Goodale orders tougher rules on prisoner transfers to Indigenous lodges following McClintic uproar

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has ordered Canada’s prison system to tighten transfer policies in the wake of the controversial move of child killer Terri-Lynne McClintic to an Indigenous healing lodge.

New policy will make it tougher for inmates to serve time in facilities without a fence

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

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has ordered Canada's prison system to tighten transfer policies in the wake of the controversial decision to move child killer Terri-Lynne McClintic to an Indigenous healing lodge.

But it's not yet clear when, or if, McClintic will be transferred back to a conventional women's prison, or if she has already been transferred.

Goodale said Correctional Service Canada has been instructed to improve policies related to transfers of "medium-security women offenders to facilities that do not have a directly controlled perimeter."

"These changes will help ensure the public's confidence that our correctional system is holding guilty parties accountable for breaking the law‎, while fostering their rehabilitation, so we can have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims, and ultimately safer communities," Goodale said in a statement.

McClintic, who is serving a life sentence for the brutal rape and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford of Woodstock, Ont., was transferred from the Grand Valley Institution for Women near Kitchener, Ont., to the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge for Aboriginal Women on Nekaneet First Nation in southern Saskatchewan.

She is not eligible for parole until 2031.

Transfer sparked outrage

McClintic's transfer sparked public outrage, protests and heated debate. Tori's father Rodney Stafford wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appealing to him "father to father" to reverse McClintic's transfer.

Under the new policy Goodale announced today, transfers will have to be authorized by CSC's deputy commissioner for women, who will be required to ensure that Indigenous communities are engaged in transfer recommendations.

Factors in evaluating transfers to facilities without a controlled perimeter include:

  • Length of an offender's sentence.
  • Time remaining before an offender is eligible for an Unescorted Temporary Absence.
  • A requirement that long term offenders be at least into the "preparation for release" phase of their correctional plan.
  • Institutional behaviour, for those serving long sentences.

Goodale's spokesman Scott Bardsley said CSC will take steps to apply the new rules as quickly as possible, but did not say if McClintic has been transferred or will be transferred soon.

CSC is not permitted to publicly disclose an inmate's location, but relays transfer information to registered family members of victims, he said.

Rules will apply to McClintic

Goodale said the new rules will apply to future circumstances as well as current ones. Asked if the new policy will apply to McClintic, the minister said "yes."

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has ordered Canadian prisons to tighten transfer policies after the controversial decision to move Terri-Lynne McClintic to an Indigenous healing lodge. 0:49

Reached by CBC News, Tori's father Rodney Stafford said he had not yet heard from correctional authorities. He said the wait for news about his daughter's killer causes him much anxiety.

"You're waiting for answers and it could come any time. You just don't know when. It's hard," he said.

He called today's announcement "a start," but said he won't be satisfied until McClintic is back in a prison cell.

Goodale ordered CSC to review the McClintic decision and the policy at large. He said the minister has no legal power to intervene in individual cases, and that decisions about correctional and security classifications are based on what is best for the offender's rehabilitation and for public safety.

Last month, the House of Commons defeated a Conservative motion calling on the government to condemn and overturn the decision to transfer McClintic to the healing lodge.

During the emotional Oct. 3 debate over the motion, Conservative deputy leader Lisa Raitt accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of making "excuses" to avoid sending McClintic back to a conventional prison.

Trudeau, in response, called the Conservatives "ambulance-chasing politicians" who show a contempt for the principles of law.

Today, the issue erupted in the House of Commons again, with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer demanding Trudeau apologize for politicizing the issue.

"The prime minister actually went to great lengths to demonize anyone who had a problem with this, resorting to nasty name-calling and divisive language," he said. "Will he do the right thing and apologize?"

Trudeau did not apologize, and said the changes will ensure offender accountability, rehabilitation and community safety.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's question prompted Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to say he deserves a 'hyprocrite of the year award.' 3:07

'Hypocrite of the year'

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May suggested Scheer's remarks could earn him a "hypocrite of the year award for parliamentarians."

CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly said the new directives will ensure more structured sentence planning for medium-security offenders who are serving long-term sentences before a decision is made to transfer them to a healing lodge.

"These changes highlight how committed I am to a culture of ongoing self-reflection and ensuring that our policies and practices are evidence-based and are responsive to an evolving environment," she said in a statement.

"I believe that change can be influenced from both within the organization and through the feedback and support from victims, partners and stakeholders. The cornerstone of our public safety mandate is to ensure that offenders are safely managed both in our institutions and during their eventual release to the community as law-abiding citizens."

McClintic and her boyfriend Michael Rafferty grabbed Stafford from a Woodstock street. The girl's body was found three months later. She had been beaten and raped.

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