After heated debate, hurled insults, Tory motion to overturn child-killer's transfer to healing lodge defeated

A Conservative motion to have the government condemn and overturn a decision to transfer a child killer to an Indigenous healing lodge was defeated in the House of Commons today, after another day of heated debate and insults hurled between MPs.

Convicted murderer was transferred to Indigenous facility

The late Tori Stafford. The House of Commons was the scene of ferocious debate Wednesday over a Conservative motion to return her killer to a conventional prison from the healing lodge where she is incarcerated now. (Canadian Press)

A Conservative motion to have the government condemn and overturn a decision to transfer a child killer to an Indigenous healing lodge was defeated in the House of Commons today, after another day of heated debate and insults hurled between MPs.

The 82-200 vote came after Tuesday's day-long, politically charged debate on an opposition day motion about Terri-Lynne McClintic, who was transferred from the Grand Valley Institution for Women near Kitchener, Ont., to the Okima Ohci Healing Lodge for Aboriginal Women on Nekaneet First Nation in southern Saskatchewan.

McClintic is serving a life sentence for the brutal rape and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford of Woodstock, Ont., and is not eligible for parole until 2031.

PM Justin Trudeau and MP Tony Clement go at it in Question Period in advance of a Conservative motion asking for a transfer back to prison of Tori Stafford's murderer, Terri-Lynne McClintic. 2:47

The vote capped off another round of emotional debate in the House of Commons, where Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of making "excuses" to avoid sending McClintic back to a conventional prison.

Trudeau said the issue shows the stark differences between the two political parties.

"This is about a contrast between a party and a government that respects the rules, that respects the independence of our judicial system, that appreciates the professionalism of our correctional services, and a party of ambulance-chasing politicians who are, quite frankly, demonstrating a contempt for the principles of law and debate in this House that is inexcusable," he said.

Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen, Quebec MP Alain Rayes (left) and Ontario MP Tony Clement speak to reporters Wednesday after a motion to overturn the McClintic motion was defeated in the House of Commons. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

After question period, Raitt stood on a point of order and demanded an apology from Trudeau for describing Conservatives as "ambulance-chasers." The prime minister declined to do so.

Shortly afterwards, Trudeau exited the House and addressed his remarks in the House.

"The Conservatives are terribly upset that I referred to them as practising ambulance-chasing politics, but if they're upset, it's probably because it stings a bit," he said.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel lashed out on Twitter about the prime minister leaving the House during the vote, calling Trudeau "the true definition of disgusting coward."

The Conservative motion, proposed by the party's House leader Candice Bergen, reads:

That, given Terri-Lynne McClintic was convicted of first-degree murder in the horrific abduction, rape and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford, and was moved from a secure facility to a healing lodge without fences and where the government has confirmed the presence of children, the House condemn this decision and call upon the government to exercise its moral, legal and political authority to ensure this decision is reversed and cannot happen again in other cases.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Conservatives of being "ambulance chasing politicians" for the manner in which the party is using the case of Tori Stafford's killer being transferred to a healing lodge during question period in the House of Commons. 1:07

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has ordered Correctional Service Canada to review its decision and the policy at large.

MPs debated the Conservative motion all day Tuesday, with a line-up of Tory MPs expressing outrage, indignation and disgust over the fact that McClintic is serving her life sentence in a healing lodge. They framed the debate around accusing the Liberals of going to bat for criminals and failing to stand up for victims.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refuses to apologize for calling Conservative MPs ambulance chasing politicians. 0:48

They demanded the government overturn the decision, insisting the minister of Public Safety has the legal authority and the responsibility to act.

'Guest' at government lodge

They said McClintic is a "guest at a government lodge" when she should be behind bars.

Liberals spent their time on the defensive, saying the minister has no legal power to intervene in individual cases, and arguing those decisions must be left to the professional bureaucrats who make decisions about correctional and security classifications based on what is best for the offender's rehabilitation and for public safety.

A memo from the assistant deputy attorney general for three federal departments — Public Safety, Defence and Immigration —appears to back that up. It says the minister can give directives on strategy objectives, priorities and goals, but his delegates have statutory authority over specific directives on particular cases.

Isolated institution

"They are often highly factual decisions and can best be made by the officer who has dealt with this and has had an opportunity to examine the individual in question," the memo reads.

According to Goodale's office, no offender has left Okimaw Ohci without authorization in the last 10 years. It is an isolated institution in the middle of the forest in rural Saskatchewan, 150 km from the nearest large city, Medicine Hat, said his spokesman Scott Bardsley.

Security cameras at the facility are monitored by staff 24 hours a day, and when an offender's behaviour or risk is deemed unmanageable, they are transferred out, he said.

Marked boundary, no fence

"Like several other CSC institutions, Okimaw Ohci is surrounded by a marked boundary rather than fencing. Any inmate who steps outside the boundary is subject to strict consequences, although such incidents are very rare," Bardsley said.

There have been heated exchanges in the House since Tori Stafford's father, Rodney Stafford, posted a public plea for the prime minister to intervene last week, calling McClintic a "dangerous predator."

"From father to father ... Could you kneel before your child's headstone, knowing they spent the last three hours of their life begging and pleading for Mommy or Daddy to come save them, alone and scared? Can you sleep soundly knowing there is more injustice unfolding before you?"

Stafford asked Trudeau to "do the right thing" by reversing the transfer decision and sending McClintic to serve the remainder of her sentence behind bars.

In an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Stafford said he still hopes the transfer is overturned. 

"To me, this isn't even a political issue. Somebody clearly messed up and made a mistake and I'm just trying to get this mistake reversed," he told host Vassy Kapelos.

Stafford said he first learned about the transfer about six weeks ago, when contacted by corrections officials about McClintic's request for a day pass. He learned she had been transferred to Saskatchewan in December 2017.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.