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'Living better than most Canadians': What Conservative MPs said about Luka Magnotta's prison transfer

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Conservative MPs are criticizing the federal government amid the news that convicted killer Luka Magnotta was transferred to a medium-security facility two years ago, while prisoner advocates warn the scrutiny is purely political.

Forty-one-year-old Magnotta is serving a life sentence for the 2012 murder of Chinese international student Jun Lin in Montreal. The grisly killing made international headlines, particularly because acts of necrophilia and cannibalism were recorded on video and posted online.

On Monday, B.C. Conservative MP Frank Caputo posted a video to X, formerly Twitter, detailing a visit he made to La Macaza — a medium-security prison 190 kilometres northwest of Montreal — to see the living conditions of notorious serial rapist and convicted killer Paul Bernardo.

While touring the institution, Caputo said, "one of the guards commented that Luka Magnotta walked right by (him)."

Caputo's video, with the caption "Canada's most horrific murderers are living better than most Canadians," has since racked up nearly half a million views, with several Conservative MPs weighing in.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre laid the blame for Magnotta's transfer on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Bill C-83, a law that passed in 2019 with the aim of making changes to the correctional system, in part to "ensure that the penitentiary in which (inmates) are confined is one that provides them with the least restrictive environment for that person."

And Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer pointed to the Liberals' recent bail reform bill, which his party has called a "catch and release" policy.

"Not only does Trudeau let dangerous offenders back on the street, but when they are kept behind bars, they get the luxury package," he wrote on X. "At your expense!"

A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc's office said decisions about the security level of inmates is up to Correctional Service Canada (CSC).

"All decisions regarding inmate transfers are made independently by officials at the CSC," wrote LeBlanc spokesperson Jean-Sébastien Comeau in an email to CTV News. "The safety of the public and CSC staff members is their foremost consideration."

In an emailed statement to CTV News on Monday, CSC spokesperson Kevin Antonucci wrote that Canada's correctional system is "fundamentally based on the rehabilitation of offenders," regardless of the duration of their sentence.

"This offender has been securely behind bars for close to a decade," Antonucci wrote. "They continue to be in a secure institution, serving an indeterminate sentence.

"Our ultimate goal is to keep the public safe — and that's exactly what we continue to do," he added. "Just to be clear, there are no recent changes pertaining to this offender's situation as reporting seems to suggest."

While CSC doesn't name the institution where Magnotta is currently residing, it does confirm the convicted killer was transferred from the maximum-security Port-Cartier Institution two years ago.

In January 2022, Magnotta's lawyers filed documents in Federal Court, hoping to compel a transfer from the maximum-security prison in Quebec to a medium-security facility, claiming CSC had denied a request made the previous summer.

Conservative MP Michael Cooper called the transfer "outrageous."

"This is a direct result of PMJT's soft-on-crime policies," Cooper wrote on X. "After 8 years of PMJT, Canada's justice system is broken. A common-sense Conservative gov't will keep sadistic murderers locked up in max security."

Conservative MP and deputy Opposition whip Chris Warkentin said the news is "shocking stuff."

"Luka Magnotta and Paul Bernardo could be playing doubles tennis this summer, and you're paying the bill," he wrote.

The transfer of a notorious killer also drew significant attention last summer, when Bernardo was moved from a maximum-security facility to the medium-security La Macaza Institution.

The move prompted a new ministerial directive, after the transfer was largely kept under wraps within the government until it occurred, sparking a fury of political controversy centred around then-public safety minister Marco Mendicino, who said he was not informed of the transfer until the day after it happened.

In an interview with CTV News, Independent Senator Kim Pate — who is also an advocate for incarcerated youth, men and women — called the Conservative MPs' comments online "all political."

"People don't understand what's happening in prisons, and they presume that someone being moved from maximum security to medium security somehow condones their behaviour, or makes it an easier sentence," she said. "Quite the opposite is true. Most people who are making comments about this have never been inside those prisons."

In an email to CTV News on Tuesday, University of Ottawa criminology professor and prisoners' rights advocate Justin Piché said while there is "no doubt" Magnotta "committed horrific acts," society does not have licence to subject inmates to "horrific conditions of confinement in turn."

"It's regrettable that the Conservative Party of Canada is back to peddling Club Fed rhetoric again based on observations from a short tour of La Macaza as if accessing any amenities and programming whatsoever while behind bars somehow makes up for the dehumanizing and damaging experience of incarceration," Piché wrote. "It's clear that the so-called government in waiting doesn't take the deprivation of liberty, which is painful in and of itself, seriously."

With files from CTV News' Judy Trinh and Jordan Gowling, and CTVNews.ca's Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Rachel Aiello

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