Protesters in Maple Creek, Sask., 'infuriated' by transfer of Tori Stafford's killer to healing lodge

Penny Steinkey and her friend Karri Williams have spent the past week walking along Maple Creek’s main street to protest convicted killer Terri-Lynne McClintic's transfer to a nearby Indigenous healing lodge.

Protesters say they support nearby healing lodge, but say it is not the place for Terri-Lynne McClintic

A group of Maple Creek, Sask., residents protested the transfer of convicted child killer Terri-Lynne McClintic to a nearby Indigenous healing lodge. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC News)

Penny Steinkey had planned to travel to Calgary to see her grandchildren for Thanksgiving. Instead, she said she'll spend her weekend at home in Maple Creek, Sask., protesting on behalf of another child — Tori Stafford.

"Because Tori doesn't have that — I can give up a weekend for her," she said of the eight-year-old, brutally raped and murdered in 2009. 

Steinkey was outraged when she heard that Stafford's killer, Terri-Lynne McClintic, had been transferred to Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge on Nekaneet First Nation, located about 30 kilometres southeast of Maple Creek.

She and her friend Karri Williams have spent the past week walking along Maple Creek's main street to protest McClintic's transfer, and she says she'll continue to protest until she is heard.

'She's not ready for that place'

"This woman, in my opinion, should be serving her time behind bars, not earning her way out of society after nine years of being in prison for murdering, raping and torturing an eight-year-old girl," Steinkey said.

"I'm concerned about everybody that lives anywhere near this woman, every person that works out there, every inmate that's out there," she said, adding she also worries for the safety of the children of female inmates who may visit the healing lodge.

McClintic is currently serving a life sentence for her role in Tori's death, and is not eligible for parole until 2031. In December, she was transferred to the healing lodge run by Correctional Services Canada.

Tori Stafford was eight years old when she was abducted and killed. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Williams said she was "infuriated" when she learned McClintic had been living at the lodge for nine months, without anyone in the area being notified.

"You don't send a murderer, what she's done, to a place of healing. She's not ready for that place, that's for sure."

Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge does important work for its inmates, say protesters, but they believe that Terri-Lynne McClintick has not done the work to be transferred to the healing lodge. (Correctional Service Canada)

Both women said they respect the rehabilitation work taking place at the healing lodge. They see the inmates from time to time, raking leaves or picking up garbage in Maple Creek, and describe them as part of the community.

They shipped her off to the farthest, most remote place they could find. And they don't give a damn about us that live here.- Penny Steinkey, Maple Creek resident

"We love the healing lodge," said Steinkey. "We all believe in it. But they have to work to get here."

Williams and Steinkey said they have tried to contact Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale about their concerns, but have only received a form letter in response.

However, they say they are working with their Conservative MP and their neighbours at Nekaneet First Nation, who share their concerns about transfer.

"They shipped her off to the farthest, most remote place they could find," said Steinkey.

"And they don't give a damn about us that live here."

Transfer sets off political clash

McClintic's transfer has sparked heated debate and insults in the House of Commons.

The Opposition Conservatives have demanded the government reverse the decision, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decried the Conservatives as "ambulance-chasing politicians," and said his government respects the independence of the judicial system.

In response to questions on Friday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he takes public concerns "very, very seriously," which is why he's asked Corrections Canada to review its policies and procedures leading to the transfer. 

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, right, has ordered the commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada to review a decision to send convicted killer Terri-Lynne McClintic, left, to an Indigenous healing lodge. (Canadian Press photos)

"This is not just a recent set of decisions. The decision-making flow goes back to 2014," he said.

The review is meant to ensure public safety and that justice is carried out in all cases, not just in this particular instance, said Goodale.

He acknowledged the concerns expressed by the chief of Nekaneet First Nation, who said the band was "shocked" by the transfer. Chief Alvin Francis said that six years ago, his people lost any say over which prisoners were sent to the minimum-security lodge on its land.

"Where Indigenous values are engaged, then there needs to be ample consultation and advice and an ongoing role," Goodale said, adding he expected this to be addressed in the review.