WE MUST STOP PAMPERING MURDERERS
Details of double killer’s parole hearing kept private while public left in dark
Just when you think you’ve seen and heard it all with regard to Canada’s justice system, along comes another policy that simply takes your breath away — in the negative sense of the term.
James Peters had a parole hearing Nov. 16 in Dorchester, N.B., where, after about four hours, the two-time sex slayer was denied parole. That’s the good news. Hold tight for the bad.
Peters, along with his partner in crime, the now-deceased Robert Brown, was convicted Jan. 18, 1983, of two counts of firstdegree murder for the abduction, rape and murders of Debbie Stevens of High River on Dec. 12, 1981, and 16-year-old Laurie Boyd of High River on Jan. 30, 1982.
After both men took turns raping the victims, they bludgeoned and stabbed them and then set their bodies on fire. The crimes spread fear across Alberta.
While it’s good news that Peters was denied parole, the bad news is the Parole Board of Canada can’t share the written decision with the victims’ families and the media — putting a double murderer’s privacy rights ahead of the public’s safety and right to know.
“It’s extremely upsetting,” said Darlene Boyd, who read a 15-minute victim-impact statement in New Brunswick, with former Calgary Reform and Conservative party MP Art Hanger sitting by her side for support.
Normally, receiving parole board decisions is a simple task. One need only fill out a form, send it to the appropriate parole board office, and all rulings and decisions about the inmate in question are emailed to you. I’ve made dozens of these requests over the decades and have never before been denied.
Apparently, because Peters has applied for Escorted Temporary Absences (ETAs), all decisions are “not releasable.”
According to Lynne O’Brien, a regional manager with the Parole Board of Canada’s Atlantic region, since Nov. 1, 1992, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act requires the Parole Board to maintain a registry of its decisions along with the reasons for those decisions, something that anyone may request, in writing.
“However, decisions made under Part 1 of the CCRA, which includes Escorted Temporary Absences, are not releasable through the registry of decisions,” O’Brien said in a written statement.
In other words, Peters and other dangerous prisoners need only apply for ETAs and their files are off limits to the public, leaving society in the dark as to how dangerous a person is.
It’s an absolute outrage. “It’s disgusting how these monsters are treated with kid gloves,” said Hanger.
“They send child murderers just a few years into their sentence to minimum security healing lodges and don’t inform communities about it. It’s dangerous, it’s wrong and it should be changed,” added Hanger. He’s right.
In the interim, there is a simple solution to this. Rather than folding ETA decisions into the rest of a parole board report, it could and should be separated into two decisions.
Better yet, provisions should be made to allow for details about the ETAs to be redacted from the original documents. Best of all, this ridiculous mollycoddling of Canada’s murderers should stop. They should not have such blanket protection of their privacy. They killed that right when they murdered another human being.
As for Darlene Boyd, 71, she says reliving her daughter’s murder every time Peters applies for parole, is like “torture.”
“I haven’t slept since I saw him and heard his voice in New Brunswick,” said Boyd, who became a reluctant but effective justice crusader throughout the 1990s when Peters attempted to get out of prison, under a provision of the Criminal Code called the Faint Hope Clause, after serving just 15 years of his life sentence.
Once the federal Conservatives had a majority government, the Faint Hope Clause was struck from the law, something Hanger says “Darlene deserves all the credit for.”
Thankfully, Hanger took notes during the recent hearing in Dorchester.
It was revealed that Peters was sent back to the medium security Dorchester Institution from a minimum security prison.
It was also exposed that before murdering Stevens and Boyd, Peters was accused of raping the daughter of his employer.
According to Hanger, Peters was working at a chicken farm near Blackie, near Okotoks, when he grabbed one of the young daughters, held a knife to her throat and sodomized her.
Hanger also pointed out that Peters has had numerous ETAs, including to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, to perform community service and for family contact.
“Why would someone who has spent the last 35 years in mostly a medium-security prison need to go to AA?” asked Hanger. “Where’s he getting the booze?” It’s a great question. Hanger also says that in 2013, Peters apparently engaged in “inappropriate sexual behaviour” toward a female volunteer at an AA meeting out in the community.
The parole board ruled that Peters “is an undue risk to the public safety and his insight into his crimes is limited.”
On Friday at 5 p.m., the new Laurie Boyd pedestrian bridge behind the public library in Okotoks will be officially opened. Many people, including thenCrown prosecutor of the case, Peter Martin (now a justice on Alberta’s Court of Appeal), Rob Laird, the then-RCMP officer who arrested Brown, Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson, the Boyds and some of Laurie Boyd’s childhood friends will be in attendance.
“Something beautiful in the midst of all this ugliness,” said Darlene.
Now, if only our federal legislators did something really beautiful and changed this law to bring transparency back into parole decisions of murderers. That would be breathtaking in the best meaning of the term.
It’s disgusting how these monsters are treated with kid gloves ... It’s dangerous, it’s wrong and it should be changed.
Darlene and Doug Boyd stand on the Laurie Boyd Bridge, which is to be officially opened in a ceremony on Friday. The bridge was named in honour of their daughter, who was murdered in Okotoks in 1982.