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Sombre march pays tribute to Manitoba murder victims

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Fathers, mothers and grandparents who mourn homicide victims don’t often stage public marches.

Saturday that changed.

Under stone-grey skies, a group of 30 Winnipeggers pulled on white t-shirts, picked up placards and solemnly walked down Broadway from The Forks to the legislature.

By the time they reached the legislature steps, the sun had come out.

It was the first time Manitoba families gathered in public and it represented a higher profile for the Manitoba-based group that sponsored the march. Up to now, the Manitoba Organization for Victim Assistance has kept a low profile as a non-profit group for the families of murder victims.

But across Canada last week, various events were organized in different provinces by similar groups to mark the eighth annual National Victim of Crimes Awareness Week.

The marchers included family members of high-profile homicide victims including T.J. Wiebe and Tim McLean. They said they believe their plight is being ignored, and taking a higher profile will shift the focus away from convicted murderers and back to the victims of crime.

Twenty-year-old Trevor "T.J." Wiebe was killed in January 2003. The young man was stabbed in the throat, injected with a syringe, strangled and left to die in a remote, snow-covered field.

Dominic Urichen, 29, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, obstruct justice and contempt of court and sentenced to 13 ½ years in prison. To the outrage of Wiebe’s parents, Urichen was released this winter after serving two-thirds of his sentence, despite risks to the public cited by the National Parole Board.

Vincent Li was sitting next to a sleeping Tim McLean aboard a Greyhound bus in Manitoba on July 30, 2008 when he suddenly started stabbing the young carnival worker. As the bus stopped and horrified passengers fled, Li cut up McLean’s body and ate parts of it. Li told a mental-health advocate he heard the voice of God telling him McLean was an alien who he needed to destroy. Li was found not criminally responsible and was sent to the Selkirk Mental Health Centre. Last year he was granted the privilege of escorted trips off the hospital grounds.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

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