Last week I presented at a symposium for the Department of Justice and was honoured to be invited to be part of a forum with the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime. What an amazing group of people!
Frankly, I never saw myself as a victim’s advocate and still can’t imagine myself as a protester demanding changes to our legal system, but something happened this week that leaves me with second thoughts.
We received an annual “report card” on David Bagshaw and Melissa Todorovic—the two who murdered our daughter—from the Victim Services arm of Corrections Canada. Let me first explain that access to this information is extremely new and comes with the caveat that some kinks are still to be worked out.
This report provides us with details about any education they are receiving and if they have had any serious disciplinary issues. Both reports came back with no serious issues.
This was interesting to us because David was charged with attempted murder of another inmate while in prison and was shot by guards during this attempt. In a separate event, he was injured by another inmate and, as a result required medical attention. On another occasion, he assaulted a staff member.
How then, could his report card be missing all those issues that we consider to be somewhat serious?
Well, the attempted murder we heard about from the media (they are allowed to report on it) but because he was charged by an outside agency, no one within the government is able to tell us.
After further examination and a few phone calls, we were told that minor incidents, like the assault on a staff member couldn’t have been serious enough to make it into his report card. What confidence it gave us to realize that any assaults on staff are quite acceptable and not considered serious. This is prison, right?
Too serious—no one tells us…not serious enough, and we still are not informed.
Fortunately, we heard about the new charges through the media and have more confidence that he will not be eligible for parole once his 10 years are up. Had we not known about this and only read his report card, we might be fretting that within a couple of years, he would be free.
We do realize that it is going to happen at some point, but we want to be well-informed once the parole board hearings start.
Melissa also had a good report, but how accurate it is we cannot tell. It will only be about a year and a half and she’ll be eligible for parole.
These are things that I never thought I would ever have to think about, much less fight the government to improve. Bill C-10, which is very new, has given victims much more access to information than they ever did before, but we still have a long way to go.
I would like to know if Melissa is taking any steps—i.e. counseling etc. toward accepting responsibility for what she did and working to make sure it NEVER happens again. However, that information is not available to us because it falls under “medical” information, which is private.
I understand the rules around privacy but I think that when a person commits cold-blooded premeditated murder, he or she should no longer expect to enjoy the great privilege of all our Canadian human rights. Surely the most basic right of all is the right to life, and any person who takes that from another has, in my opinion, forfeited his or her “rights” for the duration of incarceration.
Perhaps that is not very charitable of me and as time passes, I may soften my views, but for now, this is where I sit.
What I want more than anything is for David and Melissa to acknowledge their responsibility, work on the very serious issues they must have and to heal so that no other family ever has to face what we are facing by their hands.
Victims give up all control once they enter the criminal justice system and the best way to give that back to them is with information.