By Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
The father of a raped and murdered eight-year-old girl said on Wednesday the transfer of one of her killers to a prison “healing lodge” has sparked widespread anger and needs to be reversed, while the federal government said it would review the decision.
In an interview from his home in Woodstock, Ont., Rodney Stafford denounced the transfer of Terri-Lynne McClintic as “completely wrong.”
“She should be serving her sentence in a maximum security prison,” Stafford said of his daughter’s killer. “Like I’m sitting here living day to day, going to work, having to struggle to get by because my life has been altered so bad — I’m still on this huge emotional roller-coaster — and like frickin’ she’s out living it up…in this healing lodge.”
McClintic pleaded guilty in 2010 to the first-degree murder of Victoria (Tori) Stafford, who was last seen in April 2008 being led away by the hand 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. Ultimately, the girl would die from hammer blows to her head.
In 2014, McClintic was classified as a medium security inmate at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont. In December, two days after the transfer, victims services wrote the family to inform them of McClintic’s move to the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge on the Nekaneet First Nation near Maple Creek, Sask.
While it’s not clear whether McClintic identifies as Indigenous, Correctional Service Canada, which refuses to discuss the transfer for privacy reasons, says the 60-bed lodge is a multi-level standalone open campus facility with a focus on healing for incarcerated Aboriginal women.
“She’s basically living it up better than the majority of the people living on the streets or are low income families,” Stafford, 43, said. “She’s being handed all these free passes and luxuries. It’s not fair.”
Word of the transfer prompted plans for a protest rally in Ottawa in November and both federal and provincial politicians jumped on the issue.
Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford called Stafford to offer his support, while Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced the review of the transfer decision and said ministers by law do not get involved in inmate security classifications.
Conservative justice critic Tony Clement accused the Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being soft on crime and called the transfer a miscarriage of justice that has revictimized the families.
“This is not the kind of justice that Canadians expect (and) I’m demanding redress,” Clement said. “When people lose faith in our justice system, they take matters into their own hands.”
In the House of Commons, Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer called on Trudeau to have the decision reversed, saying McClintic was guilty of “horrific crimes” and had bragged about stomping on the face of a fellow inmate at Grand Valley.
Trudeau pointed out that McClintic’s security status hasn’t changed since 2014 and that officials make such decisions independently. He also noted that Goodale had asked the commissioner of correctional services for a review.
An exasperated Scheer emerged from question period Wednesday demanding that Trudeau act.
“I will tell you one thing I know about this facility: it is not the right place for McClintic,” he said. “She deserves to be behind bars … this is completely inappropriate.”
From her home near Edmonton, Tori’s grandmother Doreen Graichen, a believer in the death penalty, said the family was furious at finding out what happened to McClintic.
“It looks as if she’s on some kind of retreat or something rather than being in prison,” Graichen, 64, said in an interview. “We were told life means life, but who knows, 25 years from now with the system going the way it is, who’s to say she wouldn’t walk?”
Cara Voisin, of Otterville, Ont., who is helping Stafford organize a protest on Parliament Hill on Nov. 2, said it wasn’t just about Tori.
“It’s about other children, too. It’s about making sure that other people aren’t being revictimized,” Voisin, 33, said. “It’s really sad to see this all has to be dug up again.”
Voisin said she wants to see the resurrection of Bill C-53, legislation tabled by the previous Conservative government that never made it into law. The bill was dubbed “life means life.”
“People relate to this, Voisin said. “They want a safe world for their children. They want to know that when somebody’s convicted of the worst crimes out there, that they have to serve the sentence that was given to them.”
Sue Delanoy, executive director of the prisoner activist Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan, said corrections are not meant to be purely punitive and the lodges, with their focus on self-improvement and introspection, are not an easier path for inmates.
“It sounds like a get-out-of-jail-free thing,” Delanoy said. “Healing lodges aren’t that. The perception is wrong from the community.”
In a statement, Chief Alvin Francis of the Nekaneet First Nation, home to the correctional facility, expressed surprise at the transfer.
“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,” Francis said. “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 (there).”