Correctional Services Canada (CSC) is facing incredible pushback from the public following a controversial decision to relocate notorious serial killer Paul Bernardo to a medium-security facility in Québec.
Bernardo was serving a life sentence for the kidnapping, torture and murders of 15-year-old Kristen French in 1991 and 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy in 1992. He spent 30 years in a maximum-security prison near Kingston, Ontario.
The CSC promised to review his transfer based on evidence "and more importantly, adequately considered victims."
Bernardo also received a manslaughter conviction in the December 1990 death of Tammy Homolka, 15, who died after being drugged and sexually assaulted. He also admitted to sexually assaulting 14 other women.
The CSC called Bernardo's crimes "horrific" and said while it regrets any pain moving him has caused, "we are restricted by law in what we can divulge about an offender's case."
Tim Danson, the lawyer representing the victims' families, did not receive details of the killer's custody conditions nor explain the move, citing Bernardo's privacy rights.
Danson told The Canadian Press the victims' families want him returned to maximum security as he is a "dangerous offender."
"Of course, their response is the one that you would expect: What about the rights of Kristen? What about the rights of Leslie? What about their rights?" he said.
"These are questions I can't answer other than to agree with them and share in their despair."
"This is one of Canada's most notorious, sadistic, psychopathic killers," added Danson, urging Canadians to write to Public Safety Canada and the corrections commissioner "to express their outrage over this."
"We need an open and transparent discussion and debate. These are major public institutions paid for by the taxpayers of Canada."
The CSC did not return a request for comment by The Canadian Press on if the public interest of this case "outweighs any invasion of privacy."
However, that did not stop several political parties from raising concerns about Bernardo's transfer.
"I told [Anne Kelly, the federal corrections commissioner] that as a former federal prosecutor and as a Canadian, I was profoundly concerned and…shocked by this decision," Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters upon hearing the news.
"She assured me that she understood. She also assured me that she would be reviewing the matter," said Mendicino, as Public Safety Canada does not have the power to review the decision independently of the CSC.
Mendicino contends Canadians deserve answers on Bernardo's relocation.
On Monday, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre called on the federal government to use whatever tools at its disposal to reverse the transfer. He called Bernardo a "monster" and criticized his move to a medium-security facility.
Mary Campbell, a lawyer who retired as director-general of the corrections and criminal justice directorate in 2013, said despite the horrific nature of the crimes committed, the corrections system has a mandate to rehabilitate offenders.
While Campbell admits the CSC's lack of transparency is 'regrettable,' she said the criteria for transferring an inmate to another prison "is not based on revenge."
"We, as a country, gave up torture quite a while ago," she told the CTV Tuesday. "And we're pretty critical of other countries that engage in torture."
Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, told CTV that "public hatred for a prisoner should not justify harsher confinement than warranted by the risk assessment."
"Politicians should not be suggesting that the notoriety of a prisoner overrides the obligation of the correctional authorities to respect the law," she said.
According to CSC security classifications, which measure an offender's institutional adjustment and other case-specific information, including psychological risk assessments, Bernardo's move to a medium-security prison poses 'no risk' to public safety.
Campbell reiterated the commissioner could release Bernardo's information under the federal privacy law, given it is a matter of public interest.
"When (the CSC) says they can't release details because of the law, that's not entirely accurate," she said. "There are exceptions."