Trudeau accuses Tories of ‘playing politics’ over Tori Stafford murder

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Conservatives of using the 2009 murder of Tori Stafford to “play politics” Wednesday, as opposition MPs repeatedly attacked a government decision to move one of the girl’s killers to a healing lodge.

In a tense debate in the House of Commons, the Conservatives grilled the government over a decision by Correctional Services Canada to move Terri-Lynne McClintic from a prison to the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge last December.

Conservative MP Tony Clement described the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of Tori Stafford in detail during question period in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Conservative MP Tony Clement described the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of Tori Stafford in detail during question period in the House of Commons on Wednesday.  (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

McClintic was convicted in 2010 of first-degree murder for her role in the abduction and sexual assault of the eight-year-old Woodstock girl, and sentenced to life in prison without parole eligibility for 25 years. In December, she was transferred to the healing lodge, which is run by Correctional Services Canada and which Trudeau said is considered a medium-security facility.

The government is now reviewing that decision.

In what NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson described as “sickening” exploitation, several Conservative MPs read graphic details of the case into the record. After multiple rounds of questioning, Conservative justice critic Tony Clement described in detail how McClintic took part’s in Tori’s kidnapping, sexual assault and murder.

“Why will (Trudeau) not use his power and authority right now to do the right thing for Tori’s family and the right thing for society?” Clement asked.

Trudeau said he hoped Canadians would “pay attention to that question and this answer.”

“In 2014, the individual was transferred to a medium-security facility under the previous government,” Trudeau said. “The individual is still in a medium-security facility today.”

After question period, Clement took issue when a reporter pointed out there were children in the visitors’ gallery during the exchange. He called it a “double standard” that the Conservatives would face criticism for their questions a day after NDP MP Romeo Saganash accused Trudeau of not giving a “f- – -” about Indigenous rights in an exchange that was widely reported on.

Rob Nicholson, who served as justice minister under the previous Conservative government, told the Star that Canadians should be concerned that McClintic is being held in a facility without a fence.

Nicholson dismissed the Liberals’ criticism that opposition member’s were using a child’s murder to score political points.

“I think my colleagues who asked those questions are on the side of the family here,” Nicholson said outside the House of Commons.

“(The family) were devastated by this again. What happens is they become victimized by it again when they hear about something like that, and that’s who the Conservatives were speaking for today.”

CTV reported Tuesday that Tori’s friends and family will hold a rally on Parliament Hill in November to protest McClintic’s transfer to the healing lodge. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale defended the transfer in an interview with CTV, saying prison officials felt it was the “best way to both rectify her bad practices in the past, but also to keep the public safe.”

Asked Wednesday if he regretted those comments, Goodale told the Star that they were based on preliminary information.

“Those were in the very early moments of the decision, and we were still in the process of gathering facts,” Goodale said in a brief interview. “Very clearly the offence, the killing, was a horrible, gruesome violent thing that all Canadians found repugnant.”

With files from the Canadian Press

Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier

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