A woman wipes tears from her eyes at a candlelit vigil on Jan. 7, 2013 for Noelle Paquette, the 27-year-old woman found dead in Sarnia, ON
Credits: CRAIG GLOVER/QMI AGENCY
As a kindergarten teacher, Noelle Paquette was determined to make her students' lives better. When she encountered a child in need, she brought them lunch - sometimes even clothes, shoes, school supplies. Not to make a name for herself, but because she was just good.
The world needs more people who are just good - and we've just lost one.
Thirty-one-year-old Tanya Bogdanovich and 19-year-old Michael MacGregor have been charged with the first-degree murder of Noelle Paquette. They were both members of a website known as Fetlife - an online community for the most perverse sexual fetishists. Both admitted feeling "excited" at the idea of rape and violence. And they may have crossed the line from fantasy to the worst kind of reality.
Sound familiar? A person obsessed with violent sex, going on to kill another human being? A person who dominated the headlines for weeks afterward? I'm talking about Luka Magnotta, the man accused of murdering, dismembering and cannibalizing Concordia University student Jun Lin in May of last year.
In December, editors from across Canada voted to name him the year's top newsmaker. Canadians were outraged that someone as vile as Magnotta could win over the likes of Amanda Todd, the B.C. teen whose suicide sparked a badly needed national discussion on how to combat cyberbullying.
But Noelle's friends and family want her and everything she did for her students to capture Canadians' attention. They've set up a website - NoellesGift.ca - a fundraising drive for clothes and supplies for needy kids in Lambton County.
On my Sun News show, when it comes to crime, we're committed to putting victims first. Noelle's loved ones couldn't be doing a better job. If her name inspires a nationwide movement to make the lives of needy children just a little bit better every day, she would absolutely be deserving of the title Newsmaker of the Year.
Why didn't it turn out that way for Jun Lin? What do we really know about him? We know he loved Canada, especially his adopted hometown of Montreal. We know he was studying engineering and computer science at Concordia. A friend of his said, "He was sweet, never complained and smiled all the time."
But try typing Jun Lin's name into Google. The very first hit you'll get is the Wikipedia page for Luka Magnotta. Not all high-profile crime stories turn out that way - but too many of them do. Whose name do you recognize first: Jessica Lloyd or Russell Williams? Leslie Mahaffy or Karla Homolka? Brenda Ann Wolfe or Robert Pickton? Daryn Johnsrude or Clifford Olson?
It's important to pay some attention to the criminals at first - that's how we know if there's something in the system to blame for their crimes - something for which we can demand change. But when they become more famous than their victims, we've gone too far.
Let's keep our minds on the victims. Let's not let the people who destroyed their lives get the attention they crave. Let's not give them a reason to be copycats. Let's focus on the woman whose family and friends are using a sunflower to symbolize her - perfect for the warm and happy person she was.