Roger Warren, a former miner convicted of killing nine workers in a bombing at now-defunct Giant Mine just outside Yellowknife in 1992, has been granted parole.
"All I can say is, I'm sorry," Warren said, choking up, during a Parole Board of Canada hearing Tuesday morning in Mission, B.C.
"I'm sorry for all the pain I've caused."
Following the hearing, the parole board found Warren "would not be an undue risk to the community."
'That's the worst thing that's haunted me, that people would waste their life hating me. I'm not worth it.' —Roger Warren
Warren is serving a life sentence for nine counts of second-degree murder. At the time of one of the worst mass murders in Canadian history, Warren was a longtime employee of the gold mine and workers were on strike.
Shortly before 9 a.m. on Sept. 18, 1992, a blast underground shook Giant Mine. A railcar carrying nine miners had exploded, killing all of them. Three of the men were replacement workers, and six were Giant miners who crossed the picket line.
Family members of victims speak
At the hearing, two widows and a daughter of one of the men who died made presentations.
Pam Sawler was 14 and living in Ontario when she heard her father died in the mine. She said she struggled with depression and attempted suicide; she said she had stopped caring about what happened to her when the one person who understood her died.
"Roger Warren took my sense of security away from me," she said.
Sawler said she worries constantly and is too scared to leave family and home for fear she'll lose them. She added that she has been with her partner for 18 years, but said they've never married because her father isn't there to walk her up the aisle.
"How do you justify that he can choose to spend time with his family when we can't?" Sawler told the parole board.
Imprisoned 18 years
Warren, now 70, has been in prison for 18 years. He has been eligible for day parole for almost four years, but this is the first time he had applied for it.
Warren currently spends five days a week, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., at a halfway house and has had more than 400 escorted visits to the community with no problems.
Conditions for day parole include no contact with victims, no alcohol and counselling.
His day parole will be evaluated after six months.
There was no discussion of his moving back to Yellowknife. Warren's ex-wife, Helen, still lives in Yellowknife and works for the N.W.T. government.
Warren's conviction has been controversial because many believed he did not set the blast, or that he did not act alone. After confessing to police in 1993, Warren recanted. During his criminal trial, he maintained it was a false confession, that he had wanted to end the strike and struggled with depression.
He unsuccessfully tried to appeal the conviction in 1997 and for years in prison he maintained he was not guilty. His case even garnered the attention of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, the organization that helped prove David Milgaard was not guilty.
However, nearly a decade after Warren's initial conviction, he confessed again in 2003.
Warren told the parole board it was cowardice and fear of letting down his family that caused him to maintain his innocence.
"I didn't think I'd ever beat it really, truthfully," he said about his conviction.
He said he thought of himself as a despicable person and said his behaviour was shameful. Warren said it upset him to think the families felt someone had wanted to kill their loved ones, and that's why he confessed a second time.
"I felt better about doing that than I had in a long time," he said.
Warren also acknowledged the statements from family members of the men he killed.
"I'm sure I'd feel the same way," he said. "That's the worst thing that's haunted me, that people would waste their life hating me. I'm not worth it."
Warren said going to church is the highlight of his week and he also does volunteer work such as fixing equipment and painting the halfway house.
Patty Johnson, Warren's daughter, said her father is "a very good man who made a mistake and he has put his time in. The justice system isn't an eye for an eye.
"I know he wouldn't have intended to hurt anybody. That's why we have stood by him. But you can't change the past, I wish you could."