After heated debate, hurled insults, Tory motion to overturn child-killer's transfer to healing lodge defeated
Convicted murderer was transferred to Indigenous facility
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.
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.
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.
Hey <a href="https://twitter.com/SeamusORegan?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SeamusORegan</a> - I thought had knew a disgusting coward when I saw one, but I stand corrected. Your boss is the true definition of disgusting coward after what he did today.—@MichelleRempel
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.
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.
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.
"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.