Two petitions bearing signatures of thousands of people opposed to the possible release of David Ennis are being submitted to the parole board, 30 years after he killed a family holidaying in Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Petition drives have been underway in centres across Western Canada since spring, when the Parole Board of Canada announced that Ennis would re-apply for release. His parole hearing is set for Sept. 18 in Alberta.
Ennis, who changed his name from David Shearing, is serving a life sentence for the slaying of six family members of the Johnson family in August 1982.
Tammy Arishenkoff, a childhood friend and classmate of the eldest Johnson daughter, Janet, was among organizers of the petition drive.
"It is a scattered community of people and it was wonderful to have so many people step up," she said Thursday.
More than 7,000 signatures were obtained by volunteers in Kelowna, the Lower Mainland, Edmonton, Calgary and Kamloops, she said. Another 1,200 signatures were added to an online petition. The deadline has passed for both.
The effort was centred in West Kelowna, which was a small community when the Johnsons resided there.
"They were very much part of the community. It was something that we found, as a community, we couldn't just stand by and do nothing," Arishenkoff said.
She said the passage of years hasn't made the grief any easier, partly because of the horrific nature of Ennis' crimes but also due to recurring parole hearings every few years. Nonetheless, she plans to attend next month's parole hearing.
Ennis last applied for parole in 2008 but it was denied on the grounds that he exhibited unresolved problems. The board found that he had limited insight into the role substance abuse had played in his sexual deviance and violent offending.
Ennis' release on an escorted day pass in 2008 ignited controversy across Canada.
A candlelight memorial will be held Aug. 23 in the field next to the Johnson-Bentley Memorial Aquatic Centre, which was named after the family.