A convicted child killer who became the subject of national outrage when it was learned she’d been transferred to an Indigenous healing lodge is back in prison, the father of her young victim said Thursday.
Rodney Stafford issued a brief, celebratory Facebook post announcing that Terri-Lynne McClintic was no longer at the Saskatchewan lodge. He later said McClintic, who pleaded guilty in the brutal death of his eight-year-old daughter, had been relocated to a prison in Edmonton overnight.
“She is back where she belongs,” he told CityNews. “The healing lodge should never have been an option, especially for someone of Terri-Lynne’s kind.”
McClintic became a figure of national infamy after details emerged about Tori Stafford’s 2009 slaying.
The girl from Woodstock, Ont., who was missing for three months before her body was found, had been abducted, repeatedly raped, and ultimately bludgeoned to death with a hammer.
McClintic, 18 at the time of the killing, pleaded guilty in 2010 and offered testimony that helped convict her then boyfriend, Michael Rafferty.
In separate proceedings, McClintic and Rafferty were both sentenced to life in prison without any chance of parole for 25 years.
Rodney Stafford learned, however, that eight years into that sentence, McClintic was quietly relocated to the healing lodge, a facility run by Corrections Canada and touted as a path to rehabilitation for Indigenous offenders. The remote, rural lodge is listed as a medium-security institution for women.
“I was very upset,” he said. “To me it was an injustice. She didn’t meet any of the qualifications that she needed to meet in order to even be considered for this program. I was furious.”
Stafford, who has emerged as a child safety advocate in the years since his daughter’s death, found himself at the centre of a charged political controversy when word of McClintic’s transfer emerged.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government came under fierce criticism for both the initial transfer and the fact that no move was immediately made to reverse it.
The government said it would review the transfer decision, and the Conservative opposition repeatedly raised the issue, calling on the Liberals to place McClintic back in prison.
On Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced more stringent measures governing transfers to healing lodges, adding that the new approach would be applied in both past and future cases.
Stafford gave Ottawa some credit for sending McClintic back to a traditional prison.
“I was very pleased to know these things were happening,” he said. “It’s a good start. It’s a good base to build from, but there are other issues we can tackle.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, however, said that the government was doing little more than bowing to public pressure.
“The Liberals have finally backed down and taken action,” Scheer said during a policy announcement in Brampton. “But we can never forget that they only made this decision after being forced to.”
During a protest on Parliament Hill earlier this month, Stafford said he didn’t want McClintic’s transfer to become a political football but believed the issue had to become political in order to effect change.
“It’s been a constant fight, up and down,” he said. “Just when you think your feet are getting planted so you can move on, try to live your life, you can’t because either an appeal comes up or something to do with the parole board comes up or something to do with Corrections Canada not doing their job comes up. It throws a wrench into your day-to-day life constantly.”
The new rules announced by Goodale specify that prisoners won’t be eligible for transfers to healing lodges without secured perimeters until they’re into the “preparation for release” phases of their sentences. In McClintic’s case, she would not be eligible for such a move until she nears the end of her 25-year sentence.
The Correctional Service of Canada will also have to consider inmates’ behaviour and how close they are to being eligible for unescorted temporary absences from prison before transferring them.
In addition, the deputy commissioner for women will be involved in decisions to ensure national standards are applied consistently and relevant factors are considered.
Goodale said healing lodges still have a role to play in the correctional system but acknowledged a need for more public education in how prisoner decisions get made.
“These are decisions that are not taken lightly or capriciously,” he said. “They are based on evidence and sound principles, and there needs to be a higher level of understanding of that.”
In addition, there must be more meaningful and useful communication with victims given the anguish they have suffered, he said.
“They need to know that their perspective is being properly respected.”
Goodale said victims’ families would be informed in cases when the new rules are applied. Stafford confirmed to the Toronto station that Corrections Canada officials called him to notify him of McClintic’s move on Thursday morning.