Thank you. Good morning.
Let me begin by thanking each of you, members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, for having me appear today to comment on this very important issue. It is truly an honour and a privilege for me to be here before you.
My name is Rod Freeman and I am the very proud chief of police for the City of Woodstock. As all of you are now aware, our community has just achieved justice through the court system in relation to the tragic abduction, sexual assault, and first-degree murder of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford.
That investigation began on Wednesday, April 8, 2009, when Victoria was taken from our streets in broad daylight at 3:30 in the afternoon while walking home from school. She was lured to a waiting vehicle by her kidnappers, who had enticed her with the promise of seeing a puppy. Victoria was pushed into the back seat of the car and forced to the floor between the seats. Within near minutes, Victoria was taken from Woodstock eastbound on 401, eventually arriving in Mount Forest, which is north of Guelph, Ontario.
For approximately two-and-a half-hours, Victoria had endured the terror of being forcibly taken by strangers away from her mother, her brother, her family members, friends, and our city. While sitting on the back seat floor, concealed under a jacket, she was bullied and terrorized by the now-convicted Michael Rafferty to keep her controlled and hidden.
His accomplice, the also-convicted Terri-Lynne McClintic, provided false comfort to Victoria, knowing fully the horror that lay ahead for the little girl. This horrific situation ended a short time later with Victoria's violent rape and murder. Her body, put into garbage bags and concealed under rocks by her abductors, was not recovered until 103 days later, on July 19, 2009. She was then returned to her family to be laid to rest with dignity.
For this reason, and for the protection of our country's most vulnerable citizens, our children, I find myself here before you today. I hope to contribute to your deliberations in some small way, deliberations that result in crime prevention strategies being discussed or created to prevent tragedies such as Victoria's—a fate that no child should have to endure—and measures being created to deter offenders from victimizing our children anywhere in our country and to hold those evil offenders who victimize our children fully accountable before a court of law.
As a chief of police, I fully support any legislative amendments that will assist in making Canada's communities safer, will safeguard our children, and will provide support to victims of crime. Canadians need to know that their police services and government officials at all levels are working together to ensure their safety, and in particular to ensure the safety of our children and others most vulnerable in our communities. This is why I'm here today. My citizens of Woodstock and all Canadians want to be reassured that if our children are victimized, the offenders will be dealt with firmly by the criminal justice system and will face the appropriate consequences for serious criminal acts, such as the kidnapping of a child under 16 years of age by a stranger.