OTTAWA, ON (October 26, 2018): Even in 2018, the brutal murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford continues to shock Canadians. While her murderers may have been caught and brought to justice, recent news that one of the assailants, Terri-Lynne McClintic, has been transferred to a minimum security ‘healing lodge’ has reignited anger and debate around Stafford’s tragic case.
How could a convicted murderer move to such a low-security facility? Was this a failure in our corrections system? And should the government make changes to the system to prevent repeats of these sorts of events?
To break down this issue, MLI has released a new commentary by Professor Scott Newark. In it, Professor Newark addresses the facts surrounding McClintic’s history, sentencing, and eventual transfer, arguing that the McClintic case is an opportunity to improve the Canadian corrections system.
“[There are] fundamentally important issues raised by [this case] that go to the core of the principles that guide the corrections system,” writes Newark. He argues that while a shift in the corrections system away from a penal focus and towards a rehabilitation focus has been “entirely appropriate,” the McClintic case is an unforeseen consequence of the shift in culture at the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).
“The adoption of the rehabilitation philosophy by Canada’s corrections system has resulted in an internal culture where offenders are now viewed as clients rather than convicted criminals. Additionally, the CSC culture demonstrably follows a one-size-fits-all approach that fails to distinguish between different offenders based on their criminal history.”
Despite the quite reasonable anger that this case has elicited, Professor Newark suggests that the government has made the right move by resisting politicization. Such moves could be both unauthorized and indeed unwise, potentially undermining the rule of law.
Rather than making decisions on a case-by-case basis, Professor Newark argues that this case has long term impact on the legislation, regulations, and policies that underpin the Canadian corrections system. Some potential structural reforms could include:
- requiring notification of registered victims of defined offences of security reduction or transfer;
- providing victims with relevant offender information and the opportunity to make submissions in transfer decisions;
- including consideration of principles of sentencing in transfer decision-making;
- prohibiting defined offender placement in dual medium/minimum-security facilities;
- mandating Indigenous consultation for healing lodge transfer and consent for non-Indigenous inmate transfer.
While creating and maintaining a fairer criminal justice system is a complex and difficult process, Professor Newark’s commentary provides a balanced take on how to handle the often-competing interests of public safety, respect for victims, offender rehabilitation, and transparency and accountability.
To learn more about how the courage and determination of the Stafford family has led to this important conversation on criminal justice reform, read the full commentary here.
Scott Newark is a former Alberta Crown Prosecutor who has also served as Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association, Vice Chair of the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime, Director of Operations for Investigative Project on Terrorism and as a Security Policy Advisor to the governments of Ontario and Canada. He is currently an Adjunct Professor in the TRSS Program in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University.
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