MLA opposed to dangerous offenders changing their names

Limiting name changes

Five horns blew across the city this past Sunday, just before a moment of silence. With each horn blast, I got more goosebumps.

I thought about each of their lives and said each of their names—Eric, Patrick, Jared, Cailen, and Brad.

As I said their names, the lump grew in my throat, the tears welled in my eyes, and the mama’s heart in me broke for each of them. Sunday was the National Day of Mourning. A day to come together to honour the memory of workers who have lost their lives or have been injured on the job.

The July 12, 2021 crane accident in Kelowna claimed the lives of five men and has become a somber reminder of the risks faced in the construction industry.

On that tragic day, workers Eric and Patrick Stemmer, Jared Zook, Cailen Vilness, and Brad Zawislak lost their lives. The impact of their loss is felt deeply by their families, colleagues, and by the community as a whole.

For me it is personal. My private sector office faces the crane that fell. My employees were some of the first on site after it happened. Workers in the city that day were shocked and went home and hugged their loved ones just a little tighter and a little longer.

While we remembered the tragic event on the National Day of Mourning, we also thought of all those in all industries who have lost their lives or had them altered forever by work-place accidents. As a business owner, an MLA and a proud caucus member of BC United, I am deeply committed to advocating for the safety and well-being of every worker. I am committed to pushing for policies that ensure such tragedies are never repeated.

BC United will continue to stand up for all workers and their safety and for better policies on training and prevention and safety protocols. It is also committed to the safety of our workers, our children, and our residents. We have pressed the government hard on safety measures for workers, as well as for an end to Premier David Eby’s “catch-and-release” justice system.

BC United Leader, Kevin Falcon recently tabled private member’s legislation to automatically stop people convicted of dangerous offences from legally changing their names. He tabled it after learning child-killer Allan Schoenborn was recently allowed to legally change his name. A simple change to the Name Act could protect our communities.

Schoenborn was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of his children, aged five, eight and 10, whose bodies were found in the family's Merritt, B.C., home in 2008 but not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder. His name change came to light when he asked the B.C. Review Board, that determines his custody status every year, to restrict publication of his new legal name. The board denied the application and Schoenborn may legally challenge the decision.

His new identity has not been made public.

Currently, Vital Statistics, under the Ministry of Health, has complete authority to deny any change of name application that is sought for an “improper purpose or is on any other ground objectionable” but the B.C. government failed to use that authority to prevent Schoenborn’s name change.

In Falcon’s words, “The NDP government had every opportunity to prevent this monster’s application for a name change with provincial powers under the Name Act, but they didn’t do anything. Since British Columbians cannot rely on David Eby and the NDP to exercise their authority to protect our communities from dangerous criminals like Schoenborn, the legislation I’ve tabled today will force government to reject them by default.”

My question to you is this:

Do you agree that convicted dangerous offenders should not be permitted to change their legal name? Why or why not?

I love hearing from you and read every email. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and Opposition caucus whip and critic for Environment and Climate Change, Technology and Innovation and Citizens’ Services. She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee on Education as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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