She met her father’s killer
Now, a Vancouver woman’s story is helping to make things right for victims of criminal offences — on their terms
And her memoir is up for a Governor General award thestar.com
Carys Cragg was 11 years old when her father, a doctor and her favourite person, was taken from her. She was old and bright enough to understand that the young man who broke into her house and stabbed Geoffrey Cragg to death had committed murder.
Her father’s killing has touched every aspect of Cragg’s life since that morning 26 years ago. But it wasn’t until much
more recently she decided to confront the “ghost” who committed the crime, and to share her story about restorative justice in hopes of shedding light on how complex victims’ needs — and the process of meeting them — can be.
“What someone needs immediately after a crime may be different from what they may need in five years, 20 years down the line,” Cragg said in an interview Wednesday. “I’m strongly in support of victims getting whatever they need.”
Cragg’s 2017 memoir about meeting her father’s murderer,
Dead Reckoning, is a rare public foray into the restorative justice process, which almost always takes place behind closed doors.
The book is a finalist for the
Governor General’s literary award, and it’s helping shape the conversation in Canada about what options victims should have after a crime takes place.
Restorative justice focuses on bringing consenting victims and offenders to the same table in an attempt to repair harms.
Facilitated through not-forprofit organizations that have partnerships with Canada’s police and correctional services, sometimes it’s used right after a crime has been committed, as an alternative to traditional criminal justice proceedings. It can also exist, independently, alongside them.
Thousands of criminal cases include some kind of restorative justice intervention every year in Canada, including about 1,700 each year in B.C.. But, unlike criminal court, these procedures are closed to the public.
One consequence of that, in Cragg’s view, is that, when stories about restorative justice do become public, they can “oversimplify” or romanticize the relationship between the victim and the offender.
Cragg’s story of meeting her father’s murderer, Sheldon Klatt, is neither simple nor romantic.
With the assistance of Community Justice Initiatives, she communicated with Klatt for two years through letters, finally meeting him in person, at Drumheller Institution in Alberta. In her memoir she describes a process of learning and healing, while also detailing disappointments large and small.
“I found peace, I found a type of forgiveness, I feel more at ease in my world and more ability to enjoy my life,” she said of the process. “And I still don’t want to be in contact with my offender. I still feel frustrated with him.”
“I FOUND PEACE, I FOUND A TYPE OF FORGIVENESS.”
Carys Cragg with her father Geoffrey on the Salish Sea, autumn 1983.
Carys Cragg’s memoir Dead Reckoning is a rare public foray into the restorative justice process, which almost always takes place behind closed doors.