Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tories slam MD's release

Use case to publicize agenda

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OTTAWA -- The federal government sprang to the microphone Thursday to denounce the release of a Quebec doctor who killed his two children, and trumpet long-promised new rules for those found not criminally responsible.

Guy Turcotte -- convicted in the 2009 stabbing deaths of his three-year-old daughter and five-year-old son, but found not criminally responsible -- was freed Wednesday after 46 months under psychiatric care.

The Harper government seized on the chance to repeat its promise to tighten up the rules on such releases.

Turcotte's release infuriated Isabelle Gaston, his ex-wife and mother to the slain children, who described the decision as "freeing a criminal."

"Isabelle Gaston does not deserve to live in fear of her children's killer and neither do other victims of similar crimes across Canada," Heritage Minister James Moore said. "Isabelle Gaston deserves better than this. The system has failed her."

Moore repeated the government's plan for legislation to deal with high-risk offenders found not criminally responsible for their actions because of a mental disorder who may pose a threat to public safety if released.

The new law may require longer waits between formal reviews of the status of people held in psychiatric hospitals.

"The planned legislation will ensure that public safety is paramount in determining how persons found not criminally responsible should be addressed by a mental-health review board and courts."

Ironically, Moore's comments came a day after Richard Wagner, the country's newest Supreme Court justice, spoke about the need for Canadians to have faith in the system.

Fewer people in Quebec are turning to the courts, Wagner said. "I hope it is not because people no longer believe in the justice system, because if this is the case, this is the beginning of the end."

Last summer's Turcotte verdict, which prompted outrage in Quebec, should have been better explained, he added.

With more information, he said, "I think (Quebecers) would have accepted not the result, but the idea it could be reached."

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2012 A18

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