And then you testify

In terms of situations you would not expect or ever wish to be a part of, I believe testifying as a witness in the homicide trial of your 8 year old daughter by her biological mother ranks pretty high. In many ways this entire process has felt like it’s right out of a ‘b’ cable movie and I am pretty confident that is about to become even more true. So here we sit almost literally 4 years after the traumatic lose of our daughter flying to testify in the homicide trial. The process will traumatize you over and over again as I have seen in our situation but also in so many others.

In my case we have to fly 5 hours from Ottawa to Vancouver leaving me plenty of time to think about just what a horrible period of time awaits me in a few short hours. Nonetheless I am certainly motivated to do my part in support of the Crown Prosecutors to ensure this predator spends as much time in jail as possible. Personally I think anyone who murders a child should never be free again. However, given her killer is being prosecuted for second degree murder the reality is that if convicted the sentence would range from 10-25 years before eligibility for parole. Given she stole decades of life from Teagan 25 years seems insignificant but knowing that we don’t have to worry about her for two decades is acceptable.

At the end of the flight I have hopefully steeled my soul for the next crushing 72 hours as I learn how my sweet baby was murdered, dig up the painful memories of the fall of 2014 and recount the worst phone call I ever received in my life from the RCMP. Not to mention the inevitable lies and deceit of her killer as she tries to wriggle free from accountability for the heinous act she committed.

Victims Rights

Victims Rights

This week we are moving into the topic of victim rights. Did you know that there is a bill in Canada made specifically to help victims of crime. It is called the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. The bill states that “a victim is an individual who has suffered physical or emotional harm, economic loss or property damage as a result of a crime committed in Canada”. “If a victim is deceased or is unable to act on their own behalf, the following people may act on the victim’s behalf”. These people would include (but are not limited to) the victim’s spouse, a relative or dependant of the victim, anyone who has custody of the victim. This bill allows the victim – or the actor on the victims behalf –  to the right to information, protection and participation. As well as allowing them to seek restitution and to make a complaint if these rights are not being adhered too. It is also important to know that victims have such rights at ALL stages of the criminal process. The only limitation is that the rights may not “interfere with investigations or prosecutions, endanger someone’s life or safety, or injure national interests such as national security”.

Below are the rights which are outlined in the bill:

The Right to information

The victim has the right to request specific information about the case, including information relating to investigation, prosecution, and sentencing the person who harmed you, and information about the accused who has been found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

The Right to Protection 

The victim has the right to security and privacy “at all stages of the criminal justice process”.

As well as the right to the necessary measures of protection.

The Right to Participation

The victim has the right to state their “views about decisions made by criminal justice professionals” that could potentially impact them under the victim bill of rights. Another form of participation would be the right to present your victim impact statement, and have it considered.

The Right to seek Restitution

The victim has the right to have the court consider making a restitution order against their offender – if you have financial loss because of the crime.

The Right to make a complaint 

If your rights of a victim have not been followed, the victim has the right to complain, using the complaint system in the department or agency which violated their victims rights.

It is important that everyone is aware that they have these rights. If something is to happen then the victim can seek help, potentially rectifying the situation, or at least allowing some sort of closure and clarification – depending on the case. Victims services such as, The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, help victims to seek retribution for loss, while potentially allowing closure as stated above; whether this closure is for the person acting on the victim’s behalf or for the victim themselves. Closure through the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights – when these rights are adhered too – can also be seen in the people close to the victim, such as family and friends. Knowing that we have victim rights and that these rights are being followed can sometimes allow some peace of mind in horrible situations. As well as, ensure rightful, respectful and fair treatment is being given to the victim or actor.

The harsh reality is that in cases of murder is the rights of the victim have been take in perpetuity and the family can never recover the loss of their beloved relative. Legally the case is of the Government (prosecution) versus the accused killer and the other stakeholders are primarily spectators. Recently we have seen how tragically broken these systems are in Canada as child killer Terry Mclintic was moved to a healing lounge only years after murdering a child and infamous rapist killer Paul Bernardo had a parole hearing that necessitated the young girls parents relive their loss in front of the monster who tortured their girls. We have a long way to go to protect victims of crime against the criminals who have taken the rights of others. Too often it seems like the system is more concerned with the rights of the criminals than it is of the innocent.

For further information on your rights as a victim please use the link below:

http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/victims-victimes/rights-droits/victim.html

It is what it is…

Over the past few weeks, and especially yesterday, we have received so many messages of love and support from our friends and family (and some from complete strangers). We are so thankful for this right now. Frankly, we need it and we appreciate it. Feeling the strength of so many hands on our backs has been comforting and has given us more strength to continue moving forward through this painful time. Many of you have asked what we need right now. I don’t think either Gabe or myself know the answer to that, but we do want you to understand our context, as it stands right now.

We know that many of you have read the media article yesterday and we are also aware that, within that article, the details of Teagan’s death were made public. However, Gabe and I have NOT read those details. And we don’t intend to do so. Gabe will be called to testify in November. Until he takes the stand, we have been asked to stay clear of the details of the trial and all the media surrounding it. This is to protect the integrity of his testimony. We have gone into this in complete agreement of this way forward and it is very important to us. Gabe’s strength and resolve through all of this is nothing short of inspiring and there is nothing that has changed his mind about staying true to the integrity of his testimony. Unfortunately, through all of the very supportive messages, I did see the cause of death yesterday. Thankfully, I do not know all the details and Gabe has asked me not to share the little I do know. An unbelievable situation we find ourselves in, but this is what needs to be done. I have a very loving and supportive friend who read that article for me, told me that it contained the details of how Teagan died (without telling me what they are), and told me that Gabe and I never need to read it. She said that the articles gives the monster a voice that she doesn’t deserve. She also told me that Teagan’s murderer will go to prison for a long time and that she is sure of.  This is what we are focussed on now. Our only focus, as it relates to this trial, is the outcome.

If you see any details of the trial or any media shared on Teagan’s Voice, you should know that neither Gabe nor I are managing the Teagan’s Voice Facebook page during this time. So, please do not assume that we have the same information that you have if you are following it. Kaitlyn is managing that account until further notice.

That being said, our extended family is going through some painful times right now.  My parents who have enough to deal with, are undoubtedly now worried about Gabe and I and the boys. Our siblings have to deal with the pain of what they read yesterday and their own grief and anger at the loss of their niece. Our Aunts and Uncles who love us and who love Teagan have to deal with their own pain – especially Uncle Don, Aunt Jeanne McGibbon as well as cousins Travis and Meghan McGibbon who have been in court every day and have shouldered that burden for all of us. We would have never asked them to do this, but they have done it. They have represented Teagan’s loved ones in that court room and they have heard things that they can never unhear. All of our family is impacted, so sharing a shoulder or a laugh with them right now would help us tremendously. There are many, many victims when a child is murdered.

We want you to know that we are very focussed on our beautiful family. And we hope you do the same.  Look at your kids/grandkids/nieces & nephews and really see them today. Be present with them – they are the greatest gift. Look into their little faces and hear their sweet musings on whatever has them occupied.  And, tonight, maybe give them a little extra ice cream after dinner – we know that Teagan would love the smile that would put on their faces!  There are many lessons to be learned from this terrible trauma and we will discuss those when the time is right. But, for now, we want you to understand that we don’t know as much as you do about what happened to our beautiful daughter on December 10, 2014. Give us the opportunity to hang on to that until we are told the facts (without the bullshit). We are going to continue to live our lives through this time. We will go to work every day because it feels good and we will smile and laugh with our boys because that’s what they deserve from their parents. That’s what has and will continue to help us move forward through this. Love, support and understanding is all we need right now and you have been sending it to us. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

 

~Stephanie

United in Memory

Autumn 2018 is a very complex season for our family to put it mildly. As is always the case this is one of the busiest couple of months for business and the heaviest from a travel perspective. However, this year layered on top of that reality is the trial of Teagan’s murderer.

My job has taken me to some very interesting places over the years ranging from Switzerland to Nigeria to Afghanistan to Kuala Lumpur and pretty much everywhere in between. On this Continent I spend a lot of time in New York, Toronto, Washington DC, Chicago, Orlando and Dallas. When I am in the District of Columbia I am always impressed by the monuments and in particular the staging of those many memorials. However, no matter how many times I go there is always something special about going to the Pentagon.

For over twenty thousand people it’s simply the place they go to work every day and there are certainly aspects of it that are just like any other place of business (i.e. food court). But for me the history, power and importance are all palatable in this office building that once was the largest in the world. Surprisingly until my last visit I had never actually been to the the 911 memorial that exists right in the wing of the building destroyed that fateful day. One of my favourite artifacts is the one door handle that survived the crash in that area that is still in use – a special moment to touch it.

September 11, 2001 is one of the most pivotal dates in my lifetime and one that is sacred in my opinion. It’s interesting that we now have kids entering University today who were born after this moment in history. I lived in the Chicago at the time and I can still walk you through virtually every minute of that day. Since Teagan’s death I noticed a different sense of empathy and connection with the families of those innocent citizens lost that morning. In fact one of the first ways I had used to describe for people the impact of  Teagan’s murder was that it was our families personal ‘9/11’. At that time that specifically meant that on December 10, 2014 our lives were changed forever in ways that could never be returned to their previous state.

Now a few years later another aspect to that connection has evolved. There is a sense of community with families who lost loved ones due to evil and senseless acts of violence. This serves as an important reminder that we are not the only ones who have suffered the traumatic, unexpected, and immediate loss of a loved one. Not just loved but the centre of our family and one of the most beautiful souls on the planet. A reminder that although we will forever carry a sense of loneliness we are not alone, that even though Teagan will never return she is not alone in her sacrifice and that in the grand scheme of the 60,000+ years of recorded history honouring the dead and overcoming  the grief are a part of evolution.

So this morning I am thinking and thanking the 184 victims at the Pentagon for the lives they lived, the loved ones they left us with and the memories that will endure for the centuries. RIP.

-Gabe Batstone

Let’s Learn from Our Kids…

Kids, they are blissful, imaginative, carefree, charismatic and intelligent. All of these things – whether we like it or not – seem to fade a little as we grow up. We become stressed with school, work, paying bills, getting the kids to their sports. We put the majority of our creativity and carefree attitudes into a little box at the back of our brains and only call on it once in a blue moon. This means we sometimes lose sight of the important things – the little things, as we talked about in our last blog post- and we focus our attention on everything else.

Although we have so much to teach our kids, let’s remember that we still have so much to learn from them. Don’t you want to have some – if not all of those characteristics listed above? Sometimes we need to stop stressing, put down the book or the bills, and go help your kids build the best blanket fort you’ve ever built. Go for a bike ride, paint a picture or go play soccer in the park. When you do these things with your kids you are teaching them to value the little things – which are really important to a person’s overall health and quality of life – so while we call them little things, they really are “big” or essential things to our lives.

According to the Children First Canada “1 in 5 teens have considered suicide in the past 12 months. That’s more than a million youth”. Why is this number so high? Maybe if we can start teaching our children to retain their carefree, blissful characteristics we can teach them to have a full life, throughout their lives.

When people are happier, they are healthier, they are more motivated, overall they feel in more in control of their lives. By learning from their characteristics and using them to create good habits for you and your child, you are bettering both of these lives. While creating a bond to help you teach them about their rights to a happy and healthy life, as well as teaching them that nobody has a right to take that right away from them – as is stated in the UN Convention on Rights of a Child. If you model what you want their life to be when they grow up, they will be able to take these habits with them and continue to create a fulfilling life for themselves on the base that you provided. If we can teach our kids that they deserve to always remain blissful, imaginative, carefree, charismatic and intelligent, then this provides us with hope that we will have happier, safer and healthier Youth (and even Adults as they age).

Learning about their rights is not only essential to their quality of life as children and Youth, but also their overall quality of life. So let’s remember all the amazing qualities of our children and learn from them while they are learning from us.

https://www.childrenfirstcanada.com/purpose

Kaitlyn Sage