OTTAWA – Federal political parties have joined forces to ensure notorious sex killer Karla Homolka won’t be pardoned for her gruesome crimes.
The four parties struck an 11th-hour deal late Wednesday to hive off measures in a pardon-reform bill that would effectively ban Homolka from receiving a pardon.
The measures are to be passed at all stages by the end of the day Thursday, when the House of Commons is expected to adjourn for the summer.
The Senate, which will sit several weeks longer, must also pass the bill before it can go into effect.
Other more contentious provisions of the bill will proceed at a more leisurely pace when Parliament resumes in late September.
Homolka, who served a 12-year sentence for her role in the rape-murders of Ontario teens Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, is eligible to apply for a pardon as of July 4.
“My family is forced to relive the pain and horror every time that woman’s name is in the news. A pardon would be unthinkable,” said Talin French-Doyle, one of Kristen French’s relatives, in a press release.
“Forgiveness is the right of a victim, not a requirement of the State.”
There is no confirmation that Homolka actually plans to apply for a pardon. But the theoretical prospect led to an ugly round of finger-pointing Wednesday among the four parties over who would be held responsible if the pardon reform bill isn’t passed in time to prevent a possible Homolka pardon.
With no party wanting to take the blame, a deal seemed inevitable despite the overheated rhetoric.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews confirmed late in the day that a deal had been struck.
“On the critical area of our bill so as to prevent notorious criminals from receiving a pardon, we have an agreement,” Toews said.
As to Homolka, he added: “That kind of a person would not be able to get a pardon.”
Toews would not go into detail but sources said the parties have agreed to essentially split the original bill in two.
Under the provisions that will pass immediately, anyone convicted of a serious personal injury offence — including manslaughter, violent assault and sexual assault — will have to wait 10 years after release from prison before applying for a pardon. Currently, they must wait three to five years.
Moreover, the National Parole Board, which now rubberstamps most pardon applications, will be given the discretion to deny a pardon if it would severely damage the reputation of the justice system.
The latter provision is meant to ban someone like Homolka from receiving a pardon.
Provisions which will wait until the fall to proceed include a proposed ban on pardons for anyone convicted of three indictable offences. Opposition parties are concerned that goes too far, potentially denying a pardon to someone who may have committed relatively minor offences in their youth, such as forging several cheques.
Earlier Wednesday, Toews and his fellow Conservatives used the spectre of a Homolka pardon to try stampede the three opposition parties into speedily passing the entire pardon-reform bill.
“Enough games from the opposition,” Toews declared at one point in the Commons.
“We are committed to preventing the pardoning of notorious criminals now. Why will the Liberals not support us?”
However, the opposition parties steadfastly refused to expedite passage of the bill in its entirety. They accused the government of deliberately delaying the bill — which was introduced a month ago and has made little legislative progress since — in order to create a last-minute crisis.
“It’s their fault, not ours,” said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
NDP Leader Jack Layton said the government deliberately waited until the dying seconds of the parliamentary sitting in a bid to “prevent debate on all the other items that are in (the bill) and perhaps pin it on this situation regarding Karla Homolka.”
Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland was furious that Toews taunted him about supporting a pardon for Homolka — only minutes before the two men were scheduled to meet to discuss ways to split the bill precisely so as to prevent a Homolka pardon.
“The level of dishonesty is so disgusting,” Holland fumed.
“Do these people have no bottom? Do they have no low to which they will not go?”