Good afternoon. My name is Isabelle Malo. I am appearing today on behalf of the entire Malo family. My mother, Nicole Malo, and my brother, Sylvain Malo, are sitting behind me. We are in full support of Bill C-54. My family's story is a perfect example of why it is urgent to change the law. As I talk to you today, my heart is full of sadness.
On January 13, 2012, our peaceful community was shaken by a terrible tragedy. My stepfather, Ronald Malo was savagely murdered, stabbed 29 times by his neighbour, Rolland Belzil, who had been harassing him for 15 years.
My mother was also a target, but, luckily, she was spared because she did not answer the door that Rolland Belzil was trying to open. In Belzil's computer was a list of people to be killed and my mother's name was on it. After killing Ronald Malo, Rolland Belzil went to the town hall in Verchères, where he stabbed Luc Fortier, the town manager, in the head and neck. His assistant, Martin Massicotte, suffered wounds to the hands as he tried to help. They owe their lives to the fire chief.
This sordid story began in 1997 when the neighbour, Rolland Belzil, assaulted my mother by saying that he wanted her twice a week. My mother rebuffed him immediately, demanding that he leave her alone. He then looked her in the eyes and said: “you do not know what I am capable of, my dear; you have not heard the last of me.”
For 15 years, my mother and Ronald's life was pure hell, and I do not use the word lightly. They were constantly harassed, sworn at, provoked, honked at up to 150 times in a row. They received death threats for the three years before the murder.
In April 2010, Rolland Belzil told a case worker that he had a weapon and was going to kill his neighbour, Ronald Malo. In July 2010, Rolland Belzil was arrested for violating the conditions of a permanent order. Under that order, he was not supposed to come near my family. Nevertheless, he did approach us, with a can of gas, paper, beer and wine, staring right into our eyes all the time. Rolland Belzil was found guilty on four criminal charges out of five. He walked away with a discharge and a laughable $400 fine. We begged the judge not to release him again. The people at the CAVAC told us that he was like a big dog who barked a lot but did not bite and that the probability that he would do what he threatened to do was zero.
As you can see, our story has a number of missing elements. Primary prevention, in Dr. Isabelle Gaston's words, was a failure. Our family wholeheartedly supports Bill C-54. The bill will make public safety a priority and will create the definition of “high-risk”.
I would like to discuss two improvements with you. It is urgent for public safety to be the priority. Have you thought for just one moment about what would happen if this man were to be released? If we found our mother murdered, we could not survive it. Victims must have a more prominent place. Fortunately, Bill C-54 will make public safety a major concern in coming to decisions about people deemed not criminally responsible. When public safety is paramount, it will be a victory for our rights.
Currently, if Rolland Belzil is released, three lives will certainly be in danger. It is agonizing to think that we are at the mercy of that decision. Our trust in the justice system has vanished. That man represents a real danger for society. He must be kept under strict supervision, primarily to protect him from himself.
People are living in terror simply thinking about the day when Rolland Belzil will be released, without even mentioning our seven children, aged from 14 to 24, who have lost their grandfather. The word “justice” does not exist for them. They are terrorized. One night, a little while ago, my 22-year-old daughter came to me shaking, because she had dreamt that Rolland Belzil had escaped from the Institut Philippe-Pinel in Montreal and wanted to kill us all. My brother's 20-year-old son sleeps with a bat under his bed, and his 16-year-old daughter has never gone back to where the tragedy happened. These children have had a hugely traumatic experience. How will we go about reassuring them? The burden our family has to bear is a very heavy one.
I have a business in Verchères and not a day goes by without someone talking to me about it. I am often asked what is happening to him and whether he is out. My heart races each time. In December 2012, I had to go to hospital. My heart rate went up to 170 beats per minute when I heard that Guy Turcotte had been released. I thought I was going to die. The number of victims goes beyond the family; the entire community is affected.
People are afraid when sick people like those are released. Their illness is not an excuse. From now on, with Bill C-54, public safety will be paramount. We cannot wait for that change.
Bill C-54 provides for the creation of a “high-risk” designation intended for the most dangerous cases. They should be detained in hospital under guard. A high-risk offender must not be allowed to leave without an escort. He must be able to get a pass to leave, with or without an escort, only in rare circumstances and with public safety in mind.
We support the fact that a judge, not a board, will determine who is to be designated high-risk. We are very happy to learn that judges will have to base their decisions on the risk of grave physical and psychological harm, and on the offences committed. That is very important for us. We cannot wait for those changes to go into effect. We are convinced that there is no higher-risk situation than the one we are living in.
In Rolland Belzil's computer, the police found a list of several potential victims. When one murder and two attempted murders have been committed, the murderer becomes a serious case and must be under strict medical supervision. That is what Bill C-54 will make possible, and I ask you to pass it as quickly as possible.
Having a respite of up to three years between assessments, depending of the gravity of each case is, of course, a real relief for victims. You know as well as I do that a year goes by quickly. Rolland Belzil has mentioned that he has only killed one out of four and that he has to finish what he set out to do.
At no time have we been motivated by revenge. These proposed reforms will have no effect at all on the access to treatment for those deemed not criminally responsible. On the contrary, those needing special care will be able to have it tailored to their own specific needs.They will be better supervised. Providing more structured medical supervision for people suffering from a mental illness is not stigmatizing them. The concept of rehabilitating the offender remains in the act. So it is wrong to say that ill people will be losing their rights.
By lengthening the period of care, the risk of reoffending is reduced, but, above all, lives will be saved. We cannot sit on our hands and wait. We have to save our mother's life.
As victims, we have no place in all these interminable procedures. We will certainly not be the last to live through a similar event. In Verchères, with a population of 5,000, three people have confided in us and told us that they are living in a situation similar to our own and are terrorized.
We are supposed to have the right to security. At the moment, the only people with rights are those who have been charged and found not criminally responsible. Ronald wore his heart on his sleeve; he was always smiling, gentle and ready to help others. His murder was an enormous shock. The public is completely outraged by this heinous action that has gone unpunished.
We have lost a second father, a grandfather, a husband. But above all, we have lost an exceptional human being whom we loved more than anything in the world. We will never be able to forgive the action, but now we have to learn to live with it. Ronald's death must not be one among many. It must serve to advance the cause of victims. This bill is extremely important for our security and our quality of life.
Thank you all so much for giving me your valuable time and for letting me express to you my thirst for justice. We are behind you in supporting this urgent and vital bill.