OTTAWA — A rally on Parliament Hill meant to protest the transfer of a child-killer from a prison to an Indigenous healing lodge veered quickly into complaints about the national carbon tax, veterans’ benefits and the federal deficit.
Terri-Lynne McClintic pleaded guilty in 2010 to first-degree murder in the killing of eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford and was sentenced to life in prison. Her move from a prison to a healing lodge meant to help rehabilitate Indigenous offenders has become a cause among critics of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.
Demonstrators at the protest wore purple and chanted “justice for Tori” and “send her back,” as Stafford’s family looked on.
Colin Saunders, a speaker at the rally who identified himself as a veteran, encouraged the crowd to call Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and tell her they don’t support murderers going to healing lodges.
But he quickly veered off topic.
“Even Parliamentary Protective Services are working with no contract right now. No contract,” he said. The crowd of about 50 people started booing.
“Shameful!” someone in the crowd cried.
“Shameful,” Saunders agreed. “So is it any surprise there’s no justice for Tori?”
He also raised the Trudeau government’s plan to charge polluters for carbon-dioxide emissions: “Carbon tax…right? Robbing from the poor and giving to the rich. He’s the anti-Robin Hood.”
Conservative MPs Tony Clement, Rachael Harder, Pierre Poilievre and Harold Albrecht also braved the cold for the event, but stuck closer to the script.
“When Conservatives talk about justice we know it’s also justice for Tori,” said Clement. After the next election, he said, “we will send (McClintic) back.”
Tori Stafford’s father Rodney said he didn’t want McClintic’s transfer from a prison to a healing lodge to be mired in partisan politics, but believes the issue has to become political to effect change.
“I’ve got no choice. They made it political by not acting on it,” he said of the Liberals.
The 2009 murder in southwestern Ontario, by McClintic and her then boyfriend Michael Rafferty, shocked Canadians from coast to coast. Her body wasn’t found for three months after she was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and killed with blows from a hammer. In separate proceedings, McClintic and Rafferty were both sentenced to life in prison without any chance of parole for 25 years.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford sent out a video statement at the same time as the rally, saying the federal government should put McClintic back in a traditional prison.
“Wish I could be there with you today Rodney, to demand justice for Tori. Her murderers should be in prison for the rest of their lives,” Ford wrote in a follow-up tweet.
Doreen Graichen, Tori Stafford’s grandmother, said the rally on the Hill meant a lot to her family.
“It doesn’t get any easier as time goes by,” she said.
Graichen said Canadians are friendly people but they’re passive. “I think they’re too passive on this issue.”
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office said he received the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada’s report on the review she conducted of McClintic’s transfer and he will consider the policy recommendations in the report.
Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press