Mother of murder victim, blocked from compensation, seeks change
Gina Settee's son Bryer Prysiazniuk-Settee had criminal past before he was killed
A Winnipeg mother is calling for changes to the victims' bill of rights to enable loved ones of murder victims with criminal pasts to access financial compensation.
"My son was a really good man and he deserved to be honoured just like anybody else," said Gina Settee, who said that since her son's death in 2017 she's lived with debilitating grief and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Her 24-year-old son, Bryer Prysiazniuk-Settee, was murdered Feb. 8, 2017. Less than a week later, Settee learned in a letter from Victim Services that she and her remaining three children were not eligible for compensation because Prysiazniuk-Settee served time in prison.
"He's still human. Why is he treated like his life didn't matter? That really hurts," Settee said Monday.
Families of homicide victims in Manitoba are normally entitled to a range of supports — from help finding a therapist and navigating the criminal justice system to financial aid for therapy, lost wages compensation and funeral costs — all processed through the victim's of crime program.
Eight months before he was killed, Prysiazniuk-Settee completed a prison sentence for drug dealing, said Settee. Families of homicide victims who have served time in the 10 years before their deaths aren't entitled to compensation under the current rules.
A search of Prysiazniuk-Settee's criminal record showed two drug trafficking convictions, one in 2014 and one in 2015.
"Bryer was a really, really good person. He loved children. He loved to work," Settee said of her son.
"Just because he was in jail doesn't mean he's less of a person. You know people make mistakes and people change."
'If you're a victim, you're a victim'
She wants the act to include mothers such as Settee and other family members so they have access to the same benefits as homicide victims with no criminal past.
Gina Settee on why access to benefits is crucial:
"If you're a victim, you're a victim," Wiebe said in a phone call Monday. "You can't blame the family for what their loved one has done. They need support."
Wiebe plans to raise the issue again with Justice Minister Cliff Cullen when they meet next, she said.
Through a spokesperson, the justice minister says there are other programs that offer supports for families who may not qualify for victim support services.
"Manitoba Justice Victim Services also funds Aurora Family Therapy Centre which offers homicide bereavement counselling to individuals who may not qualify for counselling under Compensation for Victims of Crime Program. Families are also referred to MOVA [Manitoba Organization for Victim Assistance], Ka Ni Kanichihk, Eyaa-Keen and Compassionate Friends for additional counselling support."
I fell apart, mother says
Since her son's violent death, Settee says she has struggled with PTSD.
"Somebody's clothes or a hat or something will trigger it. I automatically associate it to violence and my whole thinking just goes into Bryer mode. Then I get scared and I just want to get away."
She took a break from her career as a support worker and, for a time, relapsed into abusing drugs and alcohol, she said.
"I spiraled out of control," Settee said.
"But there's other people that get revengeful … start doing drugs and alcohol and hurting people because someone in their family was hurt. Why wouldn't you want to help somebody get better instead of worse?"
Recently, things are looking brighter. Settee is working again and accessing free counselling through the Mount Carmel Clinic.
She is meeting with a lawyer in early April to see whether there's still a chance her family can reverse the decision by Victim Services. She wants to hire therapists for her three remaining children and a family counsellor who can work with them as a group.
She has no personal interest in financial compensation but her children could benefit from it, she said.
"For their future or their kids' future. You know, almost like a gift from Bryer."