'Siding with a murderer': Canadians aren't happy about Tori Stafford case

There’s little Yahoo Canada News readers agree on, but the treatment of convicted child killer Terri-McClintic is an exception.

Last week, Yahoo Canada News spoke with Rodney Stafford, the father of McClintic’s eight-year-old victim Victoria “Tori” Stafford, about McClintic’s transfer from a women’s prison in Kitchener, Ont. to an Indigenous healing lodge in Saskatchewan.

In 2010, McClintic — along with her partner Michael Thomas Rafferty — was found guilty of first-degree murder in Tori’s kidnapping and death in Woodstock, Ont. the year before.

Stafford told Yahoo Canada News how every development involving McClintic forces him to relive the painful experience of losing his daughter, but that he will continue to relive that experience for as long as it takes to secure justice for her.

Within the story, we invited readers to vote in a poll that asked: Should Terri-Lynne McClintic be allowed to stay at a healing lodge?

We collected 8,106 responses. Of those responses, 7,932 — or 98 per cent — said she should not, and 174 — two per cent — said she should.

The outcome was clear. Nearly all readers believed McClintic did not belong at Okimaw Ohci
Healing Lodge.

However, respondents were less united when it came to elaborating on their opinions. Some blamed the current federal government for the move.

“Justin [Trudeau] had a chance to defend an 8 year old girl who got murdered. And what does he do for the Stafford family, nothing. Instead he sides with the murderer,” Yahoo Canada user M said.

Some defended the Trudeau government, pointing out that McClintic was classified as a medium-security prisoner — Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is a minimum-medium security facility — under the Harper government.

“Anyone blaming Trudeau for this should give their heads a shake and try to understand that once she was classified as a “medium security” prisoner in 2014, during the time of the last Conservative government, it made do difference where she is put,” said Yahoo Canada user gordmack67.

“A healing lodge is a medium-security correctional institution. She isn’t being set free. She is still incarcerated and will be for many more years.”

Some defended the value and sanctity of Indigenous healing lodges, while some simply offered words of support to murder victim Tori’s father Rodney Stafford.

“I can not fathom the pain this man has gone through,” said Yahoo Canada user Fire. “Sending my condolences never seems like enough.”

In a statement to Yahoo Canada News, Correctional Service Canada defended the transfer as an example of the system of risk needs analysis, intervention and gradual, structured release that is the cornerstone of the federal correctional system.

“Rehabilitative efforts, leading to a gradual and controlled release, have proven to be a better way of protecting the public than keeping offenders in maximum security to the end of their sentence, and then releasing them into society without supervision,” the statement said.

“Transfers are made to manage security requirements within an institution. All transfers are made in accordance with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, and the CSC performs risk assessments before transferring an offender to a facility. Transfers play an important role in CSC’s ability to manage the inmate population within the confines of the law, and are key to meeting the organization’s priorities.”

And while the federal Conservatives have pushed the government to reverse the decision to transfer McClintic to the healing lodge, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the federal government lacks the power to do so.

In the meantime, Safety Minister Ralph Goodale​ has instructed Correctional Service officials to review the transfer, and Stafford and a group of supporters are organizing a march on Parliament Hill on Nov. 2 to protest it.

With each call to action, Stafford is both reminded of agonizing final moments of Tori’s life and propelled by the belief that he is doing the right thing.

“I will relive this every day if I have to,” he said. “If it means to get full and complete justice for Victoria.”