Protesters in Penticton want Better Protection

Saturday, May 31, 2003

John Moorhouse, The Okanagan Sunday, May 31, 2003


A chanting crowd of protesters gathered in from of the Penticton RCMP offices Friday, demanding better police protection for women following the recent double murder in Mission Memorial Hospital. 

About 30 women from around the province, in Penticton for the annual meeting of the B.C. and Yukon Transition House Society, attended the noon-hour rally, claiming police failed to protect Sherry Heron and her mother Anna Adams prior to the May 20 shooting. 

Amid chants of "No justice, no peace" and other slogans, rally organizers urged police to listen to their local transition houses and women's centers. 

Charito Gailling of Mission Women's Support Services said women who file complaints of domestic abuse are often not believed by police. 

"We need them to be on our side. We need them to recognize the dynamics of abuse and respond appropriately," she said. 

While emphasizing that the protesters were not focusing on the Penticton RCMP, which has a good relationship with the local transition house, Gailling claimed the police often fail to refer victims of domestic violence to transition houses. 

"It's a crime. It's not a private matter within the home," she said. "These are women that are assaulted. Why is it any different when it happens in the home or whether it happens in the street? It's the same experience." 

In the case of the murder of Sherry Heron and her mother Anna Adams, transition house workers say Mission RCMP failed to protect the pair from Heron's husband. 

Bryan Heron, 52, shot and killed his wife and mother-in-law while Sherry was a patient in the hospital. Three days later he shot himself to death as he was about to be arrested. 

Sherry Heron stated in an affidavit that her prison guard husband owned several guns and she had spoken with police about his threatening and controlling behaviour. 

"I think as tragic as the story in Mission is, perhaps we can learn something from this and prevent it from ever happening again." Gailling said yesterday. 

She question new changes to RCMP policy regarding violence against women. 

"Although they're all working from the same policy, it's discretionary. It used to be mandatory for abusers to be prosecuted, now it's up to the discretion of the RCMP." 

Rally organizers also criticized the RCMP's decision for an officer from another detachment to investigate the Mission RCMP's handling of the case. 

"Police investigating the behaviour of police is not an independent review," said Pauline Funston of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter.