Assault victim says support services lacking for victims of crime in Manitoba

A Manitoba man who was brutally attacked in Winnipeg’s North Point Douglas neighbourhood nearly three years ago, says support for victims of crime falls short.

On August 5, 2021, Darrin Wright was at his friend’s business near Main Street and Jarvis Avenue when the incident happened.

“A friend of mine’s bike was kicked over by a person having a drug-induced episode, I guess, and I was helping him pick up his bike when all hell broke loose,” Wright told Global News.

Wright says the man turned around quickly and hit him in the face with a wrench, leaving him with life-altering injuries.

“I remember everything that happened. I remember feeling it, hearing it. It’s a little hard to talk about,” Wright said.

Wright was left with severe injuries to his face. He required reconstructive surgery, lost 40 per cent of his vision in one eye, and still struggles with pain and migraines.

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He also says the impacts of his injuries have snowballed. He’s been on disability since the attack, can’t drive, and lost his property south of Winnipeg.

Wright says he applied for the province’s compensation for victims of crime fund, and was approved for a settlement, but is still waiting.

“Three years later, I’m still sitting here waiting to get answers or even see a doctor to find out exactly what I’m eligible for or if I’m eligible,” he said. “The letter sent you after you’re a victim, seems like they’re behind you 100 per cent. But I’m not feeling that way at all.”

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Wright says victim services covered the cost of replacing the clothes he was wearing on the day of the attack, and 50 per cent of the cost of the new glasses he needed after losing partial vision.

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“It just feels like ‘You’re a victim, sorry, here’s some glasses, we replaced your clothes, have a nice day’,” he said. “It feels more like a sham than an actual service.”

Wright says he has been reimbursed for certain medical tests he had to pay for out of pocket, but says the wait times to receive the reimbursement have been lengthy.

“You get paid once a month and it’s enough to cover then rent, and (then) figure out bills and food on your own,” he said. “So when victim services is asking me to prepay doctors appointments that are $150, $175 a pop, and I’ve got to wait six months to get that money back. That’s an issue.”

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Jeffrey Bradley, a PhD candidate in Legal Studies at Carleton University, says Wright’s case is not an isolated one.

“This is not out of the ordinary, most survivors of victims of crime and harm in Canada don’t get the services that they should,” Bradley said. “It’s really frustrating that the government claims they have services for victims but we know that they’re really short term and they’re not specialized or really getting to what survivors want – which is for the harm to be addressed and their needs to be met.”

Bradley says that can have a major impact on an individual.

“It’s really detrimental because the trauma is left unaddressed, they feel disconnected from community,” he said. “And for those that reach out to victim services, they’re hoping that this is kind of their lifeline,” Bradley said, adding that often it can be, but usually only in the short-term due to a lack of funding.

As for Wright, he’s hoping he can get his life back on track and get back to work. He also wants to share his story in hopes of helping others in his situation.

“If someone has been involved and they’re a victim and their whole life has changed, there should be definitely more help for them to get their life back and get on their feet,” Wright said.

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In an emailed statement, the province said between 2021 and 2023, 2,000 people applied for victims of crime compensation program, and nearly $5.5 million was given out.

The provincial spokesperson also said victims who are permanently impaired are also eligible to be assessed for a permanent impairment award.

“This process can take time allow for medical procedures and healing to take place,” the statement read.

The statement also said wage loss benefits are considered for victims who are employed or self-employed at the time of the incident and are unable to return to work.

“Victims who were not employed or self-employed would not be eligible for this specific benefit,” the emailed statement read. “When compensation is approved for specific items, such as dental, medical equipment or eyeglasses, whenever possible staff will work with service providers to arrange for direct billing. The advantage is that claimants are not expected to produce the funds in advance and pay out-of-pocket and then submit their receipts and await reimbursement.”

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