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Homolka must be given chance to be re-enter society, say advocates for convicts

Karla Homolka yells through a crack in the door at a reporter to get off her property, Wednesday, April 20, 2016 in Chateauguay, Que. Convicted killer Homolka did her time and deserves a chance to start over, say advocates dedicated to helping offenders adjust to life after prison.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
April 23, 2016 - 8:00 PM

Convicted killer Karla Homolka did her time and deserves a chance to start over, say advocates dedicated to helping offenders adjust to life after prison.

The mere fact Homolka had been living undetected for some time in small-town Quebec suggests the notorious criminal has successfully reintegrated into society, says Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.

Some parents in Chateauguay have been expressing alarm since word spread that Homolka had children attending school in the community, southwest of Montreal.

"If the only reason for concern is because there's now some awareness of someone's background, it strikes me as it may or may not be a cause for concern," says Pate.

Parents and neighbours should not judge Homolka too harshly, says Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada.

"She got a sentence, she did her time and there's no reason to believe that she has not been rehabilitated," says Latimer, whose group assists convicts re-entering society.

"The question is whether or not she'll get a chance to be reintegrated."

After signing a plea deal implicating her ex-husband Paul Bernardo in the brutal sex slayings of Ontario teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, Homolka was sentenced to 12 years in prison for manslaughter.

It was only later that videotaped evidence revealed she was an active participant in repeated sexual assaults of both girls. Those revelations sparked public outrage over the Crown's handling of the case, and prosecutors were accused of striking a "deal with the devil."

Bernardo, meanwhile, was declared a dangerous offender and sentenced to life in prison.

Homolka was released in 2005 and assumed the name Leanne Bordelais, moving to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, where she was eventually tracked down by a journalist.

In 2014, her sister Logan Valentini testified at Luka Rocco Magnotta's murder trial that Homolka had moved to Quebec.

Valentini, who changed her name from Lori Homolka in 1996, said at the time Homolka had been living with her spouse, the brother of a Quebec lawyer who'd represented her, Sylvie Bordelais.

Reports of Homolka's life in Chateauguay caught some parents by surprise and the school principal sent home a letter on Tuesday assuring them their children at Centennial Park School were safe.

On Wednesday, the school board issued another statement along the same lines.

"Throughout the day, access to the school is controlled," it said. "The staff knows their families well and is vigilant when it comes to allowing adults access to the school."

One person who doesn't believe Homolka can be rehabilitated is Joe Wamback, founder of the Toronto-based Canadian Crime Victim Foundation.

"A normal person does not do this type of thing, does not commit this type of crime," says Wamback.

"The psychology of a serial killer — the psychology of someone who has been involved in what she has been — has yet to even be scratched, the surface has yet to be even dented or understood; what motivates, what thrives and what creates these kinds of individuals."

Wamback says he doesn't believe statistics that suggest convicted killers are the least likely offenders to repeat their crimes.

"How many people do not get caught? How many unsolved murders? How many missing people do we have in Canada?" says Wamback.

But Latimer says refusing offenders the chance to reintegrate in society is what really causes problems.

"If all employers are requiring criminal record checks and not hiring anybody who's got a criminal past, you're getting huge amounts of unemployment or under-employment among those who've committed crimes," she says.

"There are increasing barriers of being able to lead a normal life, which doesn't predispose people to pro-social behaviour. This failure to support the reintegration can cause a greater risk to communities than not."

She finds it particularly troubling to see children of offenders suffer from social attitudes. She fears for the fate of Homolka's kids.

"The impact will be that her children will be harried and isolated and not given an opportunity to be socially integrated in the way you would hope children would be."

Pate understands community concerns but urges parents to consider whether their children are in any real danger.

"Is it based on myths and stereotypes or is it based on real risk?" says Pate, noting sex crimes are most likely to be committed by a family member or acquaintance.

"If anything positive can come out of it, maybe it's the opportunity to have very real and positive, progressive discussions rather than focusing on making it more difficult for any of those children."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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