Dad furious, PM rapped over transfer of girl's killer to healing lodge
The father of a raped and murdered eight-year-old girl said on Wednesday the transfer of one of her killers to a prison ``healing lodge'' has sparked widespread anger and needs to be reversed, while the federal government said it would review the decision.
In an interview from his home in Woodstock, Ont., the father denounced the transfer of Terri-Lynne McClintic as “completely wrong.''
“She should be serving her sentence in a maximum security prison,” he said of his daughter's killer. “Like I'm sitting here living day to day, going to work, having to struggle to get by because my life has been altered so bad — I'm still on this huge emotional roller-coaster — and like frickin' she's out living it up ... in this healing lodge.”
McClintic pleaded guilty in 2010 to the first-degree murder of the girl, who was last seen in April 2008 being led away by the hand after school. McClintic, then 18, had promised to show the trusting girl a puppy. Waiting nearby was McClintic’s boyfriend, Michael Rafferty, who drove his victim to a remote field where he raped her repeatedly.
Court would later hear how McClintic, who confessed a month later, had ignored her victim’s pleas for help. Ultimately, the girl would die from hammer blows to her head.
In 2014, McClintic was classified as a medium security inmate at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont. In December, two days after the transfer, victims’ services wrote the family to inform them of McClintic’s move to the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge on the Nekaneet First Nation near Maple Creek, Sask.
In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Alberta Indigenous rights litigator Leighton Grey says that according to the federal government’s statistics, 37 per cent of the female population in Canadian prisons are Indigenous women, and that trend is rising.
“The only rational conclusion to draw from this is that punishment is simply not an effective crime deterrent, particularly with respect to major crimes,” says Grey, a senior partner with Grey Wowk Spencer LLP.
While it's not clear whether McClintic identifies as Indigenous, Correctional Service Canada, which refuses to discuss the transfer for privacy reasons, says the 60-bed lodge is a multi-level standalone open campus facility with a focus on healing for incarcerated Aboriginal women.
“She's basically living it up better than the majority of the people living on the streets or are low-income families,” the 43-year-old father of the murdered girl said. “She's being handed all these free passes and luxuries. It's not fair.”
Word of the transfer prompted plans for a protest rally in Ottawa in November and both federal and provincial politicians jumped on the issue.
Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford called the father to offer his support, while Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced the review of the transfer decision and said ministers by law do not get involved in inmate security classifications.
Conservative justice critic Tony Clement accused the Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being soft on crime and called the transfer a miscarriage of justice that has revictimized the families.
“This is not the kind of justice that Canadians expect (and) I'm demanding redress,” Clement said. “When people lose faith in our justice system, they take matters into their own hands.”
In the House of Commons, Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer called on Trudeau to have the decision reversed, saying McClintic was guilty of “horrific crimes” and had allegedly bragged about stomping on the face of a fellow inmate at Grand Valley.
Trudeau pointed out that McClintic’s security status hasn't changed since 2014 and that officials make such decisions independently. He also noted that Goodale had asked the commissioner of correctional services for a review.
An exasperated Scheer emerged from question period Wednesday demanding that Trudeau act.
“I will tell you one thing I know about this facility: it is not the right place for McClintic,” he said. “She deserves to be behind bars ... this is completely inappropriate.”
From her home near Edmonton, the girl’s grandmother, a believer in the death penalty, said the family was furious at finding out what happened to McClintic.
“It looks as if she's on some kind of retreat or something rather than being in prison,” the 64-year-old grandmother said in an interview. “We were told life means life, but who knows, 25 years from now with the system going the way it is, who's to say she wouldn't walk?”
Grey says contrary to what many people think, programs like the one the offender was transferred to are not country clubs.
“They demand a great deal of engagement by participating offenders, and they have a very impressive track record of curbing recidivism,” he says. “In the long run, this type of success protects all Canadians and not just those who have committed serious crimes.”
Furthermore, Grey says the “ugly truth” that no one in government or the media is willing to state publicly is that there is a great deal of sexual discrimination operating in the criminal justice system.
“Women, on the whole, receive lighter sentences than men do, and this preferential treatment extends to eligibility for parole and rehabilitation programs. Witness the notorious example of Karla Homolka or the comparatively soft treatment by the courts of female teachers sentenced for sexually exploiting their students,” he says.
An Otterville, Ont. woman, who is helping the victim’s father organize a protest on Parliament Hill on Nov. 2, said it wasn't just about the girl who was murdered.
“It's about other children, too. It's about making sure that other people aren't being revictimized,” she said. “It's really sad to see this all has to be dug up again.”
The Otterville woman said she wants to see the resurrection of Bill C-53, legislation tabled by the previous Conservative government that never made it into law. The bill was dubbed “life means life.”
“People relate to this,” she said. “They want a safe world for their children. They want to know that when somebody's convicted of the worst crimes out there, that they have to serve the sentence that was given to them.”
Sue Delanoy, executive director of the prisoner activist Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan, said corrections are not meant to be purely punitive and the lodges, with their focus on self-improvement and introspection, are not an easier path for inmates.
“It sounds like a get-out-of-jail-free thing,” Delanoy said. “Healing lodges aren't that. The perception is wrong from the community.”
In a statement, Chief Alvin Francis of the Nekaneet First Nation, home to the correctional facility, expressed surprise at the transfer.
“At one time, Nekaneet elders sat on the interview process and had influence on inmate intake, but the funding was cut approximately six years ago, and we no longer have input on who is transferred to the healing lodge,” Francis said. “We have no say on inmate selection, but I believe if our elders were still a part of the process maybe McClintic wouldn't be [there].”
— with files from AdvocateDaily.com
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