That, given Terri-Lynne McClintic was convicted of first-degree murder in the horrific abduction, rape and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford, and was moved from a secure facility to a healing lodge without fences and where the government has confirmed the presence of children, the House condemn this decision and call upon the government to exercise its moral, legal and political authority to ensure this decision is reversed and cannot happen again in other cases.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for .
April 8, 2009, began like any other school day for Tori Stafford, a grade 3 student at Oliver Stephens Public School. However, that is where this sweet little eight-year-old girl's normal, peaceful day ended. Tori was lured, kidnapped and later brutally murdered.
Tori's killers, Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic, were each found guilty of first-degree murder. In Canada, that means an automatic life sentence, 25 years without a chance of parole. It would seem that maybe justice was somewhat served for the Staffords and their family. Sadly, it is not what has turned out to be the case.
In recent days, we have learned that instead of serving her sentence behind bars, the prisoner, McClintic, has been transferred to a Saskatchewan healing lodge, a government-run lodge surrounded by trees, wildlife and children. There is no visible security. There is not even a fence. It is a no-brainer for all of us to know that is no place for a child killer. It is certainly no place for someone who committed the despicable acts Tori faced in her last hours.
The details of those acts have been recounted to the House. I want to take a moment and comment on the reaction of members of the government and the NDP when some of those details were recounted, because it goes to the point that not only we as Conservatives are making but that Canadians want us to face. The 's reaction to hearing about what happened to Tori was to tell members of Parliament to essentially shut up and stop talking. Other members became visibly angry and upset and talked about decorum in the House. As if what happened to Tori, and whether or not it offends us, has anything to do with decorum. It is not about our feelings, our sensitivities being offended or about how we feel in this House.
What we need to talk about is justice for Tori's family. What happened to Tori was despicable and unbearable to hear, but this place is exactly where we need to face a harsh but needed reality. There are consequences of the decisions we make here in this place. Pretending these gruesome events did not happen and demanding that others shut up to avoid hearing them is the behaviour that led us exactly to where we are right now. It is that sort of behaviour that leads the to describe the horrible acts committed against Tori Stafford as, “bad practices”. It is that sort of behaviour that desensitizes some into thinking a child murderer, with no possibility of legally seeing the outside world for at least 15 more years, should not be behind bars but should be a guest at a government lodge. It is that sort of behaviour that leads the Liberals to brush this shocking transfer off by organizing some sort of generic bureaucratic review. That is the behaviour that should be offensive to all of us, and what we need to address today.
It is said the worst fate a parent can endure is to have to bury his or her own child. To have to do so in the circumstances faced by the Stafford family is just unimaginable. It is why we can only imagine, and need to think long and hard about what the transfer of this prisoner has done to the Stafford family, as well as the effect it has had on them. It has revictimized the Stafford family. In fact, this past weekend, Tori's dad, Rodney Stafford, published an open letter to the . His words are utterly heart-wrenching. Mr. Stafford wrote:
I plead to you as a father & a proud Canadian citizen who, even after this traumatic experience, tries to live a normal tax paying life. I really have to question our Federal Government as to why convicted child murderers, such as Terri Lynne McClintic, deserve more rights than their victims & law abiding Canadians? I may not have grown up living a perfect life, but I grew up to learn that I love the country I live in and I know right from wrong!
The has tried to duck and weave on this issue this last week, pleading that this was all about politics. Rodney Stafford hit the nail on the head. He asked the , “Is this enough to remember that not all issues are political? Some are moral!”
That is what this issue is. Tori's dad is right, there is a moral imperative for action. There is a moral imperative for members of Parliament from all parties to stand up and demand better.
This is a situation that we need to reverse and one that we need to prevent from ever happening again. It is the sort of situation where immediate action is required to maintain Canadians' confidence in our justice system.
I had the honour to serve for more than two years as the parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety. Our previous government showed how a government can take action. When things happen in situations, the government does have the power to reverse them. When tough cases were exposed when we were in government, we cried out for change. When it was uncovered that serial killer Clifford Olson was receiving OAS, our Conservative government passed legislation to stop him and other prisoners. There is the key. It was not just something directed specifically at Clifford Olson. It was a policy change that stopped him from getting OAS, but it also stopped other prisoners from getting OAS. It has been done before and it can be done again. We also passed legislation preventing prisoners from using their time behind bars to justify an extension of employment insurance benefits. Again, it was not changing policy directed at one individual inmate, but we saw that something had happened when we were government that needed to be reversed in our correctional system and so we immediately implemented a policy so that the specific person would not receive that benefit and nor would other prisoners in that situation. Therefore, the situation that confronts us today is one that the Liberal government and the possess the legal and the political authority to fix.
We are likely to hear about a legal opinion that mysteriously surfaced last week, claiming the Liberals just cannot do anything. I am sure the government lawyer who wrote that document is an upstanding person, but we do have to remember that at the end of the day, government lawyers serve their clients: their political masters in the justice minister's office and the Prime Minister's Office. Since when do government members abdicate their responsibility just because a lawyer told them that maybe they would have a bit of push-back on it? Especially with the current government, they sure seem to love to go to bat for every criminal there is, whether it is Omar Khadr, Chris Garnier or now McClintic. The Liberals sure do not seem to worry about fighting those fights. Therefore, why in the world would the Liberals not say, “We will take the chance that somebody might challenge us, but we see this wrong is done and so we will correct it.” It is that simple. It is not difficult.
There are a few provisions in the law that I want to highlight. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act does give authority to the government. We have already talked about subsection 6(1) of the act, which says that the commissioner of corrections works, “under the direction of the Minister”. Paragraph 96(d) of the act actually enables the Governor in Council, the cabinet, to make regulations governing the process of transferring offenders from one institution to another. Meanwhile, paragraph 96(z.6) allows the cabinet to adopt regulations concerning the security classification of inmates.
Therefore, there can be a policy crafted. It could be as simple as saying that someone serving a sentence for the murder of a child must not be transferred to any institution without perimeter security or where children are permitted to circulate. It is very simple. That could very easily be done. This is all we are asking the government to do.
We have not seen any outrage from the Liberals and we have not seen any action. In an interview last week, Tori's dad said, “...Terri-Lynne had been moved to Saskatchewan to this healing lodge and I was kind of blown away.... Every time things seem to start to get a bit better...something like this comes along, where you just lose faith.” Let us give the Stafford family some faith by reversing this injustice. Let us give Canadians confidence in their justice system. Let us send a strong and clear message with the vote on this motion. Let us stand up, every single one of us, and vote to ensure that anyone who takes the life of an innocent child like Tori Stafford faces the sentence that Canadians expect him or her to, which is behind bars.
We have an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of real people. We know their names. We know the situation they face. We know the horrific acts that happened. We very seldom have the opportunity to affect individual people's lives like we do today. Therefore, I implore this House and I implore the government members to show their displeasure, show their outrage, but, more important, act and implement policy to reverse this decision and make sure something like this never happens again.
Madam Speaker, I thank you for the admonishment. I think it is very important that we realize that this is a very emotional debate. However, as the seconder to the Conservative Party motion, I would reiterate how we hope that the Liberal government will hear the outrage that has been expressed across the country over the transfer of Terri-Lynne McClintic, the killer of eight-year-old Tori Stafford, to a healing lodge in Saskatchewan.
It is incomprehensible to me that the Liberals would merely order a review in response to this travesty of justice. The evidence is pretty clear. McClintic is not eligible for parole until 2031. Since her incarceration, she has not been a model inmate, being convicted of beating up a fellow prisoner and then regretting that she had not caused more severe injuries. That is not exactly a model prisoner, so why is she being given a cushy transfer to a healing lodge with no fence?
Instead of ducking responsibility, this should have been a simple matter of doing what is right. Instead, the and the are hiding behind a bureaucratic memo hastily put together by justice officials. They are failing in their duty to Canadians, who are outraged by this transfer. I put it to members that they need to step up and reverse this transfer immediately.
We know that the has fallen to virtue signalling on many issues, but when it comes to standing up for true justice here at home, when it comes to standing up for victims of crime, he chooses instead to mince words or stay silent, and indeed, his is parroting the same unacceptable approach.
The decision to conduct a review of this situation makes no sense, considering the authority of the minister's office and the office of the and the authority they can wield when there is the will to wield it. Clearly, what is required is a firm and immediate directive from the minister to Corrections Canada to put McClintic back behind bars where she belongs.
When a minister of the Crown issues a directive to his or her department, and I was there myself and remember well what happens, the wheels are set in motion. Why would the waste time with this review, when there is a clear injustice? He could have clearly called to reverse the transfer. He could have done the right thing, but obviously, the will is absent.
I wonder if the decision not to immediately reverse the McClintic transfer was his alone. I want to know if the Prime Minister's Office weighed in on this. Who is behind this outrageous order not to transfer the inmate? Canadians deserve to know.
I would like to put before the chamber the basic facts of the minister's powers. Under subsection 6(1) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the minister has the authority to direct the commissioner of corrections in all matters. This would include issuing a directive that a broad class of offenders, such as those convicted of the murder of a child, are not eligible for transfer to a minimum security facility, such as this healing lodge. Under section 96 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the cabinet could pass regulations setting out eligibility for minimum security facilities and healing lodges. This could include prohibiting those convicted of murder involving a child.
Even in the face of this evidence, the Liberals claim that they cannot reverse the transfer. However, previous public safety ministers have reversed decisions through directives to Corrections Canada.
When I served as a member of the provincial parliament in the Ontario legislature, the current Liberal agriculture minister, who was then the solicitor general, stopped the transfer of a cop killer after public outrage. That is the precedent that was set in 2000. I was a member of the Ontario legislature. We passed a unanimous resolution very similar to the unanimous resolution the Ontario legislature passed yesterday in the case of McClintic. Back then, when that cop killer was going to be moved to Club Fed, as it was called then, the outrage in Ontario was just the same. A resolution of the Ontario legislature was passed unanimously. The PCs, the NDP, and the Liberals all passed it, and lo and behold, the agriculture minister, who was the solicitor general at the time, found a way to stop the transfer to Club Fed.
In another example, former minister Toews ended prison pizza parties. Former minister Day mandated that first degree murderers had to spend a specified time behind bars in maximum security prisons. Those were both directives taken during the Harper years.
There is clearly a precedent for the current public safety minister's intervention in the McClintic case. However, last Tuesday night, in an interview with CTV, the minister defended his review of the transfer as “the best way to...rectify [McClintic's] bad practices in the past”. Bad practices in the past? Is that how he characterizes this? It is clearly devoid of humanity and reasoning.
As I am sure many in this House will admit, we have employed bad practices from time to time over the course of our lives. Perhaps even the himself would admit to as much, but certainly, luring an eight-year-old Tori while she was walking home from school, then standing as a lookout while she was violated and then killing her with a hammer and dumping her body is not what the vast majority of Canadians define as bad practices. I make no apologies for pointing this fact out.
The Conservative Party was criticized for describing some of the graphic details of young Tori's murder in the House of Commons last week. In fact, for some media, that seemed to be the bigger story than the outrageous transfer itself. However, it is obvious from the Liberals' inaction that they needed to be reminded of the horrific nature of the crimes committed by McClintic.
Governing this great country of Canada is not always paved with sunny ways. There are times when hard truths need to be confronted and addressed, and this Liberal government remains unwilling or incapable of making hard decisions when the inevitable clouds roll in. I hope the horrific nature of this crime and the grave injustice of this transfer will lead the Liberal government to change course in this instance.
I think I speak for many when I say that we ask the Liberals to stand up and do the right thing, and then perhaps the protest being organized for November 2, just outside this chamber, over the transfer can be avoided. If not, I plan to attend that protest. I will continue to call out this transfer, and I will continue to denounce the Liberal government for its failure to act.
Madam Speaker, we can only begin to imagine what Tori Stafford's family has been enduring the last nine years. The crimes committed against her were vicious and heartbreaking, and the people who committed those crimes deserve the life sentences they are serving in the custody of the Correctional Service of Canada.
When we hear Tori's father read his words, it is clear how raw his pain and anger still are. Of course they are. None of us has any difficulty understanding why he feels the way he does. At the same time, people who have not experienced what he has experienced can never truly understand. He, like the rest of Tori's friends and family, has every right to speak out, and we are listening.
The has directed the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada to undertake a review of the transfer decision in this case to ensure that it has followed the service's policies and procedures, and additionally, to evaluate whether the policies themselves are indeed still appropriate. The commissioner has named three people to conduct a review: Dr. Carmen Long, director general of CSC's offender program and reintegration branch; Dr. Andrea Moser, director general of interventions in CSC's woman offender sector; and Doreen Oakes, councillor for the Nekaneet First Nation and a professor at the First Nations University of Canada. The commissioner has been unequivocal that following the review he will make any necessary changes.
However, let us be absolutely clear that offender management decisions are within the purview of the Correctional Service of Canada. The government does not have the authority to intervene in these decisions, nor should it. According to section 6 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the commissioner of the Correctional Service has the control and management of the service and all matters connected with the service under the direction of the minister.
The very same language is used in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act about the public safety minister's relationship with the commissioner of the RCMP. In neither case does it mean the minister is entitled to micromanage the day-to-day operations of the agency. He cannot tell the commissioner of the Correctional Service which offenders to incarcerate where, anymore than he can tell the RCMP commissioner who to investigate or arrest. We do not need a justice system that is vulnerable to politics, and that is why the rule of law is so important.
This has been tested in court. In 1987, when considering whether the minister could direct that a particular inmate be placed in segregation, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that this language about the commissioner serving under the direction of a minister merely recognized overall ministerial responsibility, but does not authorize the minister to order the segregation of a particular prisoner. That may be why, when he was minister of public safety under Stephen Harper, the member for said, “I do not control the classification of individual prisoners”. Even if it were legal, having governments make these kinds of operational criminal justice decisions would be a dangerous precedent. That may be why Stephen Harper's former staffer, Benjamin Perrin, said over the weekend, “I'm concerned with politicians being the ones who decide how any particular individual offender is treated”. He is absolutely right.
No two offenders have the same experience in our corrections system. What is more, thousands of major and minor decisions concerning the management of their cases are made every day across Canada.
There are dozens of different institutions, and each one is organized in its own way and has it own institutional culture, its own level of security, and its own types of interventions and programs. It is to be expected that offenders will move through the system over the years. They may start out in a maximum security facility at the beginning of their sentence and then move to a lower security facility, which is what happened with Terri-Lynne McClintic in 2014.
Offenders may get transferred within an institution, or from one institution to another. They may spend time in a mental health facility, or they may go to a facility with more of an indigenous focus. They will probably move through various programs, classes and institutional jobs, and occasionally be given different privileges or punishments.
It is the professionals in the Correctional Service of Canada who evaluate offenders on a regular basis, and use their training and expertise to determine the best correctional path for each individual.
I will not go any further into the specifics of the particular case referenced in today's motion. As I said earlier, the minister has ordered a review, and that review is under way. I will use the remainder of my time to discuss some of the roles of a healing lodge within our correctional system, because recently in this chamber, there have been some very unfortunate mischaracterizations of them.
Healing lodges are, first and foremost, correctional institutions. Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is a medium-security institution. We have nine healing lodges, four run by the correctional service itself and five run by indigenous community organizations.
Healing lodges are not a free ride. The programming at these institutions is rooted in indigenous culture and practice, but offenders are still subject to restrictions and security measures, and they are still held accountable for their actions.
Let me reiterate, Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is a medium-security institution. There are security cameras monitored 24 hours a day. There are daily searches of the facility and of offenders. Offenders are counted four times daily. There are regular security patrols all night long. Security staff has physical restraints and pepper spray. Importantly, there has not been a single escape from Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge in the last 10 years.
To correct the misconception about children at Okimaw Ohci, all women's institutions in Canada have mother-child programs for inmates with children younger than school age. This has been the case since 1997, and no child has ever come to harm as a result of this program.
To correct the very unfortunate language some of the members have been using when they refer to the healing lodges as “condos”, these are not luxury accommodations. The living quarters are actually comparable to other medium-security quarters in other women's institutions. Medium-security inmates at Grand Valley or Edmonton Institution for Women, for example, live in what is called an “open campus design”. There are houses around a courtyard. Each house has a small common area and a dozen small bedrooms. The set-up of all these institutions, Okimaw Ohci included, is the same now as it was under the Conservatives.
Let us talk about the purpose of healing lodges. As members know, indigenous people are significantly over-represented in Canada's correctional system. Approximately one-quarter of the male prison population and one-third of the female prison population are indigenous. About 90% of these indigenous women have been physically or sexually assaulted.
About 80% of them have serious problems with substance abuse.
Healing lodges are not a panacea or a quick fix, but they have show an ability to deal with complex and deep-seated problems. They are not the only answer, but they are certainly part of the answer. The correctional investigator has repeatedly recommended making greater use of healing lodges and the Standing Committee on the Status of Women recently recommended that the Government of Canada ensure access to healing lodges for indigenous female offenders with a medium-security classification. Not one Conservative member dissented from that recommendation.
Therefore, I urge my colleagues across the aisle to stop denigrating healing lodges. They are an important element of our correctional system and have a record of successfully holding inmates accountable for the most serious of crimes by reinforcing that seriousness in the eyes of the community and of the offenders themselves.
Determining which offenders those are is the role of the trained professionals who work for the Correctional Service of Canada. They make their determinations following a thorough risk assessment with institutional and public safety always top of mind. It is not, nor should it be, the role of politicians to make these decisions. With this motion calling on the government to micromanage the operations of a criminal justice agency, the opposition is asking the government to act in violation of the law. Of course, that is not something we can support.
The minister has acted to the full extent of his authority by directing the commissioner of Correctional Service Canada to review both this particular transfer, as well as the appropriateness of the service's relevant policies in the interest of the effectiveness of Canada's corrections system and in the interest of public safety. We will follow the law and act deliberately and thoughtfully to address this issue and we await the report of the commissioner of corrections.
Madam Speaker, we try to find words to describe what Tori Stafford's father has expressed over the last several days and what he has been going through over the last number of years.
The hon. official opposition House leader said something that was very telling. Whenever it feels like it has gotten better, something else happens, another shoe drops, and the pain comes back. Two words come to mind when I think of what that must be for this family: nightmare and hell. The courage it has taken for a father, who has done what no parent ever wants to do, who has lost his child to express his pain and ask for his government to be there to support him. That requires a level of courage that, I admit, I, nor do I believe many of us, have. I want to thank him for reminding us that we have a responsibility that sometimes leads to contradictions.
On the one hand, we hear the pain of people who have been victims of the most despicable, heinous and horrible crimes that humanity can imagine. At the same time, we try to ensure we have a system that works. Sometimes those objectives do not even out. It is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole, which is the ultimate challenge we have in this place.
Before I go any further, I would like to mention the question I addressed to my friends in the Conservative Party on the motion before us, and it is an important to look at this, which is the rhetoric around such a debate. Quite frankly, it is our ultimate responsibility to ask questions about the comportment and the decisions that are made by an agency, or service in this case, that is under the purview of the federal government, and more specific, the . It is our responsibility to ensure that if a mistake has been made or if the law may be out of date, that those changes be made. At the same time, as we see throughout our work and indeed in other jurisdictions, other countries, provinces and territories, the rhetoric we use as politicians is also extremely important.
I raise this because there has been a question in this place with respect to the details of these horrific crimes and the debate we are engaged in. Any criticism of the use of those details has been equated with telling people to shut up. For the record, and I will only speak for myself and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, we have the responsibility to raise these issues.
An hon. member: Oh, oh!
Mr. Matthew Dubé: Madam Speaker, I would ask my colleague to perhaps not heckle me as I talk about the type of debate we want to be engaged in. That would be appropriate.
I will go back to what she is referencing in her interruption of my speech. It is the notion that the language we use has unintended consequences. Therefore, when I referenced the situation I went through, it was not to portray myself as a victim, far from it. I am only thinking of the people in these issues, not myself. I accept that the consequence of public life is that we will hear things we do not want to hear. We will have things said to us that we do not want to hear. However, I take the my responsibility in this place very seriously.
I also take the responsibility that when an individual decides that an appropriate response to a very difficult issue is to write a member of Parliament and wish the same kind of unimaginable pain that Tori Stafford's father has felt on that member's family is not appropriate. I know we are not responsible for what some deranged individual might write to a member of Parliament, but we are responsible for how we engage in this debate and not fanning the flames on a issue that is so gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.
Therefore, in response to a question about that type of decorum, to be heckled and told that I am somehow trying to get away from this by portraying myself as a victim is completely missing the point. The Conservatives are right to pose these questions, but they are wrong to politicize the sick crimes that were committed and the pain of a father, a pain I cannot even begin to imagine. I can only hope, as we all do, that we never have to experience the same thing.
An hon. member: Oh, oh!
Mr. Matthew Dubé: Madam Speaker, the heckling continues, Madam Speaker, which to me says that all Canadians need to know about the approach that is being taken here. We want to do right by Tori Stafford's father, who has been let down by parliamentarians and his government. He is right to feel revictimized. No one is saying the contrary. We have a responsibility to understand that. Some members from all parties, and the words they have used, may not have expressed themselves in a way that is appropriate for this type of debate on this horrible crime. That is a mistake. I think we can own up to our own failings, despite the responsibility we have as members in this place, on how we express ourselves and talk about policy when we are thinking of this type of horrible crime. That is the contradiction we face.
I understand that we face a challenge because we have a responsibility to adopt legislation. We also have a responsibility to let judges, the corrections commissioner and others who are involved in our justice and corrections system make decisions. Our ultimate failing as politicians is that sometimes we cannot be in a position to make those decisions. Sometimes when we see that too many mistakes have been made and justice is not being served, the Conservatives are correct to point out that maybe new legislation is required. That may be a failure on this place and on us, and it certainly might seem like a failure for the government. As woefully inadequate as that might feel to people who live with the pain of crimes that have been committed against them and their families, the conclusions of this review that has already been undertaken, from what I understood from the parliamentary secretary, are so important. Legislation needs to be adopted to rectify certain situations if mistakes are made.
A question that was posed to me by one of my colleagues when this motion was tabled was the following: why was this decision made? It is a very good question. It is the essence of the question that the Conservatives are posing. That is the ultimate challenge we face, because I do not know why that decision was made. Was there an issue in the institution where the person who had committed these horrible crimes was located, and a decision was made to address specific issues that we do not know about? I do not know. That is our ask of the government today, that this will be dealt with, with due haste and expedited. I believe that, at the very least, we owe that, as woefully inadequate as that may be, to the victims in the situation.
The conclusions and a better understanding will make me more comfortable as a parliamentarian asking what is next. As the sponsor of this motion correctly pointed out, without relitigating or rehashing the debate over legislation tabled in the previous parliament, a government and parliamentarians can table legislation to resolve issues. I want to understand those issues before we move forward.
I know today that those words ring completely hollow to Tori Stafford's father, and anyone else who has been a victim of this type of crime. As I said at the outset, the constant challenge we have as policy-makers is what can we do to make sure that we have the tools to get it right. We want to get it right and get it right as quickly as possible.
On one policy piece, on this extremely challenging issue that is before us today, there is the eternal challenge of what corrections faces with regard to female offenders. I have seen it on the public safety committee, and I know the status of women committee members have seen it in the studies they have undertaken. There is a lack of resources in some cases, there are challenges with security classifications and there is a lack of maximum-security institutions. There is an existing and appropriate program for mothers and children, which the parliamentary secretary explained, that is rigorously enforced, in terms of its parameters, by corrections.
These are the constant issues that Corrections Canada and, ultimately, we as policy-makers face. We want to make sure we understand, whether it is an indigenous offender, a male offender or a female offender, whoever it may be in the corrections system, the situations and how they play out in terms of their place in the corrections system or the safety of corrections officers, the integrity of the institutions or ensuring public safety, which is the ultimate goal of the system.
There are a variety of constantly moving parts. Never has that been more apparent to me, as my party's spokesperson on public safety, than with the debate that is before us today. It is a challenge, and it is a challenge that sometimes leads us to believe, as I feel today, that we have let many Canadians down.
Many Canadians are rightfully outraged, as I am, by this situation. As the member for said and as the hon. said, we are outraged. I do not want to hear anyone else try to tell this House and indeed Canadians that we do not share their pain and frustration.
We talk about the role of healing lodges in the corrections system, the challenges in women's institutions and in men's institutions, the challenge of security classifications, the variety of considerations that are taken by corrections, and the constant tension between politicians, non-partisan judges, commissioners and others who play a role in this. I will take one lesson from this motion and from this debate that I think is incumbent on all of us, that we strive to do better for those Canadians who feel we have let them down.
I certainly hope that, regardless of a motion more substantively on legislation and policy, we are always striving to do better, make sure that the corrections system is working, and ensure public safety through different roles relating to mental health and other things that corrections has to consider. I also hope, and this is the most important piece, that we are protecting those victims from the crimes themselves, and that we are understanding, and I say this with all due respect, contrary to what was insinuated earlier, that I do not understand, living with the constant pain.
In conclusion, I will go back to those two words I said at the beginning of my speech, hell and nightmare. I can only hope that, moving forward, we make the hell and the nightmare for a father, like Tori Stafford's father, although it will likely never end, easier, if possible, and that we strive to make sure no other Canadian has to live with that type of pain.
Madam Speaker, today I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
The motion before us is very simple. For anyone watching, it calls upon the House to condemn the decision to move Terri-Lynne McClintic, a convicted child rapist and murderer, from a facility where she was behind razor wire and bars to a facility that has kitchenettes and where children are present and there is no fence. This woman has served only a very short part of her life sentence. In 2012, moreover, she was convicted or pleaded guilty to violently assaulting another inmate.
What I want to do for everyone who is watching is to rebut all of the talking points being used by the Liberals and the NDP in the House today. That way when people phone Liberal and NDP MPs, they can rebut their talking points with some facts.
First of all, the Liberals are saying that Stephen Harper did this. They say that about everything. However, in this case, the transfer from a medium-security facility where this vile, disgusting woman was behind razor wire and bars to a healing lodge where there is no fence happened a few short months ago. As much as the would like to make this Stephen Harper's fault, this occurred recently. Things happen. That is what happens when a party is in government. How one should be judged is by one's response to it. The reality is that the Liberals have been hiding behind their bureaucrats on this. That is myth buster number one.
Number two is that the Liberals say we need a review. Why do we need a review in this case? This woman will likely never be allowed to be around children again. She murdered and violently defiled a young girl. She has assaulted prisoners. She should not be afforded a spot in a healing lodge, which is normally reserved for someone who is close to release. We do not need a review of this case. She should not be in this facility. We should just be doing the right thing.
Number three, this is about the role of healing lodges. Okay, let us make it about the role of healing lodges. Healing lodges are for aboriginal and first nations people. It has been reported in the media that family members have said this woman does not fall in that category. As well, I have seen experts in this area say that a program like this should be used for someone who is close to the end of their release. This woman is nowhere close to the end of her release, thank the Lord, and she is probably taking up the spot of a first nations person who needs this treatment. Members can push back against the Liberals on that. For the Conservative Party this is not about the role of healing lodges. We are not opposing them in general, but we are opposing one being used in the case of this disgusting woman.
Number four, this is about respecting the rule of law. Both the and the , as well as the NDP, have said there is not enough information and that discussing this case is not the role of Parliament. I do note that the herself, after the Colton Boushie not-guilty verdict this year, stood up and tweeted that she was committed to ensuring justice for all Canadians. Thus, she commented on the verdict of a trial, implying that justice was not done. She did that and then she met with the family associated with the case. Then, she tabled legislation immediately to change the process by which juries are selected in this country in Bill .
What I do not understand is how the Liberals can condemn a decision of a trial by jury, make changes in this place, and then stand up and embrace themselves in the warm fuzzy cloak of their bureaucrats. The reality is that the government has intervened and it should not be using a double standard. The Liberals either are doing this or they are not.
The next Liberal talking point is that they cannot do anything. They are patently wrong on that. For those who are listening and are about to call their Liberal MP, as they should, here is what they can say. Section 6 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act gives the the power to issue directives in all areas relating to Corrections Canada, including what we are talking about today. Also, section 96 of the same act gives cabinet the authority to pass regulations determining eligibility for confinement.
To give concrete examples of where this authority has been used, the , when he was the public safety minister in a previous government, reversed a decision to send a cop killer to a minimum security prison in B.C. using this authority. A Liberal government has already done this.
When Stockwell Day was the public safety minister, he issued a directive that all first degree murderers must spend a prescribed amount of time in a maximum security prison. The current Liberal government could issue a similar directive pertaining to child killers and this would be fixed. The could convene a cabinet meeting to specifically deal with this particular directive, and this could be fixed immediately.
This is not about a review. The facts are clear. The facts have been presented to the public. Everyone knows that this woman should be nowhere near a minimum-security prison. It is completely up to the government to choose to do the right thing, and it is refusing to do so.
The other reason I know that the Liberals recognize that something is wrong is that journalists have been reporting that the lodge employees themselves, when they are being called to answer questions, are now not releasing information they have released in the past. Clearly, the government is trying to intervene to make sure that this does not become a public relations disaster for it, when it should be focusing on the rights of the victim's family and ensuring they are not re-victimized.
Frankly, going back to the point on the healing lodge, where is the healing lodge for the victims of this family? I will be honest. I will not stand in this place on behalf of Canadians and defend the rights of this child killer, who has been convicted and needs to receive a significant penalty for her crimes. We should be focusing completely on the rights of Tori Stafford's family, for justice for this little girl. This woman should not be in this healing lodge.
The next thing I want to talk about is the Liberals' repeated point that having children in this lodge is normal, but the reality is that this particular healing lodge was under investigation by the public integrity commissioner as little as two years ago, because employees had been bringing their children to this facility. Therefore, there already are problems with this facility with children being brought there. McClintic should be nowhere near children.
The Liberals should not be normalizing this at all. This woman should be nowhere near children. She does not have children and does not need to reunited with her children. She should be kept away from children. There should be no children there. It is as simple as that. If someone phones their MP complaining about the issue, they should say, no, she should not be in this lodge, period.
The next point is that the Liberals are trying to spin this issue, as they did this weekend. I was on a panel with the , who said he was going to chastise me for using inappropriately graphic language. The went on a national television program and called what Terri-Lynne McClintic did “bad practices”. We have given him opportunities to stand and apologize. What does this decision do? It normalizes this activity. It says that this is a bad practice. I feel we should be reminding the public safety minister over and over again about the disgusting things this woman did so that he can get into his head that this is not a bad practice, but something that needs to be fixed.
Those are the talking points, and I am now going to appeal to my Liberal colleagues. We can get angry with each other here, but I would ask them, in their heart of hearts, to put themselves in the shoes of this man when he was writing the this weekend and do the right thing.
Everyone who is watching today should call Liberal members of Parliament and respectfully and politely tell them to do the right thing. This is not about partisan politics; this is about right and wrong. All of the bureaucrats at Public Safety who might be sitting in the lobby today should give their heads a shake, too. This policy should be changed, this woman should not be in this lodge, and we should be supporting this motion to ensure that a policy reversing this decision is passed to make sure that this never happens again. We need to stand behind the rights of this family. That is what we are here to do and what the executive branch is here to do.
To everyone in the House today, this motion is a no-brainer. It was passed in the Ontario legislature unanimously. Let us just get this done. Let us not make Mr. Stafford and his family come to Ottawa to protest this. Let us not re-victimize him. Let us vote for this and do the right thing. Let us get this done.
Madam Speaker, imagine a place surrounded by trees and greenery. Imagine a place where individuals live in units with kitchenettes, fine linen, nice tables, and beds and playrooms for their children. Imagine a place where there is actually a playground where children can unite and engage in fun activities together.
Now imagine a place where there are people who have committed heinous crimes who also occupy this space. Imagine further that this space has no fences and no visible security. This is the place where McClintic, a child killer, currently resides. This is a woman who killed an eight-year-old girl on her way home from school one day. This is a woman who committed an incredibly heinous crime, and she resides in this place. It is called a healing lodge, in Saskatchewan.
To better understand just how troubling this is, we have to take the opportunity to understand the gravity of what happened to Tori Stafford, the eight-year-old girl of whom I speak. We must familiarize ourselves with the uncomfortable facts. This is where the Liberals and the NDP members among us get uncomfortable. They do not like to look at the facts of this story. They do not like to consider what happened to Tori Stafford on that dreadful day on her way home from school. They do not like to enter the courtroom and the hearing that took place in 2012, when the convicted murderer recounted the grisly details.
However, if we were to enter that courtroom and listen to some of those details, here is what we would hear. We would hear the story of a little girl who was eight years old who headed home from school one day. She was asked by an adult to come and see a puppy, a shih tzu puppy, as McClintic recalled. This little girl, eager and excited to visit this puppy, made her way over to the car. At that time, Tori Stafford was shoved into the car and driven to an undisclosed location. On the way, garbage bags were picked up at the Home Hardware store. Tori was then taken to the middle of nowhere, where she was raped multiple times and then beaten to death with a hammer. Tori's body was put into garbage bags and then disposed of in the woods.
I have spared this room the most gruesome details, but in this room, the Liberals and NDP members are incredibly uncomfortable with even what I just shared, because they would like to pretend that these details did not actually happen to an eight-year-old girl by the name of Tori. They would like to attack us on this side of the House for bringing these details up, as if we are somehow engaging in poor decorum, but these are the details that were disclosed in the courtroom by the killer, McClintic. That day in that courtroom, McClintic was sentenced, for first degree murder, to life without parole.
Today is about standing with the Stafford family, Victoria's loved ones. Today we have the opportunity to take a stand for justice for Tori. Today we have the opportunity to insist that the right thing be done, so Conservative members on this side of the House have put forward a motion to show our solidarity in standing with the Stafford family.
We call upon the House to support this motion, and that is this:
That, given Terri-Lynne McClintic was convicted of first-degree murder in the horrific abduction, rape and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford, and was moved from a secure facility to a healing lodge without fences and where the government has confirmed the presence of children, the House condemn this decision and call upon the government to exercise its moral, legal and political authority to ensure this decision is reversed and cannot happen again in other cases.
That is a very important line. Today we stand with the Stafford family. Today we call for justice for Tori. We do it for the present, but we also do it for the future. We look to those who are to come. We look to our justice system. We have to defend the victims that do exist and that will exist. We have to insist that this place, the House of Commons, the Parliament of Canada, where 338 elected representatives sit, does the right thing. In this case, that is reversing the decision to move McClintic to a healing lodge.
Why is this important? It is important that we have this discussion today for a few reasons. First is that the government would like to abdicate its authority, and second is that the called the actions of child killer McClintic “bad practices”. Those were not “bad practices”. There is a reason this room does not like it when I stand up here and describe what happened to that little girl. It is because they were more than bad practices. This was a little eight-year-old girl whose life was taken. Canadians from coast to coast are rightfully outraged about this. They have every right to be, and I stand with them.
This summer, the said this about Canadians:“We are there for each other in times of difficulty..., we lean on each other and we stand strong”. I wonder where he is in that picture. Where is he? Where is he when Rodney Stafford needs to lean on someone for justice? Where is he when Rodney Stafford needs people to surround him and support him in his gravest need? Where is the ? Where is the government when there is an opportunity to take a stand for justice? It is silent, absent and abdicating authority.
This injustice saw an eight-year-old lose her life and a mom and dad be forever robbed of their little girl. The and his government are trying to shirk responsibility and place blame elsewhere, but the fact of the matter is that the has the ability to reverse this decision. The government has the ability to put McClintic back in the facility where she belongs.
Tori's father recently wrote to the and said that not all issues are political. “Some are moral”, he said. The Liberals have accused us of being political, but I would ask them to heed the words of Rodney Stafford, this little girl's dad, because he has said to the Prime Minister that not all issues are political. Some are just moral, and this is one of them. This is a moral issue. It is an issue of right and wrong. This in an issue where the has an opportunity to reverse a decision that never should have been made but unfortunately was. He has the opportunity to do the right thing now, to do the moral thing.
It is always right to do the right thing. It is always wrong to do the wrong thing. In fact, some acts are always wrong, because they go against a fundamental or basic human good that should never be compromised. We would all agree that some of those things include killing, torturing and raping an innocent human being. These things are just wrong, full stop.
The Liberal government's moral compass appears to be broken. Unfortunately, it is not able to hear these things. Instead of standing with victims, it is more comfortable finding itself on the side of criminals. For example, Bill is a piece of legislation the government has just introduced that would actually decrease sentences for things like genocide, terrorism and forced marriage. In addition, it gave $10 million to Omar Khadr, a convicted terrorist. For Chris Garnier, who murdered an off-duty cop, it gave him veterans benefits for the PTSD he acquired because of the murder. Now with McClintic, it is happy to see her go to a healing lodge, where she is not held accountable for the crime she committed.
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I am calling on this House today to do something. Do not allow evil to triumph. Do not allow this grave injustice to be committed against Tori and her family. This House has the opportunity to take a stand for righteousness, to do the right thing, to act morally, to stand with Rodney Stafford and to reverse the placement of McClintic in a healing lodge.
I am calling on all Canadians to participate with us, to call their MPs and to make their voices heard.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
First, nothing we say or do in the House will ever ease the pain of the family of Tori Stafford, the pain it goes through each and every day. As a mother, it is unimaginable to me what that family has been through. For Tori's dad, her family, friends and all who knew her, I want to acknowledge their suffering and extend my sympathies for their loss.
I am going to turn my remarks now to the motion before us today.
In our country, we rely on our courts to deliver sentences and the corrections system to supervise offenders, uphold public safety and rehabilitate those in their care. We do not have a vigilante system in Canada. We do not allow public opinion or political rhetoric to determine the penalties dealt to individual offenders, yet the opposition has been playing political games with our entire justice system this past week.
Let us be clear. There is no doubt that this offender should be in prison and there is no doubt she remains in prison. The facts of this case are well known and they shake us to the core. She was tried and sentenced to life without eligibility of parole for 25 years. She has been in the custody of Correctional Service Canada since her sentencing. Let me reiterate that she is still in prison. She continues to be supervised while incarcerated and will remain under supervision for the rest of her life.
Let us get the facts straight. Neither the , the nor the House has the ability to overturn the decision that is the subject of the opposition motion. To make the public believe that we do is irresponsible of the opposition, and I, for one, do not want to live in a country where our justice and corrections system rely on political rhetoric and public opinion for their decision-making processes.
Last week, I had the opportunity to hear from the new commissioner of corrections at the public safety committee. She stated several times that the had asked her to review the circumstances surrounding this transfer decision, as well as the policies regarding transfers in general. She reiterated that she was moving forward with this review, and I look forward to its swift conclusion.
Over the course of the last week, I have been disappointed by the level of debate in this place. Last Wednesday, as the gruesome details of the crime were read into the record, I looked at the children in the gallery and wondered if they would ever look at this place as someplace they would like to return to someday. I somehow doubt it.
Even though the details were part of a court transcript, I do not believe it is necessary to read them out over and over again. We all agree that we are talking about a heinous crime, but I am doubtful that rehashing the gruesome details before the House will achieve any constructive end.
I want to applaud the member for , the NDP critic for public safety, who sits on the committee with me, for his thoughtful comments and for raising the level of debate in this place on this motion.
Both committees on which I sit, the status of women and public safety, tabled reports in June on the corrections system, and in particular on indigenous people in corrections. The public safety report was unanimous and called for additional funding for healing lodges. Members from all parties heard from witnesses and agreed that healing lodges were doing excellent work and should be expanded and supported. The Conservative members of the committee agreed with us that they played an integral role in our corrections system. The status of women committee also recommended additional funding for healing lodges and heard extensive testimony on their benefits.
How many on the opposition benches have actually visited a women's medium-security institute or a healing lodge? I have visited both. I suspect most people, including those in the House, expect prison to look like what they see on television, perhaps the latest episode of Orange is the New Black. They might be surprised to see what a medium security institute, like Grand Valley, actually looks like.
Let me be very clear. A healing lodge is still a secure corrections facility. Perhaps if it was called a women's indigenous corrections facility, we would not even be having this debate today. It is not a spa. It is not a summer camp. There are no luxury linens, as some on the other side of the House have portrayed. Prisoners must follow the rules if they want to stay there.
A healing lodge is different from what Canadians might expect a prison to look like, but these institutions are also very different with respect to outcomes for prisoners and, in turn, better for Canadians and for public safety in the long run.
Claire Carefoot, executive director of the Buffalo Sage Wellness House, an Edmonton healing lodge, has 29 years experience in corrections. She appeared before the public safety committee during our study. This weekend, with regard to this case, she stated:
It's not a get-out-of-jail-free [card]....We have the same kind of supervision and restrictions they have in a prison. Only we're doing it in a healing way....they have to accept responsibility for their offences, for their victims, and they have to accept responsibility for their own behaviour.
Our government knows that a corrections system focused on accountability rather than simple retribution is better for corrections outcomes and therefore better for the public safety of all Canadians.
We know that taking a rehabilitative approach is the best way to protect the public safety of Canadians. I think Canadians would agree that when people leave prison, we do not want them to commit a violent crime. It is not in the interest of public safety.
As we know, regardless of the length of their sentence, the vast majority of those incarcerated in our system will be released from prison at some point. They may very well move into our neighbourhoods. My question is this. What kind of person do we want released from prison at the end of his or her sentence living next door to us? I feel strongly that, regardless of our feelings toward individual cases, public safety is best served when we take steps to prevent violent recidivism.
I have met and gotten to know many of the men and women who work in the corrections system, from the commissioner and correctional investigator, regional managers, to the wardens, corrections officers, parole officers, aboriginal liaison officers, program officers, nurses and more. These people work incredibly hard, with very little recognition. They develop programs and plans for offenders and work day in and day out, in often challenging circumstances, in an effort to rehabilitate those in our corrections system. They are passionate about their work and often make a real difference in the lives of offenders so they can become productive and healthy members of society upon their release, which in turn protects public safety.
In the case before us, under the watch of the Conservative public safety minister in 2014, the offender's security classification was reduced to medium and she was transferred to a medium-security institute. She remains in a medium security institute today. What has changed is the political games being played out before us.
It comes down to what we want our justice system to do. Is it solely for punishment? I suspect the Conservatives will say yes. However, there is more to it. It is essential that our system also does everything within its power to rehabilitate the offender, not because we prioritize the well-being of the offender over the victim, because we do not, but because we know it is in the best interests of all Canadians and ultimately makes Canadians safer.
This case certainly tests our morality. It tests the core of our beliefs as Canadians. However, I have faith in our commissioner and the staff in corrections. I recognize that there will be decisions made that we do not like or ones in fact that we may find troubling. However, I also recognize that we must protect Canadians and ensure the highest standards of public safety are upheld.
The minister's mandate to the commissioner acknowledged that the Correctional Service Canada protects Canadian communities through appropriate custodial measures, effective rehabilitation and the safe reintegration of people serving a federal sentence. Our focus must be on the public safety of Canadians. I know the and this government are seized with this as well. At the end of the day, we all want to protect Canadians and ensure justice is served.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to discuss this issue.
Over the 20 years that I served on city council as a councillor and mayor, two murders occurred in our community. One of the most difficult things I had to do was talk to the family of the person who had been murdered, to try to comfort them at an unspeakable time of horror, and to try to assure them that our justice system would work effectively for them.
Like every member in the House, my heart goes out to the family of Tori Stafford and to her friends. My heart goes out to her entire community, because the community is affected when a horrible crime like this occurs.
No member has a monopoly on virtue. Everyone in this place supports victims. Everyone in this place thinks that Terri-Lynne McClintic committed a horrible crime and rightly deserves to spend her life behind bars with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. No party in the House would disagree.
I also understand how the family of Tori Stafford must feel about the transfer of Terri-Lynne McClintic to a healing lodge, that it was not an appropriate location for her. I can understand the sense of outrage that Canadians feel, and this government is taking it seriously. We are looking at what policies need to be changed to potentially prevent this from happening.
However, the House of Commons should not substitute itself for a court or the Correctional Service of Canada. We live in a country where we have decided that no matter how unpopular one individual is, no matter how unpopular one group is, that individual or group is still entitled to equal treatment under our laws. Members are arguing here today that there should not be equal treatment under our laws.
We are being told today that the House of Commons and a minister should pronounce on an individual case. That is not how our system works. If someone is sent to trial, should the House of Commons vote before the trial whether or not that individual should be convicted? Should the RCMP be dictated to by a minister to investigate someone? Do we want our political enemies investigated by the RCMP, because the law relating to the RCMP is identical to the law with respect to the Correctional Service of Canada? It is being argued that the minister should tell people what to do. That is not appropriate. That is not the Canada we live in.
It is really easy in a populist environment to score political points by talking about horrible criminals. I understand that scores points, but that is not the system in which we live.
I would be happy to talk directly to Mr. Stafford. I feel his pain.
I agree that many things could potentially be done. If this opposition motion did not tell us what to do in a specific case, but rather proposed actual policy changes, I might have been tempted to support it. For example, let us look at all of the things that could have been looked at.
First, are healing lodges appropriate? Healing lodges were introduced in 1992 by a Conservative government. Thus far, committees of the House have found them to be appropriate. Perhaps asking if they should be used is a legitimate question.
Second. Should non-indigenous offenders be sent to indigenous healing lodges? If the motion said that non-indigenous offenders should not be eligible for healing lodges, I might well have supported it. That is not what this motion says.
Third. Should medium-security prisoners be transferred to healing lodges? Maybe these facilities should only be for people who are not in medium-security institutions. Maybe only people who are close to release should be in those lodges. Had that been a legitimate policy option applied equally to all offenders and proposed in this Conservative opposition day motion, I might have supported it.
Should there have been a question as to whether or not first degree murderers should be eligible to go to healing lodges, or the motion have said that people convicted of first degree murder or people who are child murders should not be eligible to enter healing lodges be a policy, I might well have been tempted to support it.
Should the motion have said that people who are first degree murderers and 20 years into their sentences not be eligible for healing lodges because they are not close to going back into society, perhaps I could have supported that as well.
I have already had a conversation with the and given him my point of view. I personally do support a policy that would deny first degree murderers ever being eligible to go to healing lodges, because we have heard the pain this has caused in this one individual case, and maybe it has happened in other cases we do not know about. Maybe it has been happening for years that first degree murderers have been sent to healing lodges.
Now that we are aware of this, the has rightly said we will look at all policies surrounding this. However, what cannot happen in our society is to change one unpopular person's sentence and not change policies at the same time, so that every single person is equally treated, because in Canada, people have a right to equal treatment under the law.
It is very important that, here in Canada, where we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a Constitution, we have laws that apply equally to everyone, all across the country.
That to me is the core issue here. Let us move away from looking at this as an individual case. The role of Parliament is not to legislate individual cases and to say that one prisoner should be here, there, or anywhere. The role of Parliament is to legislate and create rules of general application for everyone in this country.
I do support the idea that first degree murderers should not be eligible to go to healing lodges, and I will continue to advocate for that within my caucus and my party. I would think we would all be best served by looking at how these rules can be changed, not only to deal with this one individual but also to ensure that equal application under the law exists and that everyone is treated equally under the law.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I would just like to say that my father was a warden and my mother was a detention officer. How many times did they tell me that victims have no rights in Canada?
I have no words to describe the fact that I actually have to rise today to make the Liberal government listen to reason so it can finally correct the situation that we have been condemning for nearly two weeks. This is not the only case either. We are talking about the murder of an eight-year-old child. It is unbelievable that in Canada in 2018, we still have to fight to have the rights of victims of crime recognized before the rights of criminals, especially criminals like Ms. McClintic.
Since victims of crime are not being represented properly by the other side of the House, we on this side will be their voice. We have always been and will always be their voice. Here is the best example. Earlier, my Liberal colleague across the aisle was talking about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Well, the Charter has 23 sections protecting the rights of criminals, but none protecting the rights of victims. That is why we, the Conservatives, created the Victims Bill of Rights; we created it so that victims of crime would finally get their own voice and their own rights.
It seems to me that everything has been said. It is clear that Ms. McClintic was convicted of first-degree murder for brutally killing little Tori Stafford, who was just eight years old, the light of her parents' lives, with her whole life ahead of her. In 2009, Ms. McClintic was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. I think that is clear too. A 25-year prison sentence handed down at the end of a trial is not a suggestion, it is a fact. She was found guilty by her peers. It is a fitting sentence for the crime she committed. However, Tori's parents are the ones serving the real life sentence, one that will last far longer than 25 years.
How can a criminal who committed such an act and had such serious problems within the prison walls be eligible so soon for a transfer to a healing lodge to get help with rectifying her bad practices? It is shameful, a slap in the face to the victims and the victims' parents, and to the justice system itself. How are Canadians supposed to have confidence in our justice system now?
Ms. McClintic's transfer also shows a total lack of respect for young Tori and her parents. It is particularly unacceptable that her parents were not notified about the transfer when they should have been. The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which was passed unanimously, clearly states that the victims or relatives of the victims must be called before a transfer occurs, but that was not done in this case.
Since the Liberal government does not yet seem to understand that the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights has supra-constitutional status, I will remind it that this means the bill of rights has to be enforced and respected.
This important bill of rights has four fundamental pillars. The first is the right to information. This means that Tori's parents should be informed of the transfer of the criminal who ripped their lives apart. Once again, the rights of the victims were ignored, and no one on the other side of the House is outraged.
As parliamentarians, we do not want to put Ms. McClintic on trial again. We do not want to use our right to speak to play politics, as the Liberals are claiming. What we want is to stand up for victims, stand up for justice and stand up for a child taken too soon while her murderer is currently in a place where she should not be. According to her sentence, she should be behind bars, not in a place where there is no fence and where there are children present.
This very bad decision is making Tori's family relive a tragedy, and no one opposite seems to care. That is what really bothers us the most.
I have two adult daughters and a grandson. Anyone who would touch a hair on their heads would have to deal with me. You can be sure that there would be no need for speeches.
This very bad decision is making Tori's whole family relive a tragedy.
What past are we talking about? In this case, talking is obviously much easier than taking action. Canada's correctional system should apologize to the family, and the government should as well.
This criminal is obviously entitled to ask the ombudsman to advocate for her rights. Fortunately for her, the ombudsman also operates independently from the Department of Public Safety.
Tori's family has access to the new federal ombudsman for victims of crime, who was appointed after nearly a year of waiting. This position was vacant that whole time. This ombudsman does not operate independently from the Department of Justice and therefore the two ombudsmen do not have equal powers to advocate for their respective clients' rights.
The Liberals all voted against the bill I introduced, Bill , which would have made the position of federal ombudsman for victims of crime equal to that of the criminals' ombudsman. It is therefore no surprise that we are here today fighting once again for victims' rights.
It is profoundly sad that we have to do what we are doing today, and it strikes directly at the credibility of the Canadian prison system. It is completely impossible to defend the indefensible, to allow a prisoner with an extensive criminal record, who committed acts of unimaginable cruelty upon a vulnerable victim, to be transferred to an institution like a healing lodge, and to have to accept this in silence. It is impossible to allow an already broken family to be revictimized. It is impossible to accept the fact that little Tori's father had to post a Facebook message addressed to the , pleading with him to take responsibility and reverse the transfer.
This appalling situation must never happen again, neither for Tori's family nor for any other victim of such a heinous crime. This is not a minor crime we are talking about. It is first degree murder.
In my opinion, this situation needs to change. We demand an explanation and a review of this terrible decision. We need to know exactly why it is being upheld right now.
We must conclude that there is still a lot of work to be done to defend the rights of victims of crime, to make sure a situation like this never happens again. I wish I could say otherwise, but since taking office, the Liberals have not done a single thing for victims of crime. Worse still, they are actually going backwards.
However, we on this side of the House will never back down in the face of injustices like Tori's case. We know that Canadians are equally disgusted by this new injustice being perpetrated against Tori's family. If we do not do everything in our power to remedy this situation, who will? It is our duty to defend the rights of victims, to speak out loud and clear against injustice in our country, and to acknowledge this unforgivable failure of our correctional system that has shocked Canadians as a whole and left this government without a shred of credibility.
Mr. Speaker, last week we saw a and cabinet that hid behind process like cowards and refused to address what I believe to be a miscarriage of justice. As I have said many times in this place, it is and should be the top priority of the House to put the protection of all Canadians ahead of any political gain. This mantra seems to have fallen on deaf Liberal ears.
Leaders are to be guided by vision and principles, taking ownership of their problems. We saw no such leadership, no principles and no ownership on this issue by the current government. Canadians are taking note and their confidence in their government to establish and maintain justice, among many other things, continues to diminish. Canadians need confidence in our justice system, and confidence that victims are protected, that criminals come to justice and that communities are safe.
For 35 years, I worked alongside brave men and women in policing and many others in the justice system who lived the leadership, the principles and the ownership of our system. We saw justice for victims and the community at large. Sadly, I saw many victims who deserved far better than what the justice system offered at the time. It was therefore exciting to participate as Canada's justice system slowly began to understand and embrace the once-forgotten victims of crime, to finally stand up for the full principles of justice.
I, and thousands of Canadians like me, served or are serving our communities because we believe Canada needs a justice system that is not just focused on the offender to ensure they receive justice, but also on victims. We believe in a system of justice that is fair and reasonable and impartially serves all Canadians. However, that is not what has happened in this case. Last week, not a single member of the Liberal government caucus stood up for justice and for victims or had the courage to show leadership.
It has shaken the faith of all Canadians in our justice system that a child murderer is being placed in what is really a minimum-security corrections facility, a healing lodge, that increases the potential of putting others at risk yet again, and for no reason. This type of facility is designed to help offenders reintegrate back into their communities near the end of their term of incarceration, not when they have nearly 17 years left to serve before even being eligible for parole. Not a single Liberal, from the , through cabinet, to the back bench, stood up to demand action.
I applaud my new Conservative colleague, the member for , for having the courage to no longer tolerate the Liberals' lack of leadership on the tough issues or their inability to properly govern, and to stand with us in the opposition.
I am not here to exploit the tragedy that befell the Stafford family. That would be an insult to their suffering. However, let us be clear, they are suffering, needlessly revictimized by this decision. I will not dwell on the details of her death, but those details are seared into our collective memory like a scar that will not heal, and that is the way it should be. As a society, no matter what our party ideologies are, we can all agree that our children, innocent, vulnerable and trusting, are to be cherished and protected. Surely, no matter where your political loyalty lies, you cannot believe that a killer of a child should be placed in a minimum-security prison, to walk among non-violent offenders living with their children. There is no justice in such a decision. This is, by any measure, an outrage. This is, by any measure, gross negligence. This is, by any measure, a miscarriage of justice.
Mr. Speaker, I stand before you as someone who gave 35 years defending and upholding justice, and demand the government act today to restore my faith and that of all Canadians. Their announced response, unbelievably weak such as it is, amounts to ignoring communities, victims and the family impacted.
Let us be clear, the minister has the ability to act, just as past governments, Liberal and Conservative, have acted when the system has failed. A current Liberal cabinet minister acted when a cop killer was transferred to club fed, a minimum security prison in B.C.
Correctional Service of Canada reversed that decision, as the Liberal cabinet minister directed it to do. Conservative ministers also acted when Correctional Service of Canada made decisions that failed Canadians and negatively impacted public confidence. Those decisions were reversed.
This case should also receive an immediate similar response. However, the Liberal government is less concerned with upholding justice, and more concerned about the feelings of unrepentant and manipulative killers.
I am not interested in pre-written responses from the political aides behind the curtains. I do not want anyone hiding behind bureaucratic reasoning. There are higher order laws, laws upon which this country was founded, being violated by the government. Someone at the highest level must stand up and take responsibility for this egregious situation.
Admittedly, I am a former police officer and not a powerful orator. However, today, I wish my gift was standing up and speaking so that others would listen. We need to come together and reverse the added trauma revisited upon a family that has been through far too much already. We cannot bring young Tori back. We cannot erase her final hours. If we could, everyone in this House would do just that.
Let us stop the games. Let us restore what justice we can for Tori's family. Any moral person in this House would agree with that. As it is, it is cold comfort. Surely we can all agree that having the wound reopened is equivalent to unnecessary anguish and suffering. Surely we can get this fixed before Mr. Stafford has to come to Parliament Hill to demand it. No victim or their family should ever have to protest to see justice served.
However, that is what the Liberal government and its spineless leader are asking. Surely, we can all agree that a family that has lost everything need not lose their faith that there will be justice for their daughter's killer. Canadians must be protected from the most evil among us. As Canadians, we deserve nothing less.
Consider for a moment, the women and their children living in this healing lodge. Now the Liberal government is traumatizing these women all over again, putting a child killer in their midst. Will the hypocrisy never end?
Let us stop and think about the situation. Tell me who wins here. Who is benefiting from this very offensive situation? The only person I can think of who is winning is Terri-Lynne McClintic.
At whose expense is she benefiting? It is at the expense of Tori Stafford's family, at the expense of the entire community of Stratford, Ontario, at the expense, quite frankly, of every Canadian who believes and expects, as I do, that justice in this country will be served.
Surely that is far too high a price to pay.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I rise today to talk about the transfer of an offender from one Correctional Service of Canada facility to another. The transfer in question has outraged many Canadians, the media and, especially, the victim's family, who have expressed concerns over this development.
Our government has heard these concerns and empathizes with those affected, in particular the victim's family. This is why the asked the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada last week to conduct a comprehensive review of the transfer. Two highly qualified senior officials from the department and an esteemed member of the indigenous community will conduct this review. Their objective is to determine whether the decision to transfer this offender was in line with CSC's policies and procedures. The review will also identify potential policy amendments or changes.
Our government recognizes the impact these decisions can have on victims' families, and we certainly do not take these matters lightly. However, we also recognize the importance of allowing Correctional Service of Canada professionals to do their work without political interference so they can carry out their mandate to keep Canadian communities safe by means of the appropriate incarceration, effective rehabilitation, and proper reintegration of federally sentenced offenders.
Our government was elected almost three years ago on a campaign platform that included a promise to take a thoughtful, evidence-based approach to the exercise of power. That is why we believe correctional service professionals in the public service should be responsible for making the decisions they are in the best position to make. Our government has decided to conduct a comprehensive review of the facts of the case and will ensure that the offender was transferred in accordance with CSC's policies and procedures.
Given that this is an emotionally charged file and that there is a great deal of misinformation going around, I would like to take the time that I have left to set the record straight about the healing lodge in question. The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is in a remote region on the Nekaneet first nation 32 kilometres from the nearest village, Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. The healing lodge opened its doors in 1995 as a multi-level institution managed by the Correctional Service of Canada. No female offender has escaped from there in the past decade.
As is the case in every Correctional Service of Canada facility, static and dynamic security measures are in place to ensure the safety of the staff, the offenders, and the general public. Cameras are strategically placed inside the institution and on the grounds, and the images are monitored at all times by security staff. The staff are equipped to employ intrusive and non-intrusive search methods, such as regular searches of the offenders' units and common areas, strip searches, inspections with the help of ion mobility spectrometers, and urinalyses.
The healing lodge has a search plan in place, and staff conduct daily searches of the facility and offenders. Staff also conduct regular security patrols throughout the day and night. The facility is also equipped with alarm systems to notify staff when an offender leaves her unit outside of normal hours. Furthermore, an interdisciplinary team of correctional officers, health professionals and other front-line staff, including elders, ensure that any behavioural changes in offenders is recorded, assessed and managed appropriately.
Correctional Service of Canada officials are continually evaluating offenders' behaviour and the risk they present, and a transfer is initiated only when an offender can no longer be managed at the healing lodge. Transfers are an important part of the Correctional Service of Canada's capacity to manage federal inmates, as well as an important tool in properly discharging the service's mandate, which is to support the effective rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.
I want to emphasize, once again, that the Correctional Service of Canada regularly assesses the risks offenders present in order to assign an appropriate security classification.
Our government has asked the Correctional Service of Canada to review the case in question. We will ensure compliance with all laws and policies throughout the process.
The government wants to establish a culture of continuous self-reflection. In addition, it will ensure that all policies and practices are based on sound evidence, are kept up to date and take into account an ever-changing environment.
Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed my colleague's speech and I appreciate his experience and expertise.
Let us try to do our best not to engage in flights of rhetoric that can sometimes be very moving, given the emotional nature of the topic, but that can also lead us off track from our common objective of finding the common good. How can we do that?
I understand the government member's explanations. Maybe one day he will be a minister, but he has only a year left to get there, because the Conservatives will certainly take power after that. Let's smile a little during this very emotional debate.
Let us come back to reality. The reality is that the law makes it possible for the person to be assessed by public officials who then make recommendations. The law also gives the minister the discretionary power to act.
In this case, all Canadians recognize that this is a terrible situation, that a horrific crime was committed, that good Canadian common sense must prevail and that the minister must use his discretionary power, what I personally like to refer to as “the power to use common sense”.
Why does the government member not tell his minister that he made some unfortunate remarks? I am sure the member agrees with me on that. Talking about bad practices in reference to the appalling crime that was committed is completely unacceptable. He made a mistake and now he is paying the price.
In my opinion, this situation could be quickly resolved using good Canadian common sense. We just need the minister to stand up and use his power to put the individual in question back behind bars.
Mr. Speaker, like others before me I want to express my personal sympathy to the family of Tori Stafford. It must be very difficult for them to listen to this debate and what has gone on before, because in some respects it is reliving what is every parent's most horrific nightmare.
The government understands the concerns Canadians have with respect to ensuring safety in our communities. We want to assure Canadians on all sides of this debate that the protection of society is the paramount consideration for our government, and that public safety is at the forefront of all decisions regarding the classification and transfer of offenders.
Correctional Service Canada is recognized as a leader in the international corrections community and has a long-standing history of co-operating with national and international partners in the stabilization and reconstruction of foreign criminal justice systems. It is not only a nationally recognized good system, but an internationally recognized good system.
Correctional Service Canada regularly assesses all the risks presented by all offenders, to ensure they are placed in the appropriate location. The various considerations are codified in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act under the criteria for the selection of the penitentiary, as follows:
the Service shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that the penitentiary in which they are confined is one that provides them with an environment that contains only the necessary restrictions, taking into account
(a) the degree and kind of custody and control necessary for
(i) the safety of the public,
(ii) the safety of that person and other persons in the penitentiary, and
(iii) the security of the penitentiary;
It goes on to list several other criteria. Those are the criteria Correctional Service Canada uses for anybody coming into the facility who has to be classified as maximum, medium or minimum, as well as for their ongoing time in the facility, whether for a reclassification or a transfer to another institution.
Canadians need to keep in mind that these are not willy-nilly classifications, and that there are guidelines and policies that go with the consideration when it comes to the transfer or classification of a prisoner.
Immediately after sentencing, CSC officials begin a comprehensive assessment process to identify immediate security needs and critical concerns in accordance with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. The critical factors taken into consideration determine the security level and placement of an offender, and include institutional adjustment, escape risk and risk to public safety. Furthermore, the custody rating scale, an actuarial tool, is also used to assist in assigning the most appropriate initial security classification for the penitentiary placement of an offender.
The aboriginal social history must also be taken into consideration during all risk assessments. Based upon the entire risk assessment, a placement decision is made by CSC.
At this point, I hope I have conveyed that this is a very rigorous process with respect to both the classification of an individual as maximum, minimum or medium, and also to the facility in which the person will be placed.
Based upon their motion today, Conservatives want to simply have the minister intervene and in effect toss that entire decision. This would put the minister in a position of having to make what is essentially a political decision. The Conservative motion asks the minister to ignore the evidence that supports the transfer to this institution and substitute his own decision based upon a set of facts that everyone in this room agrees are egregious in the extreme.
There is a review process that has been triggered by the collective outrage. I say “collective” because it is on both sides of the aisle. The commissioner came before the public safety committee last week. She was originally scheduled to talk about her mandate. However, this set of facts effectively overwhelmed her appearance there. Under repetitive and I would say occasionally even aggressive questioning by the Conservatives, she said at the end of her testimony, “I just want to be clear. This was a tragedy that changed many lives forever. I have been asked to do a review. I am committed to doing a review of the case.”
That is the proper procedure. If in fact the minister is faced with what we collectively agree is an egregious set of facts that causes questions among parliamentarians and Canadians in general, then he does not simply say that he does not like the decision and that he is going to change it. Rather, he asks the commissioner to review the file and see that proper practices were followed.
He has asked the commissioner to do just that. She repeated that over and over again, yet the members from the Conservative Party were not satisfied with that answer. They simply wanted an arbitrary decision to be made by the minister at that point. In fact, they want the minister to make a decision that is unilateral, fact-free and process-free, because the minister cannot undertake the process that I have outlined here. Therefore, they are asking him to do exactly what they would not do while in government.
The minister cannot tell the commissioner of CSC how to manage individual offenders, just as he cannot tell the commissioner of the RCMP who to arrest. My friend, the member for , said as much when he was the public safety minister. He also said that he did not control the security classification of individual prisoners. In 2014, he was right. Now, in 2018, on the opposite side of the aisle, he wishes for the rest of us to do exactly the opposite of what he was advising four years ago.
Benjamin Perrin, a former staffer in Mr. Harper's office, recently tweeted, “This may be unpopular to voice, but I’m concerned with politicians being the ones who decide how any particular individual offender is treated.”
Not only is it unwise to micromanage offenders, it is also illegal. No minister can tell a commissioner how to manage individual offenders, any more than he or she can tell the RCMP who to arrest. There is a wall between the commissioner and the minister, and it is founded on good logic, good law and common sense. The minister makes the policy, and the commissioner executes the policy.
I could have been more persuaded to support the motion had it not been framed in the lexicon of, “We do not care what the decision is, but make the decision now. Reverse the decision of the commissioner”, but rather, “This is an egregious set of facts. Please have the commissioner review the facts and see that the policies were followed. If these facts and the facts in other cases lead you to make a change in policy, so be it.” That should be the way proper law and policies are followed.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to support this motion. I wish the phrasing of the motion had been a little more thoughtful. However, we have what we have.
Mr. Speaker, in truth, I cannot believe that I have to give a speech on the topic today, because this just seems to be something so clearly about common sense that one would not have to have a debate of an entire day convincing the government of the right thing to do. However, here we are, in any event.
When a government cares for its people, and problems people are having are brought to the government, it is the duty of the government to act. Every day, in every way, as members of Parliament in our offices, we do that. There are many times people come to us with questions and problems that are seemingly insurmountable and that we do not have the answers to or that are very difficult or may not be exactly on the policy point that makes sense, but still we try, we commiserate, and we tell them that we will do our best job to fix the problem.
In all the comments I have heard from the and the , not once have I heard the sentiment that they will fix this problem. They will look into the problem. They will look at the process around the problem. However, never have they said that it needs to be fixed. That is why were are here today as Conservatives. We recognize that this as a real problem.
There are two parts to the issue I am going to discuss today. The first is that we need to right the wrong that has occurred. The second is that we have to make sure that this simply does not happen again.
Unfortunately, I believe that I have to start by talking about righting the wrong by actually proving that there is a wrong that has happened, because a lot of the commentary from the government side alludes to the fact that nothing wrong happened here. Either there was a change made in the classification a number of years ago, and therefore there is no wrong here, or there really is no comparison between the two institutions, so there is not really a wrong here.
The reality, and this is what constituents know and what they are talking about, is the fact that Terri-Lynne McClintic pleaded guilty to first degree murder. She was charged and sentenced to 25 years in jail, and she has served eight years of that sentence. Nine months ago, Ms. McClintic was transferred from an institution called Grand Valley to a healing lodge in Saskatchewan. One of the salient points of concern for our party and the opposition is the fact that there are children present in the healing lodge in Saskatchewan, and Terri-Lynne McClintic is serving a sentence for the first degree murder of an eight-year-old. We believe that this is the salient point to take into consideration when determining where a prisoner is going to be facilitated.
The minister hangs his defence of no action on two things. He said that her classification has not changed. In 2014, she was deemed medium security, and today she is deemed medium security. He also says that he simply does not have the power to do what the opposition is asking him to do. I disagree with both aspects.
The first point, on classification, I believe is a red herring. When governments are faced with difficult issues, to manage the issues they can take one of a few paths. The first is to try to blame it on the opposition members for something they have done in the past. The second is to say that they are going to do a review. The third is to take some action.
We have seen the first part of that trilogy. The answered the question by indicating that the Conservatives changed the classification, so why did we not say something then? I disagree.
If one were to do even a cursory search on the Internet, one would be able to look at the difference between the Grand Valley institution and the healing lodge in Saskatchewan. I did spend some time taking a look at the differences between the two, especially because I am concerned about children being in open areas in the healing lodge. What I discovered was that contrary to something the minister said in the House a couple of days ago, while there are children in the Grand Valley institution, they are separated from the medium security prisoners by a fence. The minimum security aspect of that institution, where there is a mothers' program, is completely and utterly separated and segregated from where Terri-Lynne McClintic would have lived. That is an important point and one that we would not have heard from the minister, because as a deflection, he would prefer to say that it is the same institution.
It is not about classification. It is completely about the choice of the institution, and the healing lodge is simply inappropriate, given the gravity and the substance of the offence and the guilty sentence of Terri-Lynne McClintic.
The second aspect of the 's argument is that he does not have the power. I was blessed and honoured to serve as a minister in a previous government, and as such, I know of situations that come up wherein the department will advise ministers that they do not have the power to do something, they do not have policy cover and they cannot take something in a certain direction. Ministers have a choice at that point in time. They can accept the advice and let things go the way they are going, or they can choose to find a different path. What the Conservatives are asking the minister to do is choose to find a different path, because, luckily enough, in statutory interpretation, one can always find a way around what seems to be a path that is blocked.
I looked at other pieces of information to determine whether the has the power. Imagine sitting in a minister's boardroom, and legal has come in and presented a memo. The memo indicates that there is a medium to high risk of the minister or the institution being sued should action be taken on this matter. In the consideration of that memo, what happens is that there is a discussion about the contents of the memo, and it is determined which is the better path to take, based, oftentimes, upon risk.
If a memo were to come to me, and I was told that, as the minister, I did not have the power to do something, I would first question whether that was true and would have a serious conversation about the risk levels and what the risks would be. If I were told that there would be a lawsuit against me, I would ask who would be bringing the lawsuit. If I was told that a prisoner would be bringing the lawsuit against me for changing her institution, I would weigh that risk. Is it worth the risk of ensuring that children are safe and that there is an appropriate sentence for this first degree murderer?
The other aspect, if ministers are given an opinion they do not agree with, is to look at other documents around the opinion, because there are many other things to look at to determine what power a minister has. Indeed, I think Canadians oftentimes assume that MPs have full power to make any changes they want. We too, as MPs, think that ministers, especially prime ministers, have the ability to make changes as well.
One thing to look at is the relationship between the bureaucracy and a minister. Deputy ministers and the heads of the Correctional Service of Canada are very important people within our system and sit at the pleasure of the prime minister who appoints them. They are no longer in the public service. They are servants of Canada.
The letter the most recently sent to outline the mandate of the new commissioner said the following:
I will rely on your advice and input to help me establish strategic priorities for the Correctional Service of Canada and to anticipate and manage issues that affect the soundness of the organization....
I acknowledge that some of these initiatives may require new policy authorities..., which we can work on together.
The minister, in giving the marching orders to the new commissioner, is saying that the commissioner is going to advise him but that to be really clear, the minister makes the final decision. That is exactly what the minister has outlined in that relationship. However, he stands in the House and tells us that his hands are tied, effectively hiding behind the skirts of the Correctional Service of Canada official.
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to speak to our Conservative opposition day motion today on this heinous topic.
“Justice”, that very word can be interpreted in many ways. It can bring comfort to those who have been wronged but made right. To others it can instill a sense of comfort knowing that regardless of one's social standing or position, the law is blind to such things and all are equal before the courts. For some, that word means the beginning of a new chapter. For others, it means the end. In most cases that word should mean closure, as justice has been delivered. Not only must justice be done, it must be seen to be done.
It is hard to find a universally accepted description of the word but most Canadians know justice when they see it.
What we have learned these past few weeks is disturbing. I have struggled to digest what we have been told. It has shaken the nation and many are in disbelief. I have tried to find the words that could somehow explain what happened, and I have failed. No words could ever alleviate the sadness or repair the damage that has been done to the family of Tori Stafford.
As a Canadian, I share that sense of frustration with my fellow citizens that our system has failed. As a parliamentarian, I am ashamed that this could ever have happened. As a father, I pray that justice will prevail and this nightmare will end.
Like most Canadians sitting at home watching this debate, I too ask: how did this happen? How could our system allow this to occur? How could someone who confessed, was sentenced to life and was nowhere close to even remotely being considered for parole be sent to a healing lodge? I have a million reasons for why this was a terrible mistake and I cannot think of one justification for why this ever could have happened.
Just yesterday at Queen's Park, all political parties united to condemn this action. They put aside their partisanship. They stood shoulder to shoulder as Canadians, as parents and as elected representatives to call on the federal government to reverse this decision. This is exactly what we should be doing right here and right now.
To the family of Tori, I am sorry. I regret that they must go through this again. Our system has failed them. There is no excuse or reasoning that could ever begin to rationalize this decision.
We as parliamentarians must act. Canadians have entrusted in us the power to provide leadership and today is that day when leadership is needed. The government must exercise its moral, legal and political authority to ensure this decision is reversed. It is also clear that we need to ensure that it never happens again.
A system that allows this sort of transfer to occur under these circumstances erodes the very trust our judicial system is dependent upon. There is no justice when a convicted child murderer, who has just served a fraction of her time, is sent to a healing lodge. A convicted child murderer who, by the way, carried out violent behaviour while in jail, deserves no special treatment or sympathy. A convicted child murderer, who said herself, “Spending the next few decades of life in prison is nothing compared to what Tori was robbed of.”
Today, we must stand up for Tori, as sadly, she cannot speak for herself. Let us ensure that this act of evil deserves the punishment that it so rightfully deserves. The convicted murderer knows herself that she deserves to be in prison. She knew the day she was sentenced that she would be sent away for a very long time for the atrocious crime she committed and for the life that she stole.
Let there be no ambiguity in this debate. This individual deserves no favours from our penal system. There should be no sense of normalcy in her life while she serves her time. Her crime was not an act of rage or carelessness. It was a calculated, orchestrated and deliberate act of evil. There is no argument that could ever convince me that this woman should be in a fenceless facility.
It is abundantly evident that if a policy needs to be changed, then let us do it. If we need to stay in this chamber all day and all night to find a solution, members will find a willing partner in our caucus. There is no doubt that there is a problem, for there is no explanation for this transfer. She should never be in the same vicinity as children. She is taking a spot of someone who perhaps could be best served in a healing lodge.
My heart aches for Tori's family. No family should ever have to go through this. There are millions of Canadians who have the family in their thoughts rights now. Many constituents have contacted me in the last week to express their horror that a penal system could have allowed this to happen. I want the family to know that they are not alone in this struggle and are most certainly not wrong in wanting this decision to be reversed.
Just this morning, the lead investigator who helped discover the truth about Tori denounced the action of transferring this murderer to a healing lodge. Bill Renton, who oversaw the OPP investigation, released a statement in which he said:
I echo the concerns of the nation...I believe the correctional system needs to be predicated on rehabilitation for those who have committed crimes and proven themselves worthy...We question McClintic’s move to the healing centre at such an early stage of her just and proper guilty verdict of first degree murder and sentence of Life Imprisonment with no parole eligibility for 25 years.
These are not the comments of someone who just has an opinion. This is the concern of a man who investigated this heinous crime. There is no element of this case that Mr. Renton does not know. It would be in all of our interests to listen carefully to what he had to say.
I truly believe that it is within all of us to put aside our differences and to do what is right. I call upon my colleagues to join us in our motion. We are sent here to make difficult decisions, as pointed out by my colleague for a few moments ago. We cannot shirk our collective responsibilities that are expected of us.
Sections 6 and 96 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act give the broad authority to issue directives on conditions of confinement. All it would take for this individual who committed these horrific crimes and to be back behind bars is the will of the minister. He could ensure that the criteria for those being sent to a healing lodge could never be extended to someone who committed these crimes and who is literally years away from ever being considered for parole.
In Canada, we have a system of responsible government where the bureaucracy is accountable to Canadians through a cabinet minister. Asking the department to change its policies should not be considered a dramatic step. It is exactly why we elect members of Parliament in the first place. This woman has already been tried and convicted. There are no questions regarding the verdict of the court. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for us as elected representatives to demand that Correctional Service Canada's policies be changed.
If we are allowing a child murderer who is serving a life sentence to be sent to a facility that has family residential units and where children may be present, we need to change this. If we have a system that allows a convicted person with this history to have their own unit with a kitchenette, an eating area and a living-room, we need to stop this. Let us give justice to Tori.
I implore my colleagues to stand united. Let this be the day that we ensure that this sort of situation never happens again.