Correctional Services Canada says no mistakes were made when child killer Terri-Lynne McClintic was initially sent to an Indigenous healing lodge.
A public outcry led to a case review, but it was new policy changes, rather than an error, that saw the murderer of eight-year-old Tori Stafford sent back to a traditional prison.
“There was a thorough review done of the case and there was no mistake, there were no decisions made that weren’t in line with policy at the time,” said Andrea Moser, director general of the Women Offender Sector at CSC.
In a sit-down interview with the power players behind Canada’s healing lodges, Global News had to ask half a dozen times whether anyone lost their job or suffered consequences over the handling of the McClintic case before getting an answer.
“I’m not aware of any,” said Moser.
In a list of policy changes announced in November, female inmate transfers must now be approved at the national level, by CSC’s deputy commissioner for women. That change was implemented immediately, but Moser says there has been no change to the number of transfers since approved.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale also announced “additional factors” in transfer decisions for women, such as their behaviour and sentence length, and that long-term offenders must be at a later stage in their sentence, preparing for release. The deputy commissioner must also “ensure that Indigenous communities are engaged in transfer recommendations.”
But Moser told Global News most of those things were already happening — the announcement just means those requirements are ensconced in policy and in writing.
There is no additional consultation happening with Indigenous communities.
“This is not something new. What we’re doing now, though, is just ensuring that the consultation with the community in terms of accepting a woman at the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, for example, that it’s documented,” said Moser.
WATCH: Indigenous advocates question why non-Indigenous offenders are serving in healing lodges
The review showed a “handful” of other women were also in McClintic’s position: under the new policy, they hadn’t served enough of their sentence to have been admitted to the healing lodge. But Moser says no other offenders were transferred out.
“At the time, they were no longer at the lodge or they had gotten to the point in their sentence where it was compliant with policy,” said Moser.
The acting director general of CSC’s Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate says contrary to the popular misconceptions in light of the McClintic case, serving time at a healing lodge is not an easier way to serve a sentence.
“If you talk to any of our elders, or you talk to any of our staff who work in Indigenous corrections, I would actually say that actually following an Indigenous path is not easy,” said Marty Maltby.
Maltby also offered an explanation for CSC’s policy to admit non-Indigenous offenders into healing lodges — much of it has to do with Charter rights.
“We have a requirement to meet the spiritual and cultural beliefs of our inmates, and those individuals who are non-Indigenous who have decided this is a sincere belief, we would actually be violating their Charter rights if we didn’t follow through on that,” Maltby said.
Global News reported that on average since 2011, 15 per cent of inmates at Indigenous healing lodges are not Indigenous.
WATCH: New data on demographics inside Canada’s healing lodges
Maltby said he didn’t consider that a high percentage, and he offered a contextual statistic.
“About 85 per cent of our Indigenous offenders are currently working with elders and committed or interested in following a traditional path. About two per cent of non-Indigenous follow that,” Maltby said, referencing inmates across all CSC institutions, not just healing lodges.
In an interview with Global News, one of the founders of Okimaw Ohci said things worked well in the 1990s, but since CSC took more control a decade later, things have become unsafe for women.
“We also made sure we had no cross-gender stuff — no male elders and no male staff,” said Sharon McIvor of the lodge’s early days, citing an Indigenous inmate population with much higher rates of histories of sexual abuse and trauma.
McIvor left the lodge in 2005 when she couldn’t prevent the hiring of a male staff member.
“There’s nothing to indicate that, from the information we have about incidents at the lodge or what’s going on at the lodge, that’s there’s an unsafe environment for the women in any way,” said Moser.
But in December 2018, a senior staff member was found guilty of sexually assaulting two female inmates. According to court documents, Stanley Dorie was acting deputy director of Okimaw Ohci in 2015 when the crimes occurred. He is now awaiting a March 5 sentencing date.
Global News asked Moser about inmate safety in light of that event. She said she couldn’t speak to the specific case, claiming it was still before the courts.
“We have a history in all our women’s institutions, including the lodge, of men working there and it being a successful model. So there could be one case where there were issues but that doesn’t mean the entire model is one that is unsafe,” said Moser.
More than safe, CSC staff stress healing lodges work.
“It’s something that we’ve seen over the course of the last number of years, is the actual reduction in the recidivism rate” for inmates released from healing lodges versus traditional minimum security institutions, said Maltby.
But after promising Global News recent statistics to back up that claim, CSC was not able to provide any.
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