Alberta and federal officials are pointing fingers at each other over the deportation of an Australian woman who drowned her two children.
On Monday, provincial Justice Minister Jonathan Denis disputed remarks from federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews that Alberta dropped the ball when it came to keeping Allyson McConnell in Canada pending appeals of her conviction and sentence for killing her children in 2010.
McConnell, 34, was convicted of manslaughter but earned early release. Media reports suggested the deportation went ahead Monday night and that McConnell had been escorted by federal officers onto a plane that left Edmonton late in the evening.
Toews said last Friday that the province had just informed Ottawa of the case and there wasn’t enough time to take steps to keep McConnell in Canada until the appeals are heard.
Denis disputed that.
“We have been in contact with the federal government. I’m not quite sure what (Toews) is talking about,” said Denis. “On our end, our prosecution service has done absolutely everything according to the book, and I stand by their actions.”
Denis, however, refused to say what the two levels of government discussed about McConnell’s case or when.
“I’m not privy to talk about private conversations,” said Denis.
“Even time frames?” a reporter asked.
“I’m not privy to talk about private conversations,” he reiterated.
Denis said regardless of the deportation, the pursuit of the appeals continues.
“We’re in the process of contacting the Australian foreign office to advise that she is a person of interest,” said Denis.
“This is not over. We will continue with the appeal until all avenues have been exhausted. If the sentence of six years is increased to something more reasonable, we have full intentions of having her brought back from Australia to pay her debt to society.”
McConnell was going through a bitter divorce and child custody battle with her husband, Curtis, when the two children were killed on Feb. 1, 2010.
Curtis McConnell arrived at the couple’s home in Millet, south of Edmonton, that day to find his sons Connor, aged two, and Jayden, 10 months, drowned in the bathtub.
After drowning the boys, court heard at trial that Allyson McConnell drove to a highway overpass in Edmonton and jumped off, seriously injuring herself.
She was found guilty of manslaughter and ordered to spend six years in jail. McConnell had to serve 15 months in a psychiatric hospital after taking into account time served before trial. She was released last week after serving 10 months, setting up the deportation proceedings to Australia.
Her deportation has outraged Curtis McConnell and his family.
On Friday, Toews lamented that little could be done to stop her from leaving. In a written statement, Toews said: “It is unfortunate that the Alberta government did not act prior to Ms. McConnell’s release in order to prevent this situation from occurring.”
Toews said the province could have applied to expedite McConnell’s appeal prior to sentence being completed or applied to the court to stay her removal pending appeal.
“As Ms. McConnell is the subject of a valid removal order and would otherwise be free of any sentence or restriction in Canada, (Canada Border Services Agency) will be required by law to proceed with the presently scheduled removal on Monday evening,” he said.