Questions loom over Public Safety Minister Mendicino’s involvement

Michael Taube What did Marco Mendicino know about the Paul Bernardo transferDid he know nothing, something or anything?

This is the $64,000 question that’s haunted Liberal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino for several weeks now. It’s one that he would surely like to go away, but that won’t happen until it’s been properly resolved in the minds of many Canadians.

It was revealed on June 2 that notorious child killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo had been transferred from Millhaven Institution, a maximum-security prison in Bath, Ont. to La Macaza Institution, a medium-security prison in La Macaza, Que.

Bernardo, as many Canadians surely remember, was part of the Ken and Barbie Killers duo with his then-wife, Karla Homolka. They abducted, sexually tortured and murdered three school-aged girls, Leslie Mahaffy, Kristen French and Homolka’s younger sister, Tammy, in St. Catharines, Ont. between 1990 and 1992.

He was also dubbed the Scarborough Rapist, due to a significant number of rapes he committed in and around Scarborough, Ontario between 1987 and 1990. Additional cases of sexual assault and rape that were either unsolved or attributed to other people eventually became part of his violent past, too.

Bernardo and Homolka were arrested, charged and convicted of these heinous crimes in 1993. He was labelled a dangerous offender and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1995. She testified against him, worked out a controversial plea bargain and was released from prison in 2005.

Most people assumed Bernardo would rot in jail at Kingston Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison in Kingston, Ont. Based on the heinous nature of his crimes and murders, a fellow inmate killing him at some point was always a possibility.

The inmates certainly tried to rid the world of his existence on several occasions, despite him being incarcerated in Kingston Pen’s segregation unit. When the old prison was shut down in 2013, he was transferred to Millhaven and segregated from the prison population once more.

Most assumed that would be Bernardo’s final chapter. It wasn’t.

The official reason for his controversial transfer to La Macaza hasn’t been released (yet). Speculation remains rampant. Several things were clear from the get-go, however. The victims’ families, through their lawyers, expressed understandable frustration. Many Canadians were furious. Ontario Premier Doug Ford was also angry, correctly describing Bernardo as “nothing but a scumbag” and wanting to get to the bottom of this matter.

Mendicino’s anger seemed understood at the beginning, too. He had reportedly spoken with federal corrections commissioner Anne Kelly about this transfer. “I told her that as a former federal prosecutor and as a Canadian, that I was profoundly concerned and shocked by this decision,” he told the media on June 5. “She assured me that she understood. She also assured me that she was going to be reviewing the matter.”

Seemed like all the ducks were in a row. Until they weren’t.

“Staff in Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s office knew for three months that serial killer and rapist Paul Bernardo would be transferred from a maximum to a medium-security prison,” CBC’s Ashley Burke wrote on June 13, “but didn’t inform the minister until after it had happened.”

Wait, what? The staff may have known as far back as March – and said nothing? Having worked in the PMO when Stephen Harper was Prime Minister, this sounds completely unbelievable.

Mendicino was also reportedly among the last to know about the transfer, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He called this “unacceptable,” and being among the final names to be informed was a “challenge.” He also claimed the “breakdown in information flow” with his political staff had been “dealt with” but refused to say why it happened and if anyone in his office had been reprimanded.

This is even more insane. What on earth is going on here?

There are three likely scenarios.

First, Mendicino could be lying about his role and/or knowledge related to the Bernardo controversy. If that’s what happened, his staff is disgracefully covering for him.

Second, members of Mendicino’s staff dropped the ball on this matter. If that’s what happened, the individual(s) involved should be fired immediately.

Third, the Prime Minister’s Office and/or Mendicino’s staff didn’t trust the Minister on this file and kept him out of the loop. If that’s what happened, it makes you wonder why he was appointed to this senior cabinet position to begin with.

Which scenario is accurate? It remains to be seen.

In the meantime, one of Canada’s most notorious murderers sits in a medium-security prison. The minister in charge of public safety and his staff can’t be trusted on this matter of national importance. Our country wants answers, but all we have are questions.

And we still don’t know whether Mendicino knew nothing, something or anything about the Bernardo controversy.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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