Tori back­ers’ lodge protests bring change


When Tori Stafford’s fam­ily got of­fi­cial no­tice last year that the woman who killed their lit­tle girl had been trans­ferred from prison to a heal­ing lodge, they fig­ured there was noth­ing they could do.

“We didn’t re­ally take into con­sid­er­a­tion it was some­thing we could ad­dress. The let­ter felt like, ‘So sad, too bad. This has hap­pened. There is noth­ing you can do,’ ” the girl’s grand­mother, Doreen Graichen, said Wed­nes­day.

When her son, Rod­ney Stafford, found out this fall about the trans­fer, he got angry. The Free Press broke the story on the trans­fer and ral­lies, protests and pub­lic out­rage grew.

To the fam­ily’s sur­prise, and to the sur­prise per­haps of or­di­nary Cana­di­ans who think their voices don’t mat­ter, the fed­eral govern­ment changed the rules Wed­nes­day to pre­vent what hap­pened from hap­pen­ing again, and to send the killer, Terri-Lynne McClin­tic, back to prison.

Fed­eral prison­ers will have a harder time be­ing trans­ferred to Indigenous heal­ing lodges if they’re serv­ing long sen­tences, Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale said.

Un­der new rules an­nounced Wed­nes­day, prison­ers won’t be el­i­gi­ble for trans­fers to heal­ing lodges with­out se­cured perime­ters un­til they’re into the “prepa­ra­tion for re­lease” phase of their sen­tence.

The Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice of Canada also will have to con­sider in­mates’ be­hav­iour and how close they are to be­ing el­i­gi­ble for un­escorted tem­po­rary ab­sences from prison be­fore trans­fer­ring them.

In ad­di­tion, the deputy com­mis­sioner for women will be in­volved in de­ci­sions to en­sure na­tional stan­dards are ap­plied con­sis­tently and rel­e­vant fac­tors are con­sid­ered.

The changes will ap­ply to past and fu­ture cases.

Rod­ney Stafford learned about the new rules from re­porters Wed­nes­day and said he would await word McClin­tic had been sent back or was go­ing to be.

“I’m just sit­ting here in limbo. It’s bru­tal.”

But Stafford said he was pleased the pub­lic protests prompted new rules.

“It’s help­ing keep the pub­lic safe,” he said.

He didn’t seem im­pressed by the no­tion he’d help force the fed­eral govern­ment to make changes.

“It’s all on be­half of my lit­tle girl,” Stafford said.

Tori, 8, was walk­ing home from school in Wood­stock April 8, 2009, when McClin­tic ap­proached her, promised to show her a puppy and lured her into a car driven by Michael Raf­ferty.

The two drove the girl to a re­mote lo­ca­tion north of Guelph where Tori was raped, beaten to death and her body hid­den in garbage bags in a grove of trees.

McClin­tic pleaded guilty to first­de­gree mur­der in 2010 and tes­ti­fied at Raf­ferty’s trial in 2012, at which he was con­victed of first-de­gree mur­der.

At that trial, McClin­tic’s trou­bled past and vi­o­lent na­ture be­came even more ap­par­ent. She pleaded guilty that same year to as­sault­ing an in­mate at Grand Val­ley In­sti­tute in Kitch­ener, whom she lured into a meet­ing on the pre­tence of seek­ing help from a men­tor.

At some point late last year, McClin­tic, 28, was trans­ferred from Grand Val­ley to Oki­maw Ohci heal­ing lodge in Saskatchewan.

Rod­ney Stafford didn’t get the re­quired no­tice from Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice Canada about the trans­fer.

Once he did, sup­port­ers be­gan plan­ning a rally on Par­lia­ment Hill and once the news broke, pro­vin­cial and fed­eral politi­cians be­gan push­ing the fed­eral Lib­eral govern­ment to re­verse the trans­fer.

Wood­stock’s po­lice chief, Bill Ren­ton, who led the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Tori’s dis­ap­pear­ance and the hunt for her killers, de­nounced the trans­fer.

Goodale or­dered Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice Canada to re­view its de­ci­sion and its poli­cies, but after an emo­tional, heated de­bate in the House of Com­mons, the Lib­er­als re­jected a Con­ser­va­tive mo­tion to over­turn the de­ci­sion.

The rally on Par­lia­ment Hill Nov. 2 drew most of the Stafford fam­ily to­gether, Graichen said.

“My kids were see­ing cousins they hadn’t seen in 40 years, there to sup­port us,” she said.

Just as they did nine years ago, thou­sands of Cana­di­ans sup­ported the fam­ily be­cause of who Tori was and what hap­pened to her, Graichen said.

It was such a bru­tal act. It could have been any­body’s lit­tle girl.” Doreen Graichen

“It was such a bru­tal act. It could have been any­body’s lit­tle girl.”

Goodale told re­porters Wed­nes­day there is a need for the cor­rec­tional ser­vice “to in­crease the level of pub­lic aware­ness” about how it makes de­ci­sions.

“These are de­ci­sions that are not taken lightly or capri­ciously. They are based on ev­i­dence and sound prin­ci­ples, and there needs to be a higher level of un­der­stand­ing of that.”

In ad­di­tion, there must be more mean­ing­ful and use­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tion with vic­tims given the an­guish they have suf­fered, Goodale said.

“They need to know that their per­spec­tive is be­ing prop­erly re­spected.”

That state­ment re­sounded with Graichen.

“I think the vic­tim’s fam­ily should have a louder say in what hap­pens and not just be no­ti­fied about it after the fact: ‘Oh, by the way, this hap­pened.’ ”

Her son has strug­gled since the death of Tori, but vowed to make a dif­fer­ence in Canada’s jus­tice sys­tem, Graichen said.

“I am very proud of him. He is mak­ing the dif­fer­ence he said he was go­ing to make.”

Lon­don Free Press

— with files by The Canadian Press

Tori Stafford


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