That, given Terri-Lynne McClintic was convicted of first-degree murder in the horrific abduction, rape and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford, and was moved from a secure facility to a healing lodge without fences and where the government has confirmed the presence of children, the House condemn this decision and call upon the government to exercise its moral, legal and political authority to ensure this decision is reversed and cannot happen again in other cases.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka.
April 8, 2009, began like any other school day for Tori Stafford, a grade 3 student at Oliver Stephens Public School. However, that is where this sweet little eight-year-old girl's normal, peaceful day ended. Tori was lured, kidnapped and later brutally murdered.
Tori's killers, Michael Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic, were each found guilty of first-degree murder. In Canada, that means an automatic life sentence, 25 years without a chance of parole. It would seem that maybe justice was somewhat served for the Staffords and their family. Sadly, it is not what has turned out to be the case.
In recent days, we have learned that instead of serving her sentence behind bars, the prisoner, McClintic, has been transferred to a Saskatchewan healing lodge, a government-run lodge surrounded by trees, wildlife and children. There is no visible security. There is not even a fence. It is a no-brainer for all of us to know that is no place for a child killer. It is certainly no place for someone who committed the despicable acts Tori faced in her last hours.
The details of those acts have been recounted to the House. I want to take a moment and comment on the reaction of members of the government and the NDP when some of those details were recounted, because it goes to the point that not only we as Conservatives are making but that Canadians want us to face. The Prime Minister's reaction to hearing about what happened to Tori was to tell members of Parliament to essentially shut up and stop talking. Other members became visibly angry and upset and talked about decorum in the House. As if what happened to Tori, and whether or not it offends us, has anything to do with decorum. It is not about our feelings, our sensitivities being offended or about how we feel in this House.
What we need to talk about is justice for Tori's family. What happened to Tori was despicable and unbearable to hear, but this place is exactly where we need to face a harsh but needed reality. There are consequences of the decisions we make here in this place. Pretending these gruesome events did not happen and demanding that others shut up to avoid hearing them is the behaviour that led us exactly to where we are right now. It is that sort of behaviour that leads the public safety minister to describe the horrible acts committed against Tori Stafford as, “bad practices”. It is that sort of behaviour that desensitizes some into thinking a child murderer, with no possibility of legally seeing the outside world for at least 15 more years, should not be behind bars but should be a guest at a government lodge. It is that sort of behaviour that leads the Liberals to brush this shocking transfer off by organizing some sort of generic bureaucratic review. That is the behaviour that should be offensive to all of us, and what we need to address today.
It is said the worst fate a parent can endure is to have to bury his or her own child. To have to do so in the circumstances faced by the Stafford family is just unimaginable. It is why we can only imagine, and need to think long and hard about what the transfer of this prisoner has done to the Stafford family, as well as the effect it has had on them. It has revictimized the Stafford family. In fact, this past weekend, Tori's dad, Rodney Stafford, published an open letter to the Prime Minister. His words are utterly heart-wrenching. Mr. Stafford wrote:
I plead to you as a father & a proud Canadian citizen who, even after this traumatic experience, tries to live a normal tax paying life. I really have to question our Federal Government as to why convicted child murderers, such as Terri Lynne McClintic, deserve more rights than their victims & law abiding Canadians? I may not have grown up living a perfect life, but I grew up to learn that I love the country I live in and I know right from wrong!
The Prime Minister has tried to duck and weave on this issue this last week, pleading that this was all about politics. Rodney Stafford hit the nail on the head. He asked the Prime Minister, “Is this enough to remember that not all issues are political? Some are moral!”
That is what this issue is. Tori's dad is right, there is a moral imperative for action. There is a moral imperative for members of Parliament from all parties to stand up and demand better.
This is a situation that we need to reverse and one that we need to prevent from ever happening again. It is the sort of situation where immediate action is required to maintain Canadians' confidence in our justice system.
I had the honour to serve for more than two years as the parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety. Our previous government showed how a government can take action. When things happen in situations, the government does have the power to reverse them. When tough cases were exposed when we were in government, we cried out for change. When it was uncovered that serial killer Clifford Olson was receiving OAS, our Conservative government passed legislation to stop him and other prisoners. There is the key. It was not just something directed specifically at Clifford Olson. It was a policy change that stopped him from getting OAS, but it also stopped other prisoners from getting OAS. It has been done before and it can be done again. We also passed legislation preventing prisoners from using their time behind bars to justify an extension of employment insurance benefits. Again, it was not changing policy directed at one individual inmate, but we saw that something had happened when we were government that needed to be reversed in our correctional system and so we immediately implemented a policy so that the specific person would not receive that benefit and nor would other prisoners in that situation. Therefore, the situation that confronts us today is one that the Liberal government and the Prime Minister possess the legal and the political authority to fix.
We are likely to hear about a legal opinion that mysteriously surfaced last week, claiming the Liberals just cannot do anything. I am sure the government lawyer who wrote that document is an upstanding person, but we do have to remember that at the end of the day, government lawyers serve their clients: their political masters in the justice minister's office and the Prime Minister's Office. Since when do government members abdicate their responsibility just because a lawyer told them that maybe they would have a bit of push-back on it? Especially with the current government, they sure seem to love to go to bat for every criminal there is, whether it is Omar Khadr, Chris Garnier or now McClintic. The Liberals sure do not seem to worry about fighting those fights. Therefore, why in the world would the Liberals not say, “We will take the chance that somebody might challenge us, but we see this wrong is done and so we will correct it.” It is that simple. It is not difficult.
There are a few provisions in the law that I want to highlight. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act does give authority to the government. We have already talked about subsection 6(1) of the act, which says that the commissioner of corrections works, “under the direction of the Minister”. Paragraph 96(d) of the act actually enables the Governor in Council, the cabinet, to make regulations governing the process of transferring offenders from one institution to another. Meanwhile, paragraph 96(z.6) allows the cabinet to adopt regulations concerning the security classification of inmates.
Therefore, there can be a policy crafted. It could be as simple as saying that someone serving a sentence for the murder of a child must not be transferred to any institution without perimeter security or where children are permitted to circulate. It is very simple. That could very easily be done. This is all we are asking the government to do.
We have not seen any outrage from the Liberals and we have not seen any action. In an interview last week, Tori's dad said, “...Terri-Lynne had been moved to Saskatchewan to this healing lodge and I was kind of blown away.... Every time things seem to start to get a bit better...something like this comes along, where you just lose faith.” Let us give the Stafford family some faith by reversing this injustice. Let us give Canadians confidence in their justice system. Let us send a strong and clear message with the vote on this motion. Let us stand up, every single one of us, and vote to ensure that anyone who takes the life of an innocent child like Tori Stafford faces the sentence that Canadians expect him or her to, which is behind bars.
We have an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of real people. We know their names. We know the situation they face. We know the horrific acts that happened. We very seldom have the opportunity to affect individual people's lives like we do today. Therefore, I implore this House and I implore the government members to show their displeasure, show their outrage, but, more important, act and implement policy to reverse this decision and make sure something like this never happens again.