The tough-on-crime speech from the throne on Wednesday, which also saw the Sask Party government announce they would be moving to get out of retail alcohol sales, was overshadowed Wednesday by an invited guest sitting in the gallery.
Each MLA is given six tickets to invite attendees to the throne speech. MLA for Lumsden-Morse Lyle Stewart invited convicted murderer and former MLA Colin Thatcher.
In the following scrum, Stewart said he was happy to invite Thatcher, calling him his constituent and friend. Stewart called him a “fine individual” and said Thatcher had a tough life due to his time in prison.
Minister of Corrections and Public Safety Christine Tell told reporters that Thatcher had gone through the justice system and did his time, and had a right to be there as a free citizen. “He has now paid that debt to society…and he is living his life as a citizen of our province.”
Thatcher spent 22 years in prison and will remain on parole for the rest of his life. He has never accepted responsibility and has maintained his innocence for Wilson’s murder.
During Thursday’s question period, Leader of the Opposition Carla Beck asked, “Does the Premier understand the signal that this sends in a province with the highest in the nation of interpersonal violence rates? Will he condemn that decision, and will he apologize?” The Speaker called the question Out of Order as it surrounded whether or not someone was invited.
NDP MLA for Saskatoon University, Jennifer Bowes, critic for Advanced Education and Status of Women, said, “This is what the supreme court said about how JoAnn Wilson died. ‘At about 6 o’clock in the evening of January 21, 1983, JoAnn Wilson came home, drove into the garage of her home and was ferociously beaten and then shot to death. Twenty-seven wounds were inflicted on her head, neck, hands and lower legs.
The injuries included a broken arm, a fracture of the wrist and a severed little left finger. A single bullet entered her skull, causing death.’ Bowes started to ask the Premier what message it sent before the Speaker interrupted, apologized and called the question out of order. Bowes hammered away, asking several more questions.
Minister of Justice, Bronwyn Ere, responded to one question which wasn’t declared out of order - saying, “The rates of interpersonal violence in this country in this province are a tragedy, and they are numbers and rates that we must do everything we can to stand together to bring down, and we take this extremely seriously in the province.” She listed the work the government has done regarding interpersonal violence.
Following the question period, Premier Scott Moe said he wouldn’t have made the same decision, and regarding an apology, he said, “Me? What would I apologize for? This is an individual that invited someone. It wasn’t a government that invited someone. I think we need to draw that distinction.”
Lyle Stewart released a statement taking sole responsibility for the invitation of Thatcher and said, “in retrospect, this was an error in judgment as his presence was a distraction…” he then referenced initiatives to keep Saskatchewan families safe in their communities.
On Twitter, MLA Jennifer Bowes said, “Repeatedly ruled out of order in QP for condemning the @SaskParty gov’t for inviting a convicted wife-killer to be their guest in the Assembly. We have the highest rates of domestic violence in all of (Canada) - over 2x the national avg. So no, we won’t sit down & shut up.”
LMT contacted the Premier’s Office and the office of MLA Lyle Stewart but hasn’t had a response by publication.
Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times