Justice system must put victims first

My local op-ed from the Selkirk Journal, Jan 24, 2019:

On Wednesday April 8th, 2009, 8-year-old Tori Stafford was walking home from primary school. Sadly, she never made it home. I followed her case closely as details emerged of her violent abduction, horrifying sexual assault, and brutal murder played out on television screens across the country, shocking each and every one of us. It was during this difficult time that I began considering a Private Member’s Bill that would support the family members of victims like Tori’s family.

During the course of my research for my bill, I had occasion to meet with family members of the victims of serial killers including child rapist Clifford Olsen. It was becoming clear to me that victims in Canada are kept in a perpetual state of torment by a parole system that gives more rights to the killers than it does to the family members of victims.

Thankfully few of us will ever have to experience such trauma, but few of us realize that our justice system is set up in a way that repeatedly re-traumatizes the victims it is meant to protect.

The pain these families must endure is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t experienced that level of suffering. That motivated me to introduce Bill C-266, the Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons Act, which eliminates automatic parole hearings after 25 years for killers sentenced to life in prison for kidnap, rape, and murder. My bill gives the courts the ability to increase the parole ineligibility period from the current 25 years to a maximum of 40 years either by the judge at sentencing or on recommendation of a jury.

In reality, vile murderers who carry out these types of crimes, such as Paul Bernardo, Michael Rafferty, and Russell Williams, never leave prison. Even so, once they have served 23 years of their sentence, they are entitled to apply for parole every two years, the purpose of which is to provide these killers with a platform at the parole board hearings to express their desire to leave prison and roam our streets once again. That is a nightmare scenario for a family member of a murder victim who must then argue to the parole board to keep that murderer locked up as part of their victim’s impact statement. The process forces them to re-live, in horrific detail, the kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder of their child or loved one.

Parole is appropriate for some who have served their sentence and have rehabilitated to a degree that puts the public at less risk. But let’s face the facts, the sadistic killers who kidnap, rape, and murder children or anyone else, almost never see the outside of a prison cell, ever.

Conservatives believe we are duty-bound to ensure that victims are the first priority in our justice system. Unfortunately, Justin Trudeau has demonstrated he cares more about protecting the rights and feelings of convicted child killers than their victims. Trudeau allowed Terri-Lynne McClintic, who brutally murdered 8-year-old Tori Stafford with a claw-hammer, to be moved out of a cell in a fenced prison and into a “healing lodge.” The Trudeau Liberals spent weeks defending their decision until enough pressure was brought to bear by our Conservative caucus, Tori’s family, and outraged Canadians, that Trudeau finally reversed his outrageous decision and sent her back behind bars.

The Liberals never stand up for victims until they are shamed into doing so. My Private Member’s Bill C-266, will be debated in the House of Commons on February 5th, 2019, and it is my sincere hope that all Liberal and NDP Members of Parliament will wake up and realize the importance of protecting victims of violent crime and increasing parole ineligibility for depraved murderers.

I am calling on Justin Trudeau and his Liberal caucus to join me in supporting the rights of victims of horrific crimes in this country, by voting in favour of Bill C-266 and ensure it becomes law.