Politics

Scheer defends MPs' use of graphic details from Stafford case during debates

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is abandoning his responsibilities by not ensuring Tori Stafford's killer is put back behind bars — and he firmly rejects any assertion his MPs are being too graphic about the case in the House of Commons.

Graphic details of Stafford's assault, murder necessary so MPs 'know what they are defending': Scheer

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he firmly rejects any assertion his MPs are being too graphic in the House of Commons in their questions about the transfer of Tori Stafford's killer to a healing lodge. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is abandoning his responsibilities by not ensuring Tori Stafford's killer is put back behind bars — and he firmly rejects any assertion his MPs are being too graphic about the case in the House of Commons.

Scheer told The Canadian Press on Thursday that he was extremely frustrated and angered by the way he thought Trudeau deflected from questions about why Terri-Lynne McClintic, one of Stafford's killers, was transferred to an Indigenous healing lodge.

On Wednesday during question period, Conservatives demanded Trudeau reverse the transfer. Many of their questions included preambles that detailed some of the grisly details of the murder.

Trudeau reacted by pleading with the Opposition Conservatives for more decorum.

"I think it was a disgusting and shameful display of a prime minister trying to avoid responsibility on this," Scheer said in an interview.

He and his Tory MPs felt it was necessary to remind everyone about the horrific details of the crime after Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale referred to McClintic's role in Stafford's murder as "bad practices." Goodale made the remark during his appearance earlier this week on CTV Power Play.

"When he's got a minister sitting a few seats down from him glossing over these evil actions of a deranged individual as 'bad practices,' then yeah, we're absolutely going to put before him and his ministers what some of the details are," Scheer said.

'​Restorative justice'

McClintic pleaded guilty in 2010 to the first-degree murder of Victoria (Tori) Stafford, who was last seen in April 2008 being led away after school. McClintic, then 18, had promised to show the trusting girl a puppy. Waiting nearby was McClintic's boyfriend, Michael Rafferty, who drove his victim to a remote field where he raped her repeatedly.

Court would later hear how McClintic, who confessed a month later, had ignored Tori's pleas for help. 

Scheer said the disturbing details of the case have been widely reported by media across the country to allow the public to bear witness to the tragedy of the crime and to understand the reasoning behind McClintic's life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

"We're talking about a person who chose, in a systematic way, to perpetrate unimaginable horrors on a beautiful young girl. And now the prime minister has the opportunity to reverse that," Scheer said.

"That was the purpose of recounting some of the details of the case, so that Canadians and for parliamentarians to know what they are defending... they have a responsibility to Canadians to explain why they think it's OK."

On Thursday, Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott did defend the use of Indigenous healing lodges as a way to provide restorative justice for Indigenous offenders like McClintic.

"It's my understanding that the person in question is Indigenous," Philpott said of McClintic.

"I don't know the details of how the decisions were made, but these are places that have proven to provide restorative justice and at the same time provide the security that's necessary."

'He's obviously OK with the decision'

On Wednesday, Trudeau said McClintic's security status hasn't changed since 2014 and that officials make independent decisions.

Scheer says he believes the prime minister's failure to intervene and reverse McClintic's transfer is tantamount to signing off on it.

"Justin Trudeau has the ability to put Tori's killer back behind bars," Scheer said.

"He has a variety of tools at his disposal and he needs to tell Canadians whether or not he's going to do that. And if he's not, he's obviously OK with the decision."

Correctional Service Canada has declined to discuss details of its decision for privacy reasons, but Goodale has asked for a review of the case.

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