Victims advocate Gary Rosenfeldt dies

Gary Rosenfeldt, a long-time advocate for victims of crime, died Sunday after a short battle with cancer.

Gary Rosenfeldt, a long-time advocate for victims of crime, died Sunday after a short battle with cancer.

Rosenfeldt, who was 67, made his mark in the criminal justice system by helping to change the way those touched by violence are treated.

Rosenfeldt's work on behalf of victims started after his own family was touched by violence.

In 1981, his 16-year-old son, Daryn, was sexually assaulted and murdered by Clifford Olson.

"Him and Sharon began voicing concerns about victims at a time when no one wanted to hear them," said Steve Sullivan, the federal ombudsman for victims of crime, speaking about Rosenfeldt and his wife.

"They were dismissed. They were called names. They were mocked. And they withstood that," he said. "They grew thick skin and became a force for positive change."

Now, said Sullivan, people talk about victims of crime as though they've always been a priority.

Rosenfeldt's son disappeared from a British Columbia mall in April 1981 while he was out with his mother.

When the case finally went to court, the Rosenfeldts realized how few rights they had, they said.

They then set up the organization Victims of Violence, through which they lobbied to change police protocols for notifying next of kin, for the use of victim impact statements in court proceedings, for financial assistance programs for victims and for tougher parole legislation.

Rosenfeldt's wife said he was diagnosed with lung cancer in October, which quickly spread to his brain, where he had three tumours.

"I feel very wonderful about what we've been able to do with our lives," Rosenfeldt told the Canadian Press in a recent phone interview.

"I think I'll survive a few more years, but whether or not I do, I feel fulfilled in life, having been able to accomplish so much throughout our lives and make a difference for the victims."

Victims of Violence is currently based in Ottawa.

Rosenfeldt is survived by his wife, his son, Darryl, daughter, Jana, and his grandchildren.

A funeral will be held on Thursday at 2 p.m. at St. Martins Anglican Church in Ottawa.

With files from the Canadian Press