Parties reach deal to avert Homolka pardon
Published Wednesday, June 16, 2010 11:05PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 1:57AM EDT
The government and opposition parties have reached a deal to keep convicted sex killer Karla Homolka from receiving a criminal pardon.
Homolka would have been eligible to apply for a pardon as early as July 5, and MPs have been scrambling to find a way to keep her potential application from being granted.
At a news conference on Wednesday evening, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the Tories and the opposition parties had reached a last-minute agreement to push pardon reforms through before the Commons closes for the summer on Thursday.
"We essentially have a deal with the Bloc and the New Democrats," he said. "The Liberals are looking at a couple of details but I think on the essential components of an agreement, we will proceed forward with a bill."
Toews said he could not provide specific information on the new legislation, but he described it as a "compromise effort" to pass pardon-reform legislation before the House is adjourned for the summer.
Responding to a question, Toews said he believes that a person convicted of offenses such as Homolka's would not likely qualify for a pardon, if the proposed bill is passed.
"This is an issue that is much greater than one person," he said.
The proposed bill would prevent people convicted of certain crimes from applying for a pardon for a specified number of years, Toews said. It would also give the National Parole Board discretion to deny a pardon request.
Under the agreement, Toews said MPs would vote on a piece of legislation that has been "split off" from Bill C-23, which was introduced by the Tories in May and would bar those convicted of serious violent or sexual crimes from applying for a pardon.
The NDP and Bloc Quebecois oppose some of the measures included in Bill C-23.
"Like a lot of the government's legislation, it mowed down everything in its wake," NDP public safety critic Don Davies said on CTV's Power Play.
As an example, he said Bill C-23 proposed that anyone who has more than three indictable offenses would be barred from receiving a pardon.
"That's the old American three-strikes-you're-out approach that even American states are rejecting now because it works injustices," he said.
Bill C-23 will now be taken up by the House in the fall, Toews said.
Meanwhile, MPs are expected to vote on the new pardons bill on Thursday.
Homolka received a 12-year manslaughter sentence in a plea-bargain deal for taking part in the rape-murders of teens Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. Videotapes found after the sentencing showed her to be a more active participant.
Her release from jail in 2005 sparked nationwide outrage.
Tim Danson, the lawyer for the Mahaffy and French families, said news that Homolka may have been ready to seek a pardon for her horrific crimes was disturbing.
"On a personal level, it's very emotional the words Karla Homolka and pardon come up in the same sentence," he said for the families. "They are pretty anxious about what's going on."
Danson said the families are pragmatic about the government trying to speed up the passage of their bill in response to Homolka.
"They accept you don't make public policy based on one individual," he said. "This is something that requires careful debate."
With files from The Canadian Press