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Sins of the mother

Balancing the needs of Karla Homolka, her children and the community
By Laurelly Dale
July 22 2016 issue

Susan Chiang /

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This spring it was discovered that the children of Karla Homolka are attending school in Chateauguay, Que. Now known as “Leanne Teale,” Homolka was convicted of manslaughter as a result of her role in the murder of 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, 15, in the infamous Bernardo serial killer case.

Of course a duty of care is owed to Homolka’s children as well as the other children of the school. However, in order to secure a just and safe society, Homolka’s successful reintegration is also a priority. These ostensibly conflicting interests can be balanced, resulting in a wary co-existence. Despite alarmist media reporting, minimal risks exist at the school and in any case, there is no legal remedy available that would satisfy the frustration of the neighbourhood.

In a recent case it was held that a duty is owed to children when exposed to violence not only by the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), but also by the director and province (J.P. v. British Columbia [2015] B.C.J. No. 1489).

In Children’s Aid Society of Algoma v. D.P. 2006 ONCJ 170, CAS became involved when it was reported that the mother’s boyfriend would routinely inflict bodily harm against her in the presence of the children. The distinguishing feature between these cases and the Homolka situation is the nexus of harm between the child and the offender. There is a vast difference between residing with a violent offender and having your child attend a school where the risk of unsupervised contact would be low, if not absent.

What is the palpable risk in allowing children to attend the same school as Homolka’s? Parents owe a duty and those separated in family law must proceed in accordance with the “best interests of the child.” Harm is an analytical element and includes choice of school. CAS and the school have both opened and closed files under intense media scrutiny, so it is reasonable to infer that thorough assessments were conducted. The findings that Homolka currently poses no reasonable likelihood of committing or attempting to commit harmful acts to her own children or those attending school would make it less probable a court would find that this school threatens their best interests. This, of course, does not translate into a plea for parents to schedule play-dates with Homolka.

It would also be prudent for CAS to keep an open file given Homolka’s involvement in the death of her own 15-year-old sister.

Brutal images, found on videotapes depicting the repeated acts of sexual violence committed against Jane Doe, Mahaffey, French and Tammy Homolka revealed an extensive level of participation by Homolka. The videotapes were disclosed subsequent to the Crown entering into the “Deal with the Devil,” as it is known, where Homolka testified against Bernardo and pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter. In exchange, the Crown jointly recommended a sentence of 12 years. Arguments have been made that a miscarriage of justice occurred when the judge did not jump the joint submission.

Res judicata is the principal that a matter may not be relitigated once it has been judged on its merits. Homolka has completed all disposition terms and is not a registered sex offender. Nonsensical articles call for retroactively “adding time.” The main purpose of a criminal trial is not to unveil truth but rather to administer justice pursuant to our constitutionally enshrined rights, guided by the rules of evidence and criminal procedure, despite what many in the media clumsily reported throughout the Ghomeshi proceeding.

An appellate court has not found that Homolka’s sentence was demonstrably unfit due to error of law or improper use of judicial discretion pursuant to s.785(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada, R.S.C., 1985 c. C-46. Within the confines of our Canadian legal system, justice has been administered.

Recidivism is a logical concern. The risk of reoffending will be reduced by appealing to Homolka’s self-interest. Homolka has been described as a “diagnostic mystery.”

Media reports opine, without qualification, that Homolka is a hebephile. According to psychiatrist Dr. Hubert Van Gijseghem and profiler, Candice Skrapec, Homolka occupies a narcissistic personality disorder and sexual sadism disorder, a division of paraphilic disorders found in the DSM-5. A similarly notorious, albeit fictional mother, Cersei Lannister of Game of Thrones once stated “love is weakness; love no one but your children.”

Homolka likely values her children. Any risk of declension will be minimized by her desire to remain free and with her children, converting to a lower risk to schoolchildren in the future.

When asked about the community’s reaction, Homolka’s husband responded that “they can move.” Freedom of expression is guaranteed at s.2(b) of the Charter. The neighbourhood can express their concern; however, vigilantism could manifest criminal or civil liability.

Homolka has the right to reside in any province as guaranteed by s.6 Charter mobility rights. There is little doubt that she is manipulative and resourceful. An inference can be made that she carefully chose to return to Canada. Her children should not but likely will end up paying for their mother’s crimes. Would it be easier for her to attempt a “normal” life in another country? Not necessarily. Homolka pursued this in Guadeloupe and was identified. Whatever the reason, she has returned, and people either accept her presence in Chateauguay or they do not and move on themselves.

Laurelly Dale is a sole practitioner and practises criminal law and litigation. She is also the director of content development at LexisNexis Canada.

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