Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
A man with a clear vision
I met Rev. Don Schiemann for the first time in March 2007 and was immediately impressed by his candor and courage.His son, Peter, was one of four RCMP officers murdered in Mayerthorpe, Alta., in one of the country's deadliest attacks against police.Schiemann, a Lutheran pastor from Alberta, told me how he happened to be in Winnipeg on that tragic day in March 2005 to speak at the very same national church conference that brought him back to the city two years later.His return trip triggered many painful memories of the massacre."I don't like Winnipeg. And that's the only reason," a sombre Schiemann told me as we sat down for coffee in his Portage Avenue hotel."It was a nightmare."The images came as soon as he stepped off the plane.Schiemann saw the Winnipeg police counter at the airport and remembered his desperate requests of officers for information as he waited to board his flight home to Edmonton.He saw the airport's main entrance and recalled the grim-faced Manitoba RCMP officers who came to deliver the terrible news in person that his son hadn't made it.Schiemann would later learn the Mounties had raced to the airport from their Portage Avenue headquarters -- with full lights and sirens -- so they could get to him before he boarded his flight or happened to catch a news update from someone else.Schiemann had just started his board meeting when he got the cellular phone call that would change his life. It was a family member, telling him there'd been a shooting back home."They were worried Peter might have been involved," he told me.
Schiemann excused himself for the meeting and returned to his hotel room where he found the website of an Edmonton talk radio station to listen for updates. He also contacted Winnipeg RCMP, who provided great support upon informing him Peter was among the dead.One officer bought a last-minute ticket and boarded the Edmonton-bound flight with Schiemann to sit beside him, so the grieving father wouldn't have to be alone.As a man of God, Schiemann has relied strongly on his faith to get his family through the tragedy.But he candidlly admitted to me that there is a lingering anger which refuses to go away and threatens to take control whenever he is confronted with memories of Peter's death."I don't see myself as bitter or vindictive. But I've learned that most Canadians are like I was. -- totally naive about the justice system. I know there's an outrage over how this happened," said Schiemann.The murder of the four innocent men has given Schiemann a renewed sense of purpose in life that now has him taking direct aim at the federal government.He is refusing to sit by quietly and watch as other families of police officers experience the same kind of suffering he has.He recently started his own website -- www.visionforjustice.ca
-- which includes a newsletter he has been producing on a regular basis since the fall of 2006.There are also related news stories and links and a banner ad calling for visitors to "support the campaign".Schiemann and his supporters are demanding tougher laws which could include more mandatory minimum sentences, a better ability to designate habitual cons as dangerous offenders and possibly the elimination of parole for police killers.But he admits stronger sentences are only part of the solution. He also wants to see greater emphasis placed on mandatory treatment and counselling of inmates to ensure they are actually being rehabilitated upon release.Schiemann just sent me his latest newsletter, which you can download by clicking on the following link. You can also register to receive future newsletters by e-mail.Vision for Justice July 2008.pdf