OTTAWA — Newly released figures show the practice of placing child-killers in the federal prison service's Indigenous healing lodges stretches back several years — well before the recent uproar over Terri-Lynne McClintic.
The federal statistics indicate 17 male and female offenders serving time for killing minors were transferred to one of the Correctional Service of Canada's healing lodges from 2012-13 through last year.
As of mid-September, there were 11 offenders in healing lodges who had been convicted of first- or second-degree murder of a minor.
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McClintic, convicted of murdering eight-year-old Tori Stafford, was moved to a healing lodge in Saskatchewan from a traditional prison, sparking public and political outrage.
McClintic was eight years into a life sentence for the abduction, rape and murder of the Ontario girl.
Conservative MPs hammered away at the issue in the House of Commons for days, pointing a finger at the Trudeau Liberals. The new figures show such transfers were also taking place while Stephen Harper's Conservatives were in office.
Healing lodges use Indigenous values, traditions and beliefs to help with Indigenous inmates' rehabilitation and to get them ready to return to their communities. The prison service says the approach is holistic and spiritual, and includes guidance and support from Indigenous elders and community members.
The Liberal government recently announced new rules that make it harder for federal prisoners to be transferred to Indigenous healing lodges if they're serving long sentences.
Under the rules, prisoners won't be eligible for transfers to healing lodges without secured perimeters until they're into the "preparation for release" phases of their sentences.
The Correctional Service will also have to consider inmate behaviour and how close offenders are to being eligible for unescorted temporary absences from prison before transferring them.
McClintic is now back in a traditional prison in Edmonton.
The murder of a child is odious and utterly reprehensible, and perpetrators must be held fully accountable for their crime, said Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
"At the same time, our correctional system must also strive for rehabilitation so we can have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims, and ultimately safer communities," he said.
Healing lodges have a record of successfully dealing with difficult cases, and can be the right correctional approach for certain offenders, he added.
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