When they found six-year-old Michael Kent (inset), he was motionless, lying face down in the muddy snow on the west side of the parking lot of the arena in Elmvale, a small community 120 kilometres north of Toronto. The fair-haired boy, one of five Kent siblings, was still wearing his navy blue and white tuque and his navy blue ski jacket but it was now covered with mud and blood. Michael had been stabbed seven times, four times in the abdomen and three times in the back. There was no indication he had been sexually assaulted. Police later surmised that the small boy’s face had been held down in the mud while he was killed on that winter day, February 11, 1966. A half century later, Michael’s murder remains unsolved.
Despite an enormous infusion of cash in the past decade, the agency that runs the country’s penitentiaries has failed to deliver on longstanding promises to reduce prisoner deaths and has failed to limit critical security incidents that endanger staff and inmates, a newly released report card on the operations of Correctional Service of Canada reveals. “I continue to be very frustrated that CSC continues to deal with deaths in custody as sort of one-off events and not paying enough attention to the patterns and the common issues that contribute,” says Howard Sapers (inset), the federal correctional investigator. (Hear the full interview with Sapers, after the jump, in Episode 1 of the Cancrime podcast).
The Parole Board of Canada has released the written record (read it after the jump) of a decision last week to grant freedom to sex predator Graham James, 62, (inset), a former hockey coach who exploited and abused young men he coached, including several who went on to successful professional careers in the National Hockey League. James was granted day parole after a hearing January 25 in Quebec, where he is completing a seven-year sentence for sexual assault, the latest in a series of convictions related to hundreds of incidents that date to the early 1970s. It is his second federal prison term.
Dread has stalked Annette Rogers for 30 years, since her abusive former boyfriend, Jamie Giff (inset), first threatened to kill her in 1985. “I’m scared of him,” she says, her voice trembling. “I don’t care what anybody says.” Giff is a killer. He raped and stabbed to death a teenage girl in 1985. For the past three decades, Rogers fought, but ultimately failed, to keep him behind bars. She was horrified when she learned recently that Giff, free on parole, had done something that so alarmed his supervisor that he was taken into custody and his parole suspended. When he was freed a month later and his parole was reinstated, authorities cited privacy laws and refused to tell anyone, including Rogers, what happened. “So I sat here, vibrating, didn’t know what to do,” she says.
Robin Marc Smith (inset, 2007 booking photo) had a 30-year career as a Grinch – and he was remarkably good at it – so it’s surprising to see him don a Santa hat so that he can break, enter and give. Smith organized a charity event in a small eastern Ontario town in which a band of holiday ‘bandits’ broke into the house of a needy family. The group of about a dozen people knew the single mom wasn’t home because she had taken her two young children to visit a mall Santa. The group left gifts and $500 cash behind and no clue to their identity. Local media around Tweed, a small village 200 kilometres east of Toronto, reported the feel-good story but with no mention of Smith’s infamous past. Smith tells me (hear the full interview after the jump), that everyone in the Tweed area knows about his past.
A veteran Liberal MP who once oversaw Canada’s federal prison system says at least one convict-run penitentiary farm among six shuttered by the Conservatives should be reopened and he’s pushing his caucus to do it. “I’m certainly encouraging it be done and I hope the government, when they do their financial analysis, see the worth of doing that,” Wayne Easter (inset) told me, in a recent interview. Easter was Public Safety critic leading up to the October 2015 election. He was solicitor general in the Chretien government in 2003, with responsibility for the Correctional Service. Easter said he planned to meet this week with the new Liberal Public Safety minister, Ralph Goodale.
An imprisoned double cop killer sentenced to death 40 years ago has failed again in a bid to overturn a parole board decision that denied him freedom. Richard Ambrose, 66, is confined to a medium-security prison in British Columbia but he desperately wants out. He is “aggressive,” “hostile,” “confrontational,” has threatened his lawyers and, recently, a psychologist concluded he is a “high risk” to reoffend, according to documents acquired from the Parole Board of Canada. In 1974, Ambrose (inset) and career criminal James Hutchison shot two Moncton, N.B. city police officers in the head and buried the bodies in shallow graves. Quickly caught and convicted, Ambrose and Hutchison were condemned to hang but the sentences were commuted to life in prison after the abolition of the death penalty in Canada. Ambrose has been rebuffed twice in the past three years in complaints to a parole appeal body.
As expected, Ontario’s top court has postponed a hearing of an appeal by three members of the Shafia family of Montreal, who were convicted of murdering four other family members in a mass honour killing. The hearing, originally scheduled to be heard by the Court of Appeal for Ontario on Dec. 14, has been put off because of the surprise claim by one of the three convicted killers, Hamed Shafia (inset), who is bringing an application to admit fresh evidence.
Hamed Shafia (inset), the Montreal man convicted, along with his father and mother, of murdering four family members in what the trial judge called a “heinous” and “despicable” mass honour killing, is poised to present a new claim to Ontario’s top court in the appeal of his conviction. The youngest Shafia killer maintains that he was not 18 years old at the time of the murders on June 30, 2009, and he has documents newly obtained from Afghanistan, his birthplace, that purport to prove it, Cancrime learned.
Ralph Goodale (inset), the Saskatchewan farm boy now in charge of Canada’s federal prison system, could swiftly do one small thing that would send a big signal that the Harper legacy of punitive correctional policies will be dismantled. Goodale should move quickly to restore convict-operated farms at penitentiaries across the country. Six pen farms in five provinces were shuttered by the Conservative government in 2010, for no justifiably good reason. Really, Goodale may have no choice. A vocal and remarkably persistent lobby group based in Ontario has a signed promise (read it after the jump) from the Liberals, obtained before the October federal election, to reopen one of the prison farms. It isn’t much of a stretch to conclude that if reopening one is a good idea, it’s worth reopening all of them.