It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Mr. Gary Rosenfeldt, co-founder of Victims of Violence Canadian Centre for Missing Children, and pioneer of the victims movement in Canada. Gary passed peacefully in the company of his loved ones on Sunday, February 8th, 2009, after a hard fought battle against cancer. A celebration of Gary’s life will be held Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 2:00 pm at St. Martin’s Anglican Church in Ottawa. We wish to thank everyone for their support during this very difficult time.
Gary Rosenfeldt dead at 67
By Tobi Cohen, THE CANADIAN PRESS February 11, 2009
MONTREAL – Ever the optimist, victims’ rights advocate Gary Rosenfeldt was hopeful he would beat cancer.
But while Rosenfeldt died Sunday, there’s little doubt he passed away in peace knowing his son’s death at the hands of notorious child killer Clifford Olson was not in vain.
The horrific sex slaying of his 16-year-old Daryn in 1981 prompted Rosenfeldt and his wife Sharon to work tirelessly to ensure victims of violent crime have a place within the criminal justice system.
“I feel very wonderful about what we’ve been able to do with our lives,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Ottawa about a month ago.
“I think I’ll survive a few more years but whether or not I do, I feel fulfilled in life having been able to accomplish so much throughout our lives and make a difference for the victims.”
The disease began in Rosenfeldt’s lungs before quickly spreading to his brain and causing three tumours.
Radiation and a barrage of medication made him weak and confused and he had difficulty with balance but he was hoping to build his strength through physio and occupational therapy so he could begin chemotherapy.
In the end, the man known for his relentless fighting spirit was no match for cancer.
“What is life going to be like without my Gary?” Sharon said in an email to The Canadian Press just hours after his death.
In a recent interview, she described the journey since his diagnosis as “very emotional,” but one that allowed them pause to reflect upon their family and their accomplishments.
When Daryn disappeared in April 1981 from a British Columbia mall while on an errand for his mother there were few organizations that existed for families struggling to cope with such a situation.
At the time, police paid them little attention and brushed Daryn off as a runaway. The family learned from a newspaper article that he’d been sexually assaulted by his killer and there was no role for them to play during the court proceedings.
They were taken aback to realize the offender had more rights than they did.
Through their organization Victims of Violence, the Rosenfeldts lobbied successfully for things like police protocols for notifying next of kin, victim impact statements in court proceedings, financial assistance programs for victims and tougher parole legislation.
“Gary in particular is responsible for a whole series of changes to the criminal justice system and to how victims are treated and things that today are completely accepted as the norm, you know 20 years ago, 15 years ago, they were unthinkable,” said Scott Newark, a former Alberta prosecutor and a close personal friend.
“Gary was one of the good guys and he had a profound influence on making the country a safer place.”
Newark described him as someone who didn’t want sympathy but who was determined to ensure no other victims would have to go through what his family went through.
“Gary was a very kind and generous man,” added Steve Sullivan, Canada’s ombudsman for victims of crime.
“When they first started in this movement, victims of crime weren’t talked about very much and they received a lot of resistance, they were dismissed, they were called names. People didn’t really want to hear some of the things Gary had to say or answer some of the questions that he had, but he always had hope.
“He never focused on the no or what couldn’t be done. It was always well, how do we get it done.”
Sullivan noted the Rosenfeldts gave him his start in the victims movement shortly after he graduated from university and that he was hired by their organization as a research director.
“Certainly it was an eye-opening experience working with them, with their own story, with their experience in working with many other victims,” he said.
As well as by Sharon, Rosenfeldt is survived by his son Darryl, daughter Jana and his grandchildren.
A funeral will be held in Ottawa on Thursday at 2 p.m. at St. Martin’s Anglican Church.