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Poilievre calls on Liberals to make killers like Bernardo stay in max-security prison

Bernardo is serving a life sentence for the kidnapping, torture and murders of Kristen French, 15, and Leslie Mahaffy, 14
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre speaks with reporters before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on Parliament Hill, Tuesday, June 6, 2023 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should see to it that mass murderers serve their entire sentences in maximum-security prison.

The call comes as Trudeau’s government deals with the fallout from a Correctional Service of Canada decision to transfer Paul Bernardo to a medium-security institution in Quebec.

READ MORE: Prison service to review decision to transfer killer Bernardo to medium security

Anne Kelly, commissioner of the federal correctional service, announced the move was under review after Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said he expressed to her how shocked Canadians were by the decision.

Bernardo is serving a life sentence for the kidnapping, torture and murders of 15-year-old Kristen French in 1991 and 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy in 1992.

Mendicino said he is unable to reverse the decision himself because the federal correctional service operates as an independent institution.

“I’m calling on the prime minister to direct his public safety minister to say that all mass murderers should have to serve their entire sentences in maximum security prisons,” Poilievre told reporters Tuesday.

“This is a no-brainer and the prime minister can do it. He’s got to stop passing the buck.”

Poilievre’s office has suggested that such power exists in the form of directives from ministers, which are typically used to address broad policy issues.

The correctional service said it understands Bernardo’s transfer comes as a shock to some and acknowledged in a statement Monday (June 5) that it did not intend to cause harm to his victims.

It has said decisions around the security classification for offenders must adhere with the law, which requires they be reviewed every two years.

The service also said information about offenders is classified and which prison they are kept in depends on factors such as their risk to public safety, their threat of escaping and psychological assessments.

The reason why Bernardo was moved has not been divulged, but the prison he was transferred to is known for housing violent sex offenders and specializes in treating people convicted of sexual offences.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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