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Corrections officials told to review Terri-Lynne McClintic's transfer to healing lodge

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale​ has asked corrections officials to review the transfer of child killer Terri-Lynne McClintic from a maximum security prison in Ontario to an Indigenous healing lodge in southern Saskatchewan.

Prison expert says the transfer to an Indigenous healing lodge is 'highly unusual'

Tori Stafford, 8, vanished on her way home from school on April 8, 2009. The search in the wake of her disappearance captured the country's attention for months as police scoured the countryside in what was the largest-ever search for a missing person in Canada at the time. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale​ has told corrections officials to review the transfer of child killer Terri-Lynne McClintic from an Ontario prison to a Corrections Canada-run Indigenous healing lodge in southern Saskatchewan.

The case came up in Question Period in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fielded questions from Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer, who called on the prime minister to reverse the decision, something Goodale told reporters he doesn't have the power to do. 

"The minister has asked that the commissioner of Correctional Services review such decision to ensure they're done properly and in according with longstanding policy," said Trudeau. 

Sheer said that Trudeau should reverse the transfer decision but Trudeau responded that McClintic remains classified as a medium security risk. 

"On this side of the House we do not look to politicize tragedies like this," he said. "We expect people to do their jobs and that's what we're ensuring happened."

This would have been very thoroughly vetted, they would have felt the risk was manageable- Lee Chappelle

McClintic is serving a life sentence for the 2009 killing of Woodstock girl Tori Stafford. ​

McClintic was convicted in 2010 for her role in the killing, along with her former boyfriend Michael Rafferty who was convicted for kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder in Tori's death in a separate trial in 2012. 

Lee Chapelle is a former inmate who runs Canadian Prison Consulting Incoroporated, a company that often helps inmates who are serving out life sentences. He told CBC News that, in his experience, it's highly unusual for Terri-Lynne McClintic to have been transferred so early in her sentence. 

"The majority of lifers in Canada are well past their full parole eligibility dates and still in either maximum or medium security institutions," he said. "It's a real oddity to be the other way around, to be a quick move."

Terri-Lynne McClintic and Michael Rafferty have both been convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Victoria Stafford. (Canadian Press)

"I do know [Corrections Canada's] vetting process is very, very strong," he said. "This would have been very thoroughly vetted, they would have felt the risk was manageable for her to be there." 

Chapelle said the possibility exists that through Corrections Canada's programming, McClintic might be making progress in her rehabilitation. 

"I don't know this case too well, but i believe that maybe through the course of working with her, maybe there's a sense she's come a long way," he said. "Maybe she's perceived as a victim in this case and less culpable than [Michael Rafferty]."

Rodney Stafford, seen here in his Woodstock, Ont. home, said he's angry schoolgirl killer Terri-Lynne McClintic has been allowed to go to a facility in Saskatchewan that provides spiritual healing to female prisoners. (Colin Butler/CBC)

While Chapelle's experience on both sides of the bars gives him the ability to rationalize Corrections Canada's decision, not everyone sees it that way. Including Tori Stafford's father Rodney, who has said while he believes McClintic has every right to seek spiritual healing for her crimes, she should stay in a maximum security facility.

'I find it highly unusual,' says prison expert Lee Chappelle 1:05

MPPs in the Ontario Legislature have also expressed concern about the transfer. 

Woodstock Progressive Conservative MPP and Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Ernie Hardeman pledged in the legislature Tuesday that he would write a letter to the federal government asking why the decision was made. 

Ontario Community Safety and Corrections Minister Michael Tibollo also stood in the legislature Tuesday, saying decisions such as the one that led to McClintic's transfer "impact the public's confidence in our correctional systems." 

Chapelle said he has "a world of empathy" for Tori Stafford's family, but said in his experience criminals also need a chance to heal before they can rehabilitate themselves. 

"They are victims before they become criminals," he said, noting that aside from a psychological assessment at the start of a life sentence, there are few services for prisoners in high security environments.

"Our maximum security prisons are really lacking in that regard and you're so much better off getting to a medium and then a minimum to receive programming," he said. 

It comes down to, ideally in the end, acceptance and forgiveness.- Lee Chapelle

Chapelle said he's had the opportunity to participate in Indigenous healing ceremonies, sweat lodges and has had a chance to see the results of restorative justice, which focuses more on open dialogue, rather than the Western adversarial system of victim versus assailant.

"The family would have an opportunity to really speak to Terri and really express what they've done to their life after this crime has occurred," he said.

"On the other side, she would be able to speak to them about what led to that from her perspective." 

"It comes down to, ideally in the end, acceptance and forgiveness and I think that's really the only route to finding peace." 

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca