Ku­dos to lo­cal MP for vic­tims’ rights bill

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - Ch­eryl Stepan

It is al­most im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine the pain of hav­ing a loved one mur­dered. Now imag­ine hav­ing to sit in a room with the killer ev­ery two years to re­count, in painstak­ing de­tail, the hor­ror and the im­pact it has had on your life.

That is the sit­u­a­tion the fam­ily of San­dra Rallo — killed by her hus­band Jon Rallo — has en­dured for over four decades. Now, thanks to leg­is­la­tion cham­pi­oned by Flam­bor­ough-Glan­brook Con­ser­va­tive MP David Sweet, San­dra’s fam­ily and other vic­tims of vi­o­lent of­fend­ers will have to go through that pain far less fre­quently.

The leg­is­la­tion call­ing for changes to the Corrections and Con­di­tional Re­lease act, passed in April 2015, forces of­fend­ers to wait for five years for manda­tory pa­role hear­ings, up from the pre­vi­ous two.

The im­pact of that new leg­is­la­tion came into fo­cus last week, as Sweet and mem­bers of San­dra’s fam­ily at­tended yet an­other pa­role hear­ing for Jon Rallo. For­tu­nately, the next one might not be for an­other five years.

On Aug. 16, 1976, Rallo killed San­dra, 29, his son Ja­son, 6, and daugh­ter Stephanie, 5 in their west Moun­tain home. The bod­ies of San­dra and Stephanie were found in area wa­ter­ways, but Ja­son’s body has never been found. Rallo has al­ways main­tained his in­no­cence. He has never re­vealed where his son’s body could be found so the boy could be prop­erly laid to rest.

San­dra’s fam­ily has at­tended ev­ery court date and pa­role hear­ing since the mur­ders. That’s four decades of fac­ing this cold-blooded killer. As The Spec­ta­tor’s Su­san Clair­mont re­ported last week, few if any fam­i­lies of mur­der vic­tims have had to en­dure that kind of tor­ture for so long.

Sweet wit­nessed their pain — he has at­tended sev­eral of Rallo’s pa­role hear­ings, as well as the pa­role hear­ings of Ge­orge Lovie, who killed Donna and Arnold Ed­wards in their Glan­brook home in 1991. And in 2009, he be­gan work on a pri­vate mem­ber’s bill to ex­tend the manda­tory re­view pe­ri­ods for pa­role for vi­o­lent of­fend­ers.

When the leg­is­la­tion fi­nally passed in 2015 — one of less than 300 pri­vate mem­ber’s bills to re­ceive royal as­sent since 1910 — Sweet said the fight was worth it.

“At­tend­ing those pa­role board hear­ings was an eye­opener be­cause you could see the re-vic­tim­iza­tion of vic­tims’ fam­i­lies tak­ing place right be­fore your eyes and it broke your heart,” he said at the time.

The bill still al­lows of­fend­ers to ap­ply be­fore the five years is up, but it gives the pa­role board the right to deny the ap­pli­ca­tion. It also gives vic­tims a stronger voice and ac­cess to more in­for­ma­tion in the pa­role process.

Sweet is to be com­mended for his ef­forts in get­ting this leg­is­la­tion passed. We hope it brings at least some com­fort to the fam­i­lies of those who have suf­fered enough.

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