By Jessica Towriss
Beaten, raped and murdered. Those are three words you never want to hear but they will haunt Tori Stafford’s family forever. Tori was only eight years old when she was abducted walking home from a school in Woodstock on April 8, 2009. She was lured away by a woman who dangled the promise of seeing a puppy in front of her.
After being missing for almost four months, Tori’s remains were found near Mount Forest, Ont. An autopsy revealed she died from multiple blows to the head by a claw hammer. Convicted of these heinous crimes were Michael Thomas Christopher Stephen Rafferty and Terri-Lynne McClintic. Rafferty was convicted of the kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder of Tori and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. McClintic pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and received the same sentence. With Stafford being laid to rest, the world seemed to have forgotten about this tragedy – until now.
News broke last month that McClintic, who had served less than 10 years of her life sentence, had been transferred from Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, a high-security facility, to Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge near Maple Creek, Sask. According to a Sept. 25 article on CTV News, Ontario’s Correctional Services Minister Michael Tibollo said he was “shocked and disappointed” after finding out about the transfer.
“Decisions like this made by our federal government can seriously impact the public’s confidence in our correctional systems,” he said. “My ministry will continue to monitor this matter as it unfolds to see what we can do in this unfortunate situation … and try to correct what has been done.”
The public and other politicians have engaged in the debate as well. Some are strongly against the transfer of McClintic to the healing lodge.
“The decision to move Tori’s killer from behind bars to a healing lodge with no fence and with children living inside is disgraceful,” said Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, in an article on the Conservative Party website. “Canadians are outraged and parliamentarians as their elected representatives have the power to act. The Prime Minister has the ability to reverse this decision and he needs to tell Canadians why he is not doing so.”
According to Correctional Service Canada’s website, Okimaw Ohci contains both single and family residential units. Each unit has a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchenette with an eating area, and a living room – living comforts that prison inmates do not typically have. A life plan is created for each Aboriginal offender which helps them emotionally, physically and spiritually and their rehabilitation is guided by Aboriginal values. The intent of these facilities is the healing of an individual and to rehabilitate them into society. According to a Sept. 27 Global News article, a family member of McClintic says Terri-Lynne is making up her claim to be Aboriginal.
Other concerns are in regards to public safety, as these healing lodges are only minimum security facilities. Though there are security officers on duty and cameras, no one physically attempts to stop a woman who decides to leave. According to a Sept. 30 article on CBC News, this year alone at Buffalo Sage Wellness House in Edmonton, Alta., five women have escaped with one woman still at large.
“I have no choice but to think of Tori every day,” said Rodney Stafford, Tori’s father, in a Sept. 25 article in The Province. “A song, an image, things constantly take you back. I channel that into making changes for the better. She was my little girl and I just want justice for her.”
The transfer has given the impression that McClintic is being given special treatment based on the fact that she identifies as Indigenous. When women who attend these facilities aren’t in treatment they are free to listen to music, do beadwork, paint and cook. Women are not placed in lockdown, but rather are living in a college dorm setting – luxuries that a convicted killer should not receive. With having spent just nine years behind bars, McClintic is far from having made restitution for her crimes.