What's next for Rodney Stafford

Victoria Stafford’s father Rodney Stafford is overcome with emotion after he was told of charges being laid by police in the case of his missing eight-year-old daughter in Woodstock, Ont., May 20, 2009. (Photo from The Canadian Press/Dave Chidley)

Life for Rodney Stafford remains on hold, as he continues to fight the transfers of his daughter’s killers to more lenient facilities.

When Stafford learned of Terri-Lynne McClintic’s transfer to an Indigenous healing lodge this year, he stepped away from his daily life to focus on changing the penal system that placed her in the minimum-to-medium security healing lodge among less violent offenders and their families.

Lacking a clear answer from Correction Service Canada about why McClintic, a convicted kidnapper and murderer,  was taken out of prison and placed in a healing lodge, Stafford set about to reverse the transfer. McClintic has since returned to a medium-security facility.

This week, still waiting for answers about McClintic’s transfer, Stafford learned that Michael Rafferty had been transferred to from a maximum-security prison to a medium-security one. The co-accused in Tori Stafford’s 2009 killing was moved to the facility in March, according to a Facebook post by Stafford.

Stafford spoke with Yahoo Canada shortly after learning of McClintic’s move to a healing lodge.

“In all honesty I don’t think anybody in higher authority can give me any answers as to why this happened,” he said.

“It stems all the way down to the person who lowered her security status in the first place, all the way up to [Correctional Service Canada Commissioner] Anne Kelly and [Public Safety Minister] Ralph Goodale.”

Goodale was confronted in Question Period on Monday by Conservative MP Candice Bergen over the transfer of Rafferty.

“I will examine the facts of this case to ensure that all the proper rules and procedures have been followed and that Canadians are safe,” he said.

McClintic and her then-partner Rafferty were convicted in 2010 of the kidnapping and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford in Woodstock, Ont.

She was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years, but was downgraded to medium-security status in 2014 and transferred from Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont. to a healing lodge in Saskatchewan in early 2018.

Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison in 2012. According to Stafford, Rafferty was transferred in March 2018 from Port Cartier Institution, a maximum-security facility northeast of Quebec to the medium-security La Macaza Institution almost 200 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

Stafford didn’t learn about McClintic nor Rafferty’s transfers until nine months after they had happened.

Spurred into action by McClintic transfer

Determined that McClintic should serve out at least the first 25 years of her sentence in a conventional prison, Stafford took time off work and campaigned throughout October to have her removed from Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge.

The decision to leave work was not ideal, but something he felt he couldn’t avoid.

“I couldn’t go to work and focus,” he told. “I couldn’t concentrate.”

With McClintic back behind bars, Stafford continues to fight to have her returned to maximum-security risk and classified as a dangerous offender — a designation reserved for Canada’s most violent repeat criminals and sexual predators.

“There’s a lot to go, but we can only take it step by step and I have to somehow try to maintain my focus on daily life,” he said. “I’m still off on sick leave right now because this is all too much on my brain.”

‘I’ve got to finish:’ Pushing for Tori’s Law

His next hurdle will be to push for general reform within Canada’s correctional system.

While Stafford is grateful to Correctional Service Canada for reversing McClintic’s transfer, he wants to see more oversight and accountability at every level of the institution to prevent transfers like McClintic’s from happening in the future.

In November, Correctional Service Canada announced its decision to return McClintic to prison along with new rules that will make it harder for federal prisoners serving long sentences to secure transfers to low-security institutions.

Before he can tackle the penal system, though, Stafford said he needs to see his work on McClintic’s file through to completion.

“I’ve got to finish working on Terri-Lynne first before we can kind of put together Tori’s Law, so we know from beginning to end what we need changed,” he said.

Through Tori’s Law, Stafford hopes to change how people convicted of murdering vulnerable victims are sentenced and how their sentences are carried out.

Not yet introduced in legislature, the proposed law would ensure those convicted of murdering vulnerable people — including children, seniors and people with physical or mental disabilities — carry out their full sentences, without the possibility of parole, lowered security status or day passes.

“If you take the life of somebody who’s vulnerable, you should have to serve your life behind bars,” he said. “There’s no reason why any of these people should be leaving the system.”

While he vowed not to make the transfers a partisan issue, Stafford said Tori’s Law is a different matter. He won’t shy away from partisan politics if a particular party or MP goes to bat for it.

“I honestly believe if we start to put the right pressure on the right places with other issues, everything else is going to move just as quickly,” he said. “Because it affects the whole public.”

Those interested in Rodney Stafford’s progress can follow his Facebook group, Justice 4 Tori ~ Protest For Change.