Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner Anne Kelly is expected to report today on her office’s investigation into the controversial prison transfer of serial killer Paul Bernardo.
Bernardo is a dangerous criminal serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy in the early 1990s near St. Catherines, Ontario. He was also found guilty of the manslaughter and sexual assault of his 15-year-old sister-in-law Tammy Homolka.
Bernardo was quietly transferred on May 29 from a high-security prison in Ontario to a medium-security prison in Quebec. Experts say the move means Bernardo might not spend as much time in his cell and could associate with other inmates and attend group therapy sessions. They have also said the transfer does not raise the risk of his flight.
In response to public outrage, Kelly’s department commissioned a three-person review committee in June to determine whether Bernardo’s transfer was appropriate, whether the victims were sufficiently considered and whether all policies and rules were followed.
The panel includes a policy specialist, a former police officer and a member of the citizens’ committee that advises the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). The CSC said that “due to the sensitive nature of the file,” it would not share their names.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that he looks forward to reading the conclusions of the review.
“Our thoughts must go first to the French and Mahaffy families, who continue to live with the loss of their daughters so many years ago that it still hurts deeply today,” he said. “I think the whole country is still reeling from the heartbreak of these terrible, terrible acts. That is the lens with which we have to go through all these processes.”
The families of the victims said they were surprised that Kelly’s department only notified them of Bernardo’s transfer on the morning of May 29, the day he was transferred.
The families’ lawyer, Tim Danson, has said they should have been warned earlier and should have been part of the discussion before the decision was made.
Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino has been criticized for his handling of the file, prompting conservatives to call for his resignation.
In June, Mendicino called Bernardo’s transfer “shocking and incomprehensible.” Breaking: later revealed that Mendicino’s office was first notified of the transfer three months in advance and again days before it occurred.
Mendicino has maintained that his office did not inform him of the Bernardo transfer before it was completed on May 29. The minister said last month that he took “internal corrective measures” and told his staff that he should have been informed earlier.
Asked if he still has confidence in Mendicino and whether he handled the file properly, Trudeau evaded the question before saying he has confidence in his cabinet.
“I have an incredible team in Ottawa and an incredible group of parliamentarians across the country who are committed to serving their country every day, and anyone in my cabinet, by definition, has my trust,” Trudeau said.
Mendicino last month requested a ministerial order requiring the public security minister and the families of the victims to be notified before a high-profile prison transfer.
For more than a decade, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime has called on the Correctional Service of Canada to notify victims of prison transfers in advance and allow them to share their concerns before the decision is made.