Monday, May 17, 2010
Homolka's pardon and ongoing investigation into Graham James
ST. CATHARINES - A pardon for Karla Homolka's crimes would suggest the schoolgirl killer has been forgiven and nothing could be further from the truth, said the mother of one of Homolka's victims.
Donna French, mother of Kristen French who was murdered in 1992, said she supports proposed changes that would eliminate the possibility of pardons for serious crimes, such as Homolka's.
French joined St. Catharines Conservative MP Rick Dykstra on Saturday in his call for quick passage of a bill to make changes to the Criminal Records Act, introduced Tuesday in the House of Commons by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
"From a victim's perspective, a pardon means you are forgiven for doing this horrific crime," French said, "and that is totally inappropriate and totally unjust."
French said she will never forgive Homolka and her then-husband, Paul Bernardo, for the abduction, rape and murder of her 15-year-old daughter, and doesn't think society should either.
"It's very offensive," she said. "A pardon implies that there is forgiveness there. They have shown no remorse whatsoever, so how can you forgive?"
French said some people seeking pardons may have genuinely become good citizens, but the term "pardon" should not apply to Homolka's crimes.
Dykstra said he hopes the bill can be debated and passed before this session of Parliament ends June 21, which would then make Homolka ineligible for a pardon.
Dykstra said Homolka's eligibility to apply for a pardon - coming five years after her July 2005 release from prison in Quebec - is approaching soon.
French said she was surprised five years had passed so quickly. She was alerted to the possibility of a pardon for Homolka when the issue of nearly automatic pardons came to public attention in April, with the news of a 2007 pardon for convicted sex offender and former junior hockey coach Graham James.
"I called Rick (Dykstra) when it hit the news and he said he was working on it and would keep me informed," French said.
Dykstra said the minority Conservative government needs the support of other political parties in the House in order for the legislation to pass.
He made a personal plea to Welland NDP MP Malcolm Allen (whose riding includes parts of south St. Catharines) and other MPs "to show some leadership to help this move along as quickly as possible."
He said the six weeks before Parliament ends is a tight timeline, but he is choosing to remain optimistic.
If it's not passed before the summer recess, Dykstra said the issue would be raised again in the fall, but by then Homolka will have been eligible to apply.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said 99% of pardons that get to the adjudication stage are granted.
Dykstra said he's had "overwhelming support" from constituents for the proposed changes.
"I am hearing by e-mail, in phone calls, in direct discussions with people," he said.
He said Friday's historic multi-party agreement on documents pertaining to Afghan detainees shows co-operation in the House of Commons is possible.
Dykstra said if the changes are passed, the word "pardon" would be eliminated and replaced with the words "record suspension."
People convicted of sexual offences against minors or those convicted of more than three offences would never be eligible for a record suspension, he said.
The eligibility period for applying for a record suspension would be increased to 10 years for someone convicted of an indictable offence, and the onus would be on the applicant to prove that a record suspension would help sustain his or her rehabilitation as a law-abiding citizen.
The National Parole Board would also be required to report annually on the number of applications and the number of suspensions granted.
Liberal MP Mark Holland, his party's public safety critic, has objected to the Conservative party's haste.
He said his party supports reforms to the pardon system, but bullying through legislation in a matter of weeks is imprudent.
He has said the changes being proposed warrant study by a parliamentary committee to avoid making mistakes.
Winnipeg police have confirmed something that was widely known — detectives are investigating a sexual assault allegation against Graham James, a pardoned sex offender and former junior hockey coach.
On Thursday, police publicly acknowledged the focus of the investigation for the first time.
This comes after a report on CBC’s The National about James’ current whereabouts, which were a mystery for some time.
The report revealed James, 58, is working and living in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Previously, police confirmed detectives in the sex crimes unit are investigating a complaint made by former NHLer Theoren Fleury but wouldn’t reveal the name of the accused.
The person’s identity wasn’t a mystery because Fleury identified James as his alleged abuser in his autobiography last fall.
James has not been charged. The investigation is ongoing.
Four of James’ former players, including Fleury, have detailed new allegations against their old coach, according to a QMI Agency report.
“We are aware of police investigations being conducted in other jurisdictions and we are actively working to co-ordinate investigative efforts,” the city’s police service said in a brief statement.
Evan Roitenberg, James’ lawyer, said his client will co-operate with police.
“Once the police have concluded their investigation or wish to speak to Mr. James, I’m sure they will be in touch with me,” Roitenberg said.
James was sentenced to 3 ½ years in prison for repeated sexual assaults against former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy and a second man, whose identity is protected by the courts, while he was their junior hockey coach.
Earlier this year, it was revealed James obtained a pardon from the National Parole Board, sparking public outrage and proposed changes to Canada’s pardon system.