Vernon's Archway Society reminds women help available as Heather Barker's killer to be sentenced

Tragedy of Heather's death

As Heather Barker's killer is set to be sentenced, Vernon's Archway Society for Domestic Peace says victims of violence are not just numbers.

"These are women and girls whose lives were forever changed by violence and abuse."

Shaun Ross Wiebe will be sentenced Monday in Vernon court after pleading guilty to manslaughter last month.

Barker, 37, was found unresponsive in her Cordon Place home on March 15, 2018.

She died later in hospital.

"First and foremost, we once again want to express our deepest condolences to Heather's children, her family and friends," Archway co-executive director Sherry Demetrick said in a media release.

It notes an alarming increase in femicide over the past three years, according to a report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability.

Last year, 184 women and girls were violently killed, primarily by men, the report states.

"We want to ensure that no one who is experiencing violence lacks the resources or ability to be safe and to access our support," says Archway, formerly the Vernon Women's Transition Society.

"We can be privately and securely contacted via phone, email, and social media, and encourage anyone who wants information about their options, support or immediate help should reach out to us."

"Since Heather's murder in 2018, the wheels of justice have turned slowly. This often impacts the healing journey for people who were close to the victim. We know that a guilty plea and sentence will not bring Heather back and there can be mixed feelings about pleas and sentencing," says Demetrick.

"It is a heartbreaking loss for our community and is difficult for everyone involved."

The Observatory report found the number of killings of women and girls in Canada was up 27 per cent in 2022 compared to before the pandemic in 2019.

From 2018 to 2022, more than 850 women and girls lost their lives, equalling one every two days. In 83 per cent of cases, the accused killer was male.

In the North Okanagan, women and families continue to be impacted by gender-based violence and femicide, says Archway.

"At Archway, we have seen firsthand the increase in intimate partner violence as well as an alarming rise in the severity and potential lethality of these cases," says Demetrick.

Archway offers emergency safe shelter, counselling programs, support through the justice system and assistance with housing options for women who leave an abusive partner.

Visit www.archwaysociety.ca or call 250-558-3850. If you are in crisis and need immediate support, dial 250-542-1122.

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