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Canada’s corrections service informed Mendicino’s office months before Bernardo transfer

By Rachel Aiello, Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter

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    Ottawa, Ontario (CTV Network) — Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s office was informed by Canada’s corrections agency about plans to transfer notorious serial rapist and convicted killer Paul Bernardo, months before it happened, CTV News has confirmed.

According to the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) it did inform the minister’s office by email, first on March 2 and then again on May 25, about the decision to move Bernardo from a maximum security prison in Ontario, to a medium-security prison in Quebec.

“The Correctional Service of Canada has a process in place to provide advanced notice to the Minister’s office on high-profile offenders,” said CSC senior communications adviser Kevin Antonucci in a statement.

While noting that decisions around specific cases and operations such as offender transfers and victim notifications fall under CSC’s purview, not the minister nor their office, Antonucci said that the first email sent notified Mendicino’s office of the transfer, as well as “communications messaging” but the final date of Bernardo’s move had yet to be determined.

Then, the May 25 message “provided updated communications messaging, as well the fact that the transfer would occur on the Monday, May 29.”

When it was made public in early June, Mendicino said he was “profoundly concerned and shocked” by the “incomprehensible” transfer, indicating he also did not have an explanation for the decision to relocate Bernardo.

When asked on Parliament Hill on Tuesday why he wasn’t told about the transfer until after it happened, Mendicino said there is “back and forth” between CSC and his department when it comes to prison transfers.

“In this particular case of Paul Bernardo, there was back and forth in the lead-up to the decision. I personally found out the week that the decision was rendered,” Mendicino said.

Noting that due to security and privacy concerns, these decisions are “not typically public.”

CTV News has asked Mendicino’s office for comment on why the staff in his office decided not to inform the minister of CSC’s plans earlier.

Bernardo, 58, was convicted in 1995 for kidnapping, raping, torturing and murdering two teenagers, 15-year-old French and 14-year-old Mahaffy, in the early 1990s near St. Catharines, Ont. He was also convicted of manslaughter in the death of Tammy Homolka.

Sentenced to life in prison, he is designated a dangerous offender and is currently serving an indeterminate sentence with no end date.

His transfer has sparked outrage across the country, and has reopened old wounds for the families of victims who have also seen their perpetrators transferred to lower-security facilities in recent years.

After becoming aware of Bernardo’s relocation, Mendicino spoke with federal corrections commissioner Anne Kelly, to express “in very clear terms” the concerns of the families of Bernardo’s victims and all Canadians.

TRANSFER UNDER REVIEW Earlier this week, CSC confirmed to CTV News that a review into the decision to relocate Bernardo has begun.

In a statement, the federal corrections agency said the three-person committee has started its work and is expected to complete its review “within a few weeks.”

“We know that Canadians want to know the reasons for this offender’s transfer. What we can say is that it was based on his security classification review, which is required every two years, and an analysis around the management of his risk within an institution,” a spokesperson for the service said in an email.

The review of the transfer, which the CSC said includes external representation, will investigate the “appropriateness” of Bernardo’s security classification and subsequent move to the La Macaza Institution in Quebec.

Further, the CSC said it will review victims considerations and notifications as well as determine whether the legislative policy framework was followed before the transfer was made.

Mendicino has said that he was awaiting the outcomes of this review before considering next steps.

With files from CTV National News’ Annie Bergeron-Oliver and CTV News Toronto

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