Kelowna's Bridges to New Life offered spot to rapist, killer Paul Bernardo | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna's Bridges to New Life offered spot to rapist, killer Paul Bernardo

FILE PHOTO - Notorious killer Paul Bernardo is scheduled for a day-parole hearing next March. Bernardo arrives at the provincial courthouse in the back of a police van wearing handcuffs and leg irons, in Toronto in a November 3, 1995, file photo.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Notorious rapist and killer Paul Bernardo was planning to relocate to Kelowna, had he gained parole, according to information released in his hearing today.

According to a Tweet published by Global News’s Catherine McDonald, Bernardo said Kelowna’s 3,000 kilometre distance from Ontario, the place where he committed his crimes, offered less media interest, public outcry and protest and that made it more appealing.

He also had lined up residency with the Kelowna organization, Bridges to New Life, which works with parolees to help them become “productive members of society, by facilitating healing between themselves and the community.”

Nick Churchill, the director of the organization that has been in Kelowna for 25 years, said he received a query from someone working with Bernardo, and that’s how he started upon the process of writing a letter to the Parole Board of Canada, which was read aloud today at the hearing.

“I was contacted by an advocate for Bernardo, for lack of a better term, out of Ontario and she requested information about Bridges and asked if we would be able to work with a person like Paul Bernardo," Churchill said, adding later that the context of the letter he. wrote in response wasn’t “we’d love to have him” rather, “we wouldn’t run away.”

“Our mandate is we believe everybody should be treated equally. They have to be able to put their past behind them so we work with them…. I don’t care what you did in the past, I care what you do in the future.”

Churchill said they’ve never turned anyone away but a letter from a high-profile criminal the likes of Bernardo is unusual. They would have worked with him and there would have been checks and balances in place to ensure community safety.

“He wanted to get out of Ontario or the spotlight, and planned on coming here,” he said. “It would take two seconds for the community to know who he was.”

Also, Churchill said, there aren’t many organizations like theirs, which provides prison ministry and living quarters for people on parole, and that may be one of the reasons it gained attention from the notorious killer.

It's a moot point today, anyway. Bernardo was denied parole  after an hourlong hearing.

According to the Canadian Press, their decision came after Bernardo said he was a changed person who now has his sexual deviancy under control.

The board also heard from the parents of two teens he tortured and killed in the early 1990s.

They argued against his ever leaving prison, calling him a sadistic psychopath.

Bernardo is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and other offences.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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