McClintic case puts victims’ rights in spotlight
The controversial transfer of convicted murderer Terri-Lynne McClintic to an Aboriginal healing lodge shows that Canada’s corrections system needs improvements, including more rights for the victims of crime, according to new commentary from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.“Over the past years our justice system has consciously chosen to give victims of crime an increased awareness of how cases are being dealt with and a voice when decisions are being made,” security expert Scott Newark writes for the thinktank.“The McClintic case clearly demonstrates a contradiction of these principles.”Newark argues that victims of certain types of crime should always be notified if an offender is being transferred or if their security status is changing, provided they register with the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).He also believes they should be able to make submissions in transfer decisions.McClintic, who pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford in 2010, was transferred months ago to the Okimaw Ohci healing lodge on the Nekaneet First Nation in Saskatchewan.The story sparked outrage last month when Tori’s father, Rodney Stafford, went to the media after learning about the transfer, apparently when corrections officials contacted him about a request McClintic had made for a day pass.He argued the transfer to a healing lodge was akin to giving his daughter’s killer a free pass.Amid calls from the Conservatives for the decision to be reversed, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale last month ordered the commissioner of the correctional service to conduct a review of the case, but insisted he could not personally intervene. That review is ongoing.In his essay, Newark agrees that “the government is correct to resist this kind of caseby-case decision-making by politicians.” But he argues the federal victim's ombudsman should be conducting the review, not the CSC itself. “CSC has a demonstrable history of closed-door decision-making … and thereafter being evasive and obstructive when asked questions regarding their actions on controversial cases,” he writes.The victim's ombudsman appointment was vacant from November 2017 until Oct. 1, when Heidi Illingworth took up the position.Newark suggests a series of legislative and regulatory changes stemming from the McClintic case, including preventing certain offenders from being placed in dual medium/minimum-security facilities, and preventing some offenders from being transferred to minimum-security facilities before having served a certain amount of time. He doesn't specify what types of offenders should be targeted by the changes.“Thanks to the courage and determination of the Stafford family we now have an opportunity to learn from what happened in the McClintic case and to make improvements,” he writes. “It is an opportunity that must be acted upon if justice remains our goal.”Okimaw Ohci is a minimumand medium-security facility, and McClintic was classified as medium security in 2014. She was sentenced in 2010 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has also called for a policy that would prevent “a broad class of offenders,” including McClintic, from being eligible to stay at healing lodges. He suggested the policy could apply to those convicted of murder.Newark also points to the fact that Nekaneet First Nation Chief Alvin Francis has said the First Nation has “no say” in which inmates are transferred to the healing lodge on their land. He claims that contradicts the CSC's consultation requirements, and calls for mandatory Indigenous consultation for healing lodge transfers and consent for non-Indigenous inmates.McClintic has previously identified herself as Indigenous, and the CSC says offenders can self-identify as Indigenous at any point during their sentence. However, inmates do not have to be Indigenous to be eligible for transfer to a healing lodge.There are currently nine Aboriginal healing lodges across Canada, two of which house women offenders.
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