A Montreal-area man whose daughter was murdered nearly 18 years ago says the aboriginal parole hearing granted to her Haitian-born killer is a "travesty."
Michael Manning said he is flying to Winnipeg, where an elder-assisted hearing is scheduled to take place Wednesday for Gregory Bromby, a Canadian citizen who was convicted of murder in 1997 in the stabbing death of 15-year-old Tara Manning three years earlier.
"This is a mockery to all the fighting the aboriginal community did in order to get aboriginal hearings with elders," Manning said. "This is a travesty."
Tara Manning was killed on May 5, 1994, in the bedroom of her Dorval, Que., home by Bromby, an acquaintance of her brother.
She was raped and stabbed 51 times. Her father was asleep in the next room and found her in the morning when he went to wake her for school.
Bromby was linked to the crime after his DNA matched evidence found at the scene. He said he was high on drugs at the time. He also admitted to raping three other young women.
Bromby is serving a life sentence but has been eligible for early parole because he was charged as a minor.
Requested cultural hearing
According to a letter sent to Manning by the Parole Board of Canada, Bromby asked for the elder-assisted hearing.
First introduced in 1992, the cultural hearings are designed to "provide an environment that facilitates a culturally sensitive hearing process for aboriginal offenders," according to a parole board document.
Participants in the hearing are seated in a circle with an elder facilitating. There’s a ceremony portion of the hearing, which involves smudging and prayer, and a decision-making portion.
Manning said that, to his knowledge, Bromby has no aboriginal heritage.
"This has to do with their culture, their way of life," he said of the cultural hearings. "And he is Haitian."
Manning said he doesn’t have a problem with Bromby accessing a culturally sensitive hearing process if he can demonstrate he has been following an aboriginal spiritual path for a sustained period.
"But they won’t tell me anything," he said. "If he joined the Red Road a week before he applied for parole, then he can go and say to people two months later, ‘Listen, I’m following the Red Road. I’m doing really well.’ It’s all smoke and mirrors."
The Parole Board of Canada said anyone who meets specified criteria can apply for an elder-assisted hearing, even if that person is not of aboriginal descent.
"The Correctional Service of Canada will submit information regarding that offender’s participation in aboriginal programs and spiritual activities," said Amy Wood, a regional spokesperson for the Parole Board of Canada.
The parole board then makes a decision based on three criteria: commitment, engagement and progress in aboriginal teachings.
She said there is no set amount of time a person must follow these teachings before applying for the cultural parole hearing, she said. Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.
Wood said the decision reached by the parole board at the end of the hearing is "exactly the same as if it was a regular hearing."
There were 492 applications for elder-assisted parole hearings last year. Of those, 56 applications were made by non-aboriginal people.
She could not comment on Bromby’s case because of privacy regulations.
Previous request denied
Bromby applied for unaccompanied absences in 2007, and the parole board denied the request.
Manning said that despite his frustration with the process, he still wants to be part of the parole hearing.
"My role is to try and do the best I can to keep him in jail where he belongs," he said.