Politics

Correctional services missed signs leading up to Marylène Levesque murder, says report

The Correctional Service of Canada missed warning signs while supervising a parolee with a history of violence against women who went on to kill Marylène Levesque last year, according to the findings of a federal investigation.

Eustachio Gallese allowed to have 'sexual needs' met while on day parole for 2004 murder

Marylène Levesque, 22, was found dead at a hotel in Sainte-Foy nearly one year ago. (Marylène Levesque/Facebook)

The Correctional Service of Canada missed warning signs while supervising a parolee with a history of violence against women who went on to kill Marylène Levesque last year, a federal investigation has concluded.

Levesque, 22, was working at an erotic massage parlour. She was found dead in the Quebec City suburb of Sainte-Foy on Jan. 22, 2020.

Eustachio Gallese, who has since pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in her death, had been on day parole since March 2019 for the 2004 killing of his former spouse. At the time, he was living at the Maison Painchaud community residential facility.

The Parole Board of Canada initially denied Gallese full parole. However, it extended his day parole with several conditions, listing his likelihood of re-offending as "low to moderate."

Gallese had a special arrangement with his case worker that allowed him to have relations with women to meet his "sexual needs." As part of the conditions of his day parole, he was required to disclose any relations he had with women to his parole officer.

'There were warning signs'

The case touched off a political firestorm in the House of Commons over Canada's parole board system. Following the outcry, the federal correctional service — which oversees about 12,600 inmates in federal institutions, and approximately 9,400 offenders in the community — announced a joint internal investigation with the parole board.

"The [national joint board of investigation] found that there were warning signs that the case management team did not properly assess and therefore did not adequately take into consideration to implement the required interventions to ensure better risk management," said a summary of the report's findings.

"Additionally, the visits to a massage parlour for sexual purposes were a contributing risk factor given the offender's history of domestic violence."

The board of investigation found the case management team underestimated Gallese's likelihood of developing an emotional connection with an employee at a massage parlour, and the need to intervene accordingly.

Anne Kelly, the commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), told a news conference Thursday the department does not condone offenders seeking sexual services.

"In my 37 years with the service, I can firmly attest to the fact that this is not something that we, as an organization, endorse in how we manage offenders," she said in a statement.

"I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and communities affected by this terrible tragedy, especially during this difficult week as we approach nearly one year since Ms. Levesque's death," she said in the statement.

"This is not an outcome any of us ever want to see and I am deeply sorry it happened."

Issues with supervision

The report also concluded that Maison Painchaud wasn't directly supervising offenders to the same degree as CSC. In Quebec, contractors have housed and, in the case of Maison Painchaud, supervised the rehabilitation of offenders for the last 40 years, said Kelly.

Following the investigation, CSC announced community residential facility caseworkers will no longer directly supervise offenders. 

The board of investigation also found caseworkers did not receive the training provided by CSC to its parole officers and did not benefit from the guidance or clinical supervision provided by a parole officer supervisor, the report said.

The Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec — which represents Quebec's halfway houses, including Maison Painchaud — said in a written statement it "remains shaken by the tragic events of a year ago..... [and] will analyze the report in depth to assess the impact of its recommendations on the members of the network, and offer our full collaboration to put them into place." 

WATCH | Correctional Services Canada makes changes after woman killed by parolee

Correctional Services Canada makes changes after woman killed by parolee

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1 month ago
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CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly spoke with reporters on Thursday from Ottawa. 1:31

CSC said it has also conducted a nationwide review to ensure that all supervision strategies "are sound, appropriate [and] consistent with legislation and policies."

A media statement also said the review "found there were no similar cases."

The board of investigation also cited shortcomings in the information held in Gallese's file. Kelly has promised to revise CSC's information collection policy to specify which types of documents are required for and relevant to an offender's history, and to implement a formal monitoring mechanism.

The joint review did not offer any recommendations to the Parole Board of Canada and concluded that board members involved in this case "met all the PBC training requirements and had the level of knowledge required to perform their tasks."

'It's a very difficult day'

Dominique Bouchard, the lawyer representing Levesque's surviving family, welcomed the report and its conclusions.

"The recommendations allow [the family members] to turn the page, in a sense," he said.

Levesque's mother, who is Bouchard's client, remains devastated by her daughter's death, he said. 

"It's a very difficult day for her," Bouchard said.

If the family was comforted by the investigation, a Quebec-based victims' rights group that has advocated on its behalf found it wanting.

The Association des familles de personnes assassinées ou disparues, founded by Conservative Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, said parole and corrections officials are shunting too much of the blame onto the halfway house and missing a chance to offer "a better mea culpa."

"They're putting the burden on halfway houses instead of accepting their own responsibility," said Nancy Roy, the association's executive director. "They should have admitted their initial mistake, to not release people who are potentially dangerous."

'Stigma played a role'

A spokesperson for Chez Stella, a Montreal non-profit that lobbies on behalf of sex workers, offered a critique of a different sort.

"In this case, it's very easy to be angry with the parole board and their decision and to lack a bit of nuance and understanding of the complex reality of who's to blame for this murder," said Sandra Wesley, the organization's executive director.

The criminalization of sex work inhibits complaints to the authorities, and ultimately sends the message that "violence against us is acceptable or not as bad as being violent to other types of women," she said.

"The stigma against sex workers and the policies that oppose sex work played a role every step of the way in this case."

Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs said the House of Commons's public safety committee will further study the case, starting Monday.

"We are dismayed and concerned by the issues identified in the report looking into the senseless murder of Marylène Levesque. There are serious, ongoing issues in our corrections system that the Liberal government is responsible for fixing," she wrote in a statement. 

"The gaps that were identified in intelligence sharing suggest that other dangerous criminals could slip through the cracks."

With files from Alison Northcott, Sean Gordon and Radio-Canada

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