"Regardless of where MOVA might be situated, whether in household kitchens or an office building, the dedicated volunteers and employees are still the heart of the organization."
It was in the late 1990’s when former Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh was drafting the Manitoba Victims Bill of Rights, that he enlisted the participation and insight of victims of serious crimes. Darlene Rempel, a mother who had lost her son Paul to murder, was one of those victims. Through her involvement with the bill she noticed significant gaps in support for victims in Manitoba and awareness of those issues in the general public. Later in 2000, the same year the Manitoba Victims Bill of Rights came into law, in conjunction with a few other victims of serious crimes, Darlene Rempel established the Manitoba Organization for Victim Assistance (MOVA) as a registered Canadian charity.
MOVA has been helping victims through its dedication to helping family survivors of homicide victims, increasing public awareness of victims’ issues and their rights, and working to expand legislation, policies, and programs which help homicide victims. MOVA is built upon the principle of victims helping victims, a shared experience which allows both workers and clients of MOVA “to understand and support each other through the long journey of healing.” Although there is always great need for victim services in general, MOVA has decided to focus specifically on assisting the families and friends of homicide victims.
The assistance MOVA provides does not just deal with the immediate effects of the crime but it is something that is long term. The primary focus of MOVA is in helping victims with the grieving process from the time of the crime until long after the court process has completed. MOVA seeks to assist victims through the grieving process with the hope that eventually they will reach a point where they can re-engage in life, albeit a different and altered life, and experience some level of joy once again.
MOVA carried out its work from the homes and kitchen tables of dedicated volunteers and employees. However in 2009, through funding from Justice Canada and the Winnipeg Foundation, MOVA was finally able to establish its very first office located on Osborne Street North (Moved to 580 Main St in 2015). Regardless of where MOVA might be situated, whether in household kitchens or an office building, the dedicated volunteers and employees are still the heart of the organization. With many of them having had personal experiences of homicide themselves, they hold a great amount of understanding and compassion which informs their work and benefits others.
MOVA offers several supportive programs for family survivors of homicide victims. One of their main supportive programs is their Court/Parole Support Worker who assists families through the court process. The Court/Parole Support Worker, through a personal understanding of the impact and process of losing a family member to homicide, assists families in navigating the legal system through education, advice, and emotional support.
A large part of what MOVA does is advocate for victims’ rights and support. MOVA works closely with Manitoba Justice to ensure that victims are supported as they should be. MOVA has advocated and been involved with several important changes in the justice system and continues to do so. Some examples include supporting the elimination of the double time credit for time spent in remand awaiting trial, ensuring victims were given the opportunity to read their victim impact statements in court as they are entitled to in the Victim Bill of Rights, ensuring victims are informed promptly of all decisions of their case, and ensuring victims are informed of the possibility of a plea bargain immediately and not just before the trial is about to begin.
Some changes that MOVA continues to advocate for regarding the Victims Bill of Rights are to include step family members and common law relationships in those considered to be victims in the case of homicide, to allow victim compensation for families of murdered person who were involved in an at-risk lifestyle as long as the family are not involved in criminal lifestyles, and to give victims the same rights as jury members to attend preliminary hearings and to be absent from work without pay for the required time period.
One particularly significant accomplishment for MOVA was the establishment of a private family room in the new Law Courts building in Winnipeg in 2006. Val McCaffrey, the former President of MOVA and an aunt who had lost her nephew, TJ Wiebe, to murder, was instrumental in working with Manitoba Justice for the establishment of this room for victims’ families. The furnished room offers privacy for family members of victims of homicide to go and find peace or to wait during breaks in the trial.
Val McCaffrey was President of MOVA from 2004 to 2007, when she was forced to step down after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. On Christmas Day, 2010, she sadly lost her fight to cancer. It is very important to those at MOVA that her work be acknowledged. Perhaps nothing says it better than the words of former Justice Gord Mackintosh who in acknowledging Val’s extensive work on advocating for and obtaining the private family room said, “We should call it Val’s room.”
In 2013, MOVA member Floyd Wiebe, father of TJ Wiebe was invited to Ottawa by Minister's Rob Nicholson and Vic Toews along with 15 Canadian victims of crime across Canada for their input into the concept of a Canadian Federal Victim Bill of Rights. Floyd also sat on the Steering committee of the Office of The Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. That committee established the document, "Meeting the needs of victims of crime in Canada". On April 23, 2015 the Federal Victim Bill of Rights received Royal assent, in other words, became law. MOVA started this entire process in Manitoba, and now it is across Canada.
As for the future, one of the things that MOVA would like to do is to continue to reach out to more Manitobans. Although MOVA currently has a provincial toll free telephone line, their work occurs primarily in Winnipeg and surrounding areas. Eventually, they would like to expand their services to more rural and remote locations, particularly to locations in Northern Manitoba to serve more isolated Aboriginal communities.
MOVA also facilitates a support/sharing meeting on the first Monday of every month for family members and friends who have lost a loved one to homicide. The sharing meetings are free to all and involve individuals sharing and discussing their experiences of grief. This sharing process provides peer support to those who have gone through a similar experience and helps those along on the road of healing.
MOVA also offers telephone support, personal support, and email support for victims and families. Another service MOVA provides is assistance with writing victim impact statements. Victim impact statements are something that many family survivors of victims of homicide struggle with writing. The courts have specific guidelines for what is and is not acceptable for a victim impact statement and it can often be very difficult for a grieving family member to understand these guidelines. Further, with so many emotions circulating in a grieving family members’ mind it can be a struggle to write the words that truly reflect how they feel. MOVA offers assistance for victims wishing to write a victim impact statement but who have trouble doing so. MOVA can offer several sample victim impact statements that have been written by victims in the past to assist victims in understanding what other victims have included in their statements.