What you need to know about healing lodges
Published Wednesday, September 26, 2018 9:49PM EDT
A woman serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the death of an eight-year-old girl has been transferred from a medium-security prison to a healing lodge, one of several spirituality-based correctional facilities in Canada.
Terri-Lynne McClintic was reportedly moved to the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge for Aboriginal Women, the oldest such facility in Canada.
McClintic pleaded guilty in 2010 in the death of Tori Stafford. McClintic confessed to luring the little girl, who was walking home from school, into the car of her then-boyfriend, Michael Rafferty. Stafford was then sexually assaulted, murdered and buried in a farmer’s field.
Rafferty is also serving a life sentence.
Okimaw Ohci – which translates to “Thunder Hills” in Cree – has operated out of Maple Creek, Sask. for the past 23 years. Since then, eight more healing lodges have opened, all of which apply Indigenous approaches to justice and reconciliation to help rehabilitate offenders.
The facility is centred around a circular spiritual lodge where elders hold teachings and ceremonies. Female offenders are trained in Indigenous languages, family, nature, and vocational lessons. They are also encouraged to make changes in their lives on the path to recovery.
Each offender is provided with a personalized plan that touches on areas physically, emotionally and spiritually to grow.
The facilities offer a “holistic and spiritual” approach, according to the Correctional Service of Canada.
“Aboriginal Healing Lodges are correctional institutions where we use Aboriginal values, traditions and beliefs to design services and programs for offenders,” spokesperson Martine Rondeau said in a statement.
Healing lodges aren’t limited to Indigenous inmates. Non-Indigenous offenders are open to apply, but they “must choose to follow Aboriginal programming and spirituality,” Rondeau said.
For female offenders, the lodges are minimum- and medium-security facilities. For men, they are only minimum-security.
Healing lodges are meant to be part of an offender’s “gradual transition” to the community, Rondeau said, and each applicant undergoes screening.
“In all cases, we thoroughly assess an offender’s risk to public safety before a decision is made to move him or her to a healing lodge,” Rondeau said.
Okimaw Ohci has 30 beds and, in 2012, was operated with 65 employees. The facility offers both single and family units, and inmates who are mothers are allowed to have their children stay with them.
McClintic’s move to the healing lodge sparked intense debate Wednesday in the House of Commons.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer urged the Liberals to immediately reverse the transfer. NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson accused the Conservatives of "exploitation" in Stafford’s death and called the comments "sickening."
On behalf of the Liberal government, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he asked the Commissioner of Correctional Service to review the decision to make sure it was made according to proper policy.
Stafford’s family has planned a rally on Parliament Hill for Nov. 2 to protest the move.
Similar outrage was voiced in 2017 after Catherine McKay, who was sentenced to 10 year in prison after killing four people while drunk driving, was transferred to a healing lodge one month into her sentence.
According to Corrections Services Canada, the idea of operating healing lodges was first proposed by the Native Women’s Association of Canada in the early 1990s. The proposal was based on concerns that mainstream prison programs weren’t working for Indigenous offenders, who are over-represented in Canada’s correctional system.
Of Canada’s nine healing lodges, four are managed by Correctional Services Canada and five are run by community partner organizations that sign an agreement with the federal agency.