Goodale orders review of child killer's transfer to healing lodge

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale orders Canada's prison commissioner to review the transfer of convicted child killer Terri-Lynne McClintic to an Indigenous healing lodge, as the Conservatives angrily demand the government overturn the "terrible decision."

Conservatives demand Liberals overturn 'terrible decision'

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

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has ordered Canada's prison commissioner to review the transfer of a child killer to an Indigenous healing lodge, as the Conservatives angrily demanded the government overturn a "terrible decision" in an emotionally charged House of Commons.

The heated exchanges relate to the high-profile case of Terri-Lynne McClintic, who pleaded guilty in 2010 to first-degree murder in the death of eight-year-old Tori Stafford. 

According to Stafford's family, McClintic has been 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. 

Goodale said he has asked the commissioner of Correctional Service Canada (CSC) to undertake a "complete review" of the case to ensure the "law and best practices" have been applied. Quoting from a past statement by former Conservative public safety minister Steven Blaney, he repeated the line that politicians do not control the security classification of prisoners.

He said the minister does not have the legal authority to intervene.

But the Conservatives used the daily question period to press the Liberals on the hot-button issue. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Canadians aren't looking for a review, they want the government to overturn CSC on the transfer.

"These were horrific crimes and they deserve to be punished," he said. "The prime minister has the ability to reverse this decision, will he do so?"

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said McClintic was classified as a medium security prisoner in 2014, and remains in that classification today. The healing lodge holds both minimum- and medium-security prisoners. 

Trudeau accused the Conservatives of playing games with a tragic situation, calling it "truly upsetting."

"Conservatives are playing politics in an extremely disturbing way," he said.

McClintic, seen here in 2012, pleaded guilty to killing eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford of Woodstock, Ont. Her former boyfriend, Michael Rafferty, was also convicted in the girl's death after a trial. (Geoff Robins/Canadian Press)

Deputy Conservative leader Lisa Raitt also demanded the Liberals intervene, calling it a "terrible decision" by bureaucrats that elected officials have a responsibility to make right. She said when in government the Conservatives stopped convicted rapist and murderer Paul Bernardo from having conjugal visits, and blocked child killer Clifford Olson from getting pension benefits.

"When confronted with bad decisions, a good government acts," she said.

NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson added her concern about the Conservative line of questioning.

"The exploitation of this little girl's death is sickening," she said.

A heated exchange erupted in the HOC Wednesday over how a convicted child killer ended up in a healing lodge. 1:01

Corrections Canada would not divulge McClintic's current location for privacy reasons, but confirmed McClintic is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and won't be eligible for parole until May 19, 2031. 

The First Nations community where the healing lodge is located said it was surprised to learn that McClintic had been transferred there, and called for more say on decisions.

"At one time, Nekaneet elders sat on the interview process and had influence on inmate intake, but the funding was cut approximately six years ago, and we no longer have input on who is transferred to the healing lodge from other federal correctional Institutions," Chief Alvin Francis said in a news release.

"We have no say on inmate selection, but I believe if our elders were still a part of the process maybe Ms. McClintic wouldn't be at the healing lodge."

A government official confirmed that McClintic is Indigenous.

Tori Stafford, seen in a poster after she went missing in 2009. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)