An Okanagan-based support society for victims of domestic violence says that the recent sentencing of a Vernon pharmacist does not go far enough.
On Friday, June 9, former pharmacist Shaun Wiebe was sentenced to four years for manslaughter in the death of Heather Barker.
Barker, originally from Langley, was found unresponsive in a home on Cordon Place at The Rise. The mother of three from Langley was taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital and died from her injuries the next day.
In a statement on Monday, June 12, Archway Society for Domestic Peace co-executive director Sherry Demetrick questions the “true justice” of the four-year sentence.
“Ultimately Heather is gone. We can honour her life and do what we can to support her family but as a community we need to recognize the prevalence of intimate partner violence and the tragic outcomes that can result. It is our responsibility to be educated and know what kind of resources are available.”
Crown counsel did not directly say during the trial that the death of Barker was related to domestic violence.
Wiebe was arrested in January 2021 and later released on bail.
He formerly operated Wiebe’s Pharmacy in Vernon’s Discovery Plaza, but in December 2019 the Inquiry Committee of the College of Pharmacists suspended his licence due to his substance abuse issues. Wiebe was also charged with one count of assault causing bodily harm stemming from an incident in February 2018.
Demetrick pointed to the 2021 Kelowna case of Billie-Jo Bennett, who is currently serving a 14-year sentence in prison for the manslaughter death of her male partner.
“Obviously, there are differences between these cases but the commonality is that these are both manslaughter convictions but have significant variances in sentencing.”
Micki Materi, co-executive director of programs at Archway, questions what justice this brings to a family now without a mother.
“Heather isn’t here to present her voice with the circumstances surrounding her death. And yes, the loss of Heather isn’t just to her family and her community, the potential for humanity is lost whenever a woman is murdered.”
Archway provides safe shelter for those women choosing to leave their partners, support to find permanent housing, and help navigate the justice system. The society also provides safety planning, counselling, and support, with staff who are non-judgemental, professional, confidential and who know how difficult these situations are.