The BC Victims of Homicide (BCVOH) is an initiative of the British Columbia Bereavement Helpline that aims to provide support and strength to the families and friends of individuals who have survived the loss of a loved one by homicide. The BCVOH works under the supervision of the Executive Director and the BCBH President with input from an advisory board and community/corporate partners. BCVOH networks with various government and non-government organizations to offer support to relatives and friends of homicide victims in the form of safe, free support groups. The BCVOH offers information and resources for caregivers helping victims of homicide.
The BC Bereavement Helpline (BCBH), the umbrella organization, is a leader in providing education, support and advocacy for the bereaved, their caregivers and professionals. The Helpline has assisted over 40,000 callers since its inception in 1986 and is a lifeline for callers in BC to receive immediate telephone information and referral support by connecting callers to over 300 not-for-profit groups in 82 communities. www.bcbereavementhelpline.com Helpline hours are 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Monday – Friday).
The need for developing a homicide bereavement support program in Vancouver has been addressed by several groups including various communities and police-based victim service programs. Unfortunately, there were no existing homicide bereavement support groups available in Vancouver prior to the establishment of the BCVOH in 2011. The only other support groups available were: Surrey – Valley View Funeral Home Homicide Support Group; and Abbotsford – Valley View Funeral Home Homicide Support Group. These groups were initiated in 2009 & 2010 respectively.
In August of 2009, the BCBH spearheaded a project in which Christopher Ducharme conducted a research study. It’s mission was to find support services for victims of homicide in order for the Helpline to appropriately refer callers in B.C. The Helpline staff contacted the executive directors, managers and supervisors of the 36 most relevant organizations from the Vancouver area. These were thought to be the ones a bereaved person could reasonably expect to have knowledge of homicide bereavement support programs. Unfortunately, none of these 36 groups could direct callers to a homicide-specific bereavement peer support group. In fact, several organizations including the Vancouver Police Department Victim Services and the Crisis Line of BC actually referred the BCBH staff to the BCBH organization for further information about homicide bereavement.
Over the past several years, British Columbia has received much attention in the media regarding missing women in the province. Also, Vancouver has been on the world stage for gang violence and homicide. The statistic for Canadian youth (ages 12-17) accused of homicide in 2006 was at its highest since data was first collected in 1961 (Stats Canada). According to 2007 national statistics (Stats Canada), someone in Canada is murdered every 15 hours. Also, Vancouver had the third highest homicide rates in Canada between 1997 and 2006.
More recently, British Columbia had: 532 murders from 2005-2009, 101 in 2005, 108 in 2006, 88 in 2007, 117 in 2008, and 118 in 2009.
This made BC the second highest ranked province for murder in Canada for that time period. According to the Vancouver Sun, while the provincial murder rate increased by 25% from 2007 to 2008, the Integrated Homicide Investigating Team’s (IHIT) reports indicate that 49.5% (58) of the 2008 murders took place in the Greater Vancouver area.
“To provide knowledge and tools to victims of crime in order to support their grief and help them navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system. To provide guidance on how to deal with frequent inquiries from the media and the public. To validate the needs and feelings of victims by offering concern, compassion and acknowledgement in the safety of our groups, which we believe to be a crucial step towards their recovery. By encouraging participation, we hope the intensity of their grief is alleviated. Along with this, we invite all victims to participate in programs to raise public awareness about this significant issue.”