Families say they should have been included in Sask.'s domestic death review

Families of domestic homicide victims say the victims' relatives should be been involved in the domestic death review.

Relatives say sharing their story is part of healing; panel recommends hearing from relatives in future

Jessica Schroeder believes the panel should have heard from the families of victims of domestic violence. (CBC News)

Relatives who lost loved ones to domestic homicide say victims' families should have been allowed to participate in Saskatchewan's first domestic violence death review. 

The final report, released Thursday, contains 19 recommendations to deal with the province's high rate of domestic violence and how to prevent future deaths.  

It studied 48 homicides, six in-depth, between 2005 and 2014. 

The work, however, did not include interviewing the families of victims. 

Mariann Rich's sister Shirley Parkinson was killed in a murder-suicide. Rich believes the final report is missing the perspective of families.

Mariann Rich says hearing from victim's families would allow the panel to hear about what supports survivors in those situations need. (CBC)

'We're keeping it in the closet'

"The fact that [families] weren't asked shows that the topic is still taboo. We're keeping it in the closet. Give the family a chance. Just ask them the question. They can always say,  'No we don't want to talk about it', or 'Yes we need to talk about it.'"

Rich believes talking to the families of victims is the closest a panel could get to hearing about a victims's lived experience of abuse, saying they could offer important insight. 

"The truth is, everyone usually has a confidant."

This photo of Amy Bounting and her son, Camden, is one of many displayed in her home. (Amy Bounting/Submitted to CBC)

Amy Bounting's six-month-old son, Camden, was one of 15 children whose death was included in the review. She believes the panel should have reached out. 

"I would have opened up and let them ask whatever they needed to ask," she said. 

Jessica Schroeder's son Raime Myers died at the hands of her former partner. She said families should have been given the chance to participate because for some, talking is a part of the healing process. 

"When you lose a loved one, it doesn't go away. And in my experience, the only thing that helps is to share," she said. 

Families call for more reviews

The panel did not include victims' families as a part of its review based on a decision from an advisory committee, according to Jo-Anne Dusel, a panellist and executive director of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS). 

She said the decision was made to prevent the re-traumatization of families. 

Dusel points out the panel does recommend hearing from relatives, co-workers and friends in future domestic death reviews, if the province decides more should happen. 

As of Thursday, the Ministry of Justice did not commit to doing so. 

"I don't know why they would not," said Rich.

"I guarantee you they would if it was somebody in their family."

CBC Saskatchewan would like to learn more about domestic violence in the province. If you have views or insights on this topic, contact us at skdomestic@cbc.ca.

With files from Stephanie Taylor, Madeline Kotzer, Olivia Stefanovich