Mother of murder victim, blocked from compensation, seeks change

A Winnipeg mother is calling for changes to the Victims’ Bill of Rights to enable loved ones of murder victims with criminal pasts to access financial compensation.

“My son was a really good man and he deserved to be honoured just like anybody else,” said Gina Settee, who said that since her son’s death in 2017 she’s lived with debilitating grief and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Her 24-year-old son, Bryer Prysiazniuk-Settee, was murdered Feb. 8, 2017. Less than a week later, Settee learned in a letter from Victim Services, she and her remaining three children were not eligible for compensation because Prysiazniuk-Settee served time in prison.

“He’s still human. Why is he treated like his life didn’t matter? That really hurts,” Settee said Monday. 

Families of homicide victims in Manitoba are normally entitled to a range of supports — from help finding a therapist and navigating the criminal justice system to financial aid for therapy, lost wages compensation and funeral costs — all processed through the victim’s of crime program. 

Eight months before he was killed, Prysiazniuk-Settee completed a prison sentence for drug dealing, said Settee. Families of homicide victims who have served time in the 10 years before their deaths aren’t entitled to compensation under the current rules. 

Bryer Prysiazniuk-Settee, 20 years old in the photo, trained to become a crane operator, his mother says. (Gina Settee)

A search at Provincial Court of Prysiazniuk-Settee’s record showed a trial date in 2014 for drug trafficking but no convictions for violent offences.

Bryar was a really, really good person. He loved children. He loved to work,” Settee said of her son. 

“Just because he was in jail doesn’t mean he’s less of a person. You know people make mistakes and people change.”

‘If you’re a victim, you’re a victim’

Karen Wiebe, mother of TJ Wiebe who was murdered in 2003 and executive director for the Manitoba Organization for Victim Assistance, is also calling for changes to the Victims’ Bill of Rights.

She wants the act to include mothers like Settee and other family members so they have access to the same benefits as homicide victims with no criminal past.

Bryer Prysiazniuk-Settee was 24, and looking forward to a life in the trades, raising a family, his mother says, before he was fatally shot in February 2017. (Facebook)

“If you’re a victim, you’re a victim,” said Wiebe in a phone call Monday.

“You can’t blame the family for what their loved one has done. They need support.”

Wiebe plans to raise the issue again with Justice Minister Cliff Cullen when they meet next, she said. CBC reached out to Cullen’s office but did not receive a response back Monday. 

I fell apart, says mother

Since her son’s violent death, Settee has struggled with PTSD.

“Somebody’s clothes or a hat or something will trigger it. I automatically associate it to violence and my whole thinking just goes into Bryer mode. Then I get scared and I just want to get away.”

She took a break from her career as a support worker and, for a time, relapsed into abusing drugs and alcohol, she said. 

“I spiraled out of control,” said Settee.

“But there’s other people that get revengeful … start doing drugs and alcohol and hurting people because someone in their family was hurt. Why wouldn’t you want to help somebody get better instead of worse?”

Recently, things are looking brighter. Settee is working again and accessing free counselling through the Mount Carmel Clinic.

She is meeting with a lawyer in early April to see if there’s still a chance her family can reverse the decision by Victim Services. She wants to hire therapists for her three remaining children and a family counsellor who work with them as a group. 

She has no personal interest in financial compensation but her children could benefit from it, she said. 

“For their future or their kids’ future. You know, almost like a gift from Bryer.”