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Canada Ottawa toughens rules for prisoner transfers to healing lodges

Federal prisoners will have a harder time being transferred to Indigenous “healing lodges” if they’re serving long sentences, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Wednesday.

The move comes after public anger that Terri-Lynne McClintic, convicted of murdering eight-year-old Tori Stafford, was moved to a healing lodge in Saskatchewan from a traditional prison.

McClintic was eight years into a life sentence for the abduction, rape and murder of the Ontario girl. Her first eligibility for parole won’t come until she’s served 25 years.

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Under new rules announced Wednesday, prisoners won’t be eligible for transfers to healing lodges without secured perimeters until they’re into the “preparation for release” phases of their sentences.

The Correctional Service of Canada will also have to consider inmates’ behaviour and how close they are to being eligible for unescorted temporary absences from prison before transferring them.

In addition, the deputy commissioner for women will be involved in decisions to ensure national standards are applied consistently and relevant factors are considered.

The changes will apply to past and future cases.

Healing lodges are meant to help with Indigenous inmates’ rehabilitation and to get them ready to return to their communities. Goodale said the government will continue to promote “their valuable role” in federal corrections.

There is also a need for the Correctional Service “to increase the level of public awareness” about how it makes decisions, Goodale told reporters.

“These are decisions that are not taken lightly or capriciously. They are based on evidence and sound principles, and there needs to be a higher level of understanding of that.”

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In addition, there must be more meaningful and useful communication with victims given the anguish they have suffered, he said.

“They need to know that their perspective is being properly respected.”

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