Homicide victim's daughter finds healing through friendship with offender

By Jill Sperling
May 30, 2017 - 5:00pm Updated: May 30, 2017 - 5:55pm

KAMLOOPS — A powerful discussion about forgiveness and reconciliation was held at a Restorative Justice Symposium at Thompson Rivers University today, May 30.

Margot Van Sluytman and Glen Flett spoke of their paths to healing. Van Sluytman's father was killed by Flett nearly 40 years ago.

Appearing together, the two discussed how they were capable of friendship, and how that relationship has transformed their lives.

Nearly 30 years after her father was killed, Van Sluytman agreed to meet the man responsible for his death. 

"I wanted to meet him to look at him," she said, "I wanted to know my dad's last words, that was crucial for me, and I wanted to stand up with the human being that saw my dad last."

On March 27, 1978, Flett robbed a Brinks truck and fled through a Hudson's Bay store where he ran into store manager Theodore Van Sluytman. 

"He said, 'give it up son.' And I shot him," Flett recalled. 

Theodore Van Sluytman was 40-years-old. 

Flett eventually found peace and forgiveness through faith in God, and in 2007 he was granted the opportunity to apologize to his victim's daughter, which started them both on the path to reconciliation and friendship. 

"His family was destroyed, my family was destroyed," Van Sluytman said. "There's something deeply significant and important in that shared humanity."

Van Sluytman says her language for the type of restorative justice she and her offender have experienced is Sawbonna, a Zulu greeting which means 'I see you.'

"I call it a sibling of restorative justice," Van Sluytman explained. "Sawbonna encompasses complications, it encompasses beauty, it encompasses, in a sense, restorative justice." 

Flett paroled in 1992 and began working with victims of crime. He manages a community garden called Emma's Acres where victims/survivors and offenders grow and sell produce to raise funds for a support group for those impacted by homicide.

"I really had a chance to do sorry," Flett said, "and I did. I did."

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