Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said it’s unfortunate a member of the legislative assembly invited a notorious killer to watch his government’s tough-on-crime throne speech, but he stopped short of apologizing for Colin Thatcher’s presence in the legislature.
“Me? What would I apologize for?” Moe said Thursday.
“This is an individual (member) who invited someone, not a government who invited someone. I think we need to draw that distinction.”
Lyle Stewart, a member of Saskatchewan’s governing party, said it was a mistake for him to invite Thatcher to Wednesday’s throne speech.
“It was my decision alone to invite Colin Thatcher, who is a constituent and longtime friend,” Stewart said in a statement on Thursday.
“In retrospect, this was an error in judgment as his presence was a distraction from a very positive and forward-looking Throne Speech, which included a number of new initiatives to keep Saskatchewan families safe in their communities.”
Thatcher’s ex-wife JoAnn Wilson was found beaten and shot to death in the garage of her Regina home in 1983.
Thatcher, who was an energy minister under former Conservative premier Grant Devine, was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He served 22 years behind bars before he was granted full parole in 2006.
He has always maintained his innocence.
Moe said he noticed Thatcher on the house floor during the speech.
“I thought ‘hmm’,” Moe said. “He’s a very recognizable individual.”
Moe said he doesn’t vet the invitation list for the speech and he was unaware if there’s a process to check guests before invitations are sent.
On Thursday, members of the Opposition NDP criticized the invite during question period, asking why a “convicted wife murderer” was welcomed to the assembly, to which male members of the Saskatchewan Party side groaned.
“If you’re offended by the words, think of the act. Think of what happened to JoAnn Wilson and what happens to too many women in this province,” NDP Leader Carla Beck said in the rotunda.
The Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan, or PATHS, said the Thatcher invite was “disturbing to say the least.”
Saskatchewan has the highest rates of intimate partner violence among the Canadian provinces, with a contributing factor being attitudes that condone violence against women, said Jo-Anne Dusel, executive director of PATHS.
“The optics to survivors of having Colin Thatcher invited by an elected official to the Throne Speech is that JoAnn’s death is inconsequential; that a person can be deemed guilty of femicide, of the death of the mother of his own children and still be welcome in the halls of power,” Dusel said in a statement.
Both Stewart and Minister of Corrections and Policing Christine Tell said on Wednesday they weren’t concerned about the optics of having Thatcher at the speech.
“He has a right to be here,” Tell said at the time. “He’s a citizen of our province who paid his debt to society. That’s just the way it is.”
Beck said Tell should be removed from cabinet following her comments.
“The fact that this did not send up a red flag to anyone (in the Saskatchewan Party caucus) is shocking to me. And yes, I think the premier should apologize and show some contrition here and show that he understands just a little bit the implications of what it meant to have Colin Thatcher here.”