I first met Gary Rosenfeldt and Sharon back in the mid 80's when I was a youngish know it all Alberta Crown Prosecutor and he was engaged in revolutionary and radical conduct.
You see I met Gary and Sharon when they were helping a crime victim…in a Canadian court house. That was unheard of in those days. I remember watching as he and Sharon by their very presence gave comfort to a family that needed it. I was struck by the sheer decency of what they were doing and, like so many other people..including many in this room…..my life was changed forever and changed for the better that day by getting to know Gary and Sharon.
Gary had this crazy view that the justice system wasn't just the private preserve of lawyers and criminals and judges …he believed that it actually belonged to the people of this country including the crime victims who were only there because of something terrible done to them….frequently aided by the very justice system that condescended that it always knew best.
Gary and Sharon's trip to Westakiwin that day was part of the incredible action they had taken in setting up Victims of Violence in Edmonton. Somehow….and all of us who knew him know that Gary could be very persuasive……Gary had convinced the Alberta Attorney General…Jim Foster I think……to let them open up an office in the Edmonton court house to help crime victims deal with the justice system. What a concept. The defense bar freaked but it was too late……the reform of the Canadian justice system and the advancement of victim rights was underway.
Gary Rosenfeldt was a man who was capable of telling the difference between right and wrong. He was also someone who understood concepts like honour, dignity and justice in the true and full meaning of that word. What he didn't understand …and what he refused to accept…was when others..especially those vested with public duties…..wouldn't do the same.
All of us who knew him know that Gary was not a casual observer of life. I don't know how many times I've heard him say…or more accurately look at me and say…"So what are we going to do about it?" He had an incredible capacity to cut to the heart of what was unfair, unjustified or downright dishonest about the justice system generally or the way a crime victim was being treated.
And the object of the exercize was never to just complain….. it was to fix things to help people, to prevent injustice and to prevent others from having to experience the nightmare of victimization that they had endured. That remarkable courage is something that Gary and Sharon shared with many other crime victims who, like them, chose the path of helping others and making their country a better and safer place.
And he succeeded. His compassion provided hope and inspiration to others. His determination and tireless public policy work including with many people in this room helped shape pragmatic effective improvements for crime victims and for our justice system generally.
Gary was ferociously proud of his family and devoted to his wonderful wife and partner our dear friend Sharon.
You made a difference Gary. Everyone who knew you and worked with you has a special story to tell because of you.
You'll be with us all forever.