundation and director of gang awareness for parents, passed away suddenly due to a catastrophic heart attack.

Floyd became a tireless advocate for victim rights, after the 2003 murder of his son, TJ Wiebe. His work was both local, with the Manitoba Organization for Victim Assistance, the provincial justice system and, as well, extended throughout Canada with him having input into many processes, such as the Canadian Victim Bill of Rights. He was the first chairperson for the Victim Advisory Council to the Parole Board of Canada, Prairie Division, where he was successful with endeavours to support victims of homicide. He served as vice-president of the Compassionate Friends, Canada for many years. He received the Queen's Jubilee Award for his support of victims and his work to help kids avoid drug involvement.

Floyd was much beloved by his family and was very excited to have his two remaining children, Stacey and Chad, married in the summer of 2014, where he officiated at Stacey's wedding. He was looking forward to the birth of his first grandchild in just a week and to his second in April. He was married to his wife, Karen, for 40 years.

Floyd will be very missed by all who knew him and all who benefited from his advocacy on their behalf.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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