Oshawa lady’s advocacy and ‘sheer grit’ for victims of crime acknowledged by Legal professional Common

An Oshawa woman’s tireless advocacy on behalf of victims of crime has been acknowledged by the provincial Ministry of the Attorney General.

“I’m honored and humbled,” Lisa Freeman said of the award, which recognizes outstanding achievements in service to victims of crime. “What I do is to fill a void for victims of crime in regards to support.”

Freeman was one of 16 Ontario individuals and organizations to receive the Victim Services Award of Distinction, according to the ministry. Recipients were acknowledged during a virtual ceremony recently.

“These dedicated professionals, volunteers and outstanding organizations contribute their energy and compassion to empower survivors and create positive change for victims of crime,” the ministry said in a statement.

Freeman found herself caught up in the criminal justice system in 1991 when her father, Roland Slingerland, was murdered. Slingerland, unarmed and defenceless, died at the hands of Terry Porter, who attacked him with an axe. In 1992 Porter was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

In 2012 Freeman was informed that Porter, then 20 years into his sentence, had been granted escorted absences from prison and was eligible to apply for day parole in 2013.

Freeman took her fight to the National Parole Board, arguing that Porter should not be released prior to the terms set out in the sentence given him upon conviction.

In addition to lobbying corrections and parole officials, Freeman found herself in the position of having to deliver a victim impact statement at a parole hearing for Porter. Freeman’s advocacy has been effective: Porter has, thus far, been denied full parole.

In addition to working with victims’ groups and petitioning government for changes to support victims, she has established Point of Impact, which assists survivors as they prepare for offenders’ parole hearings — including delivering victim impact statements, a process she knows from experience can be intimidating, even terrifying.

These victim impact statements, she feels, are essential for relaying the true impact of crime to the judges and parole officials who make decisions about how and where offenders serve their sentences.

Hannah Scott, a professor in the Ontario Tech University’s faculty of social science and humanities, has been an admirer of Freeman’s work for years. Asked what she thinks makes Freeman an ideal advocate for victims, she offers a succinct reply.

“Sheer grit,” said Scott. “She is determined. She understands her experience is not an experience of just one individual. She inherently understands she is being treated the way other victims have been treated. And she has managed to bring some understanding of victims’ experiences to Corrections Canada.”

The changes Freeman has called for are much-needed and long overdue, Scott opined. In particular, Freeman has spoken out on behalf of people affected by homicide, people Scott refers to as “co-victims.”

“They have very few supports. They face different kinds of concerns from other victims,” Scott said. “A system that doesn’t support victims in the same way it does offenders needs people like Lisa.”

Freeman is quick to acknowledge supporters she’s encountered during her journey, such as Durham Crown attorney Greg O’Driscoll and Oshawa MP Colin Carrie. The MP has been supportive of efforts that have included petitioning the federal government for truth in sentencing measures.

“Right from the beginning, he was right there with me,” she said.

Throughout her struggle, Freeman has always kept foremost the memory of her dad, for whom the battle began, and for whom she says she will continue to advocate.

“Everything I do is in memory of the man I was lucky enough to call my Dad,” she said.

She said she’ll continue to fight Porter’s release.

“He’s an ax murderer. He doesn’t need to be out,” she said. “If they’re letting out ax murderers, who are they keeping in?”

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