Minister of Public Safety, CSC address transfer of Bernardo from Millhaven Institution

Paul Bernardo (inset) was moved from maximum-security Millhaven Institution (main photo) to medium-security La Macaza Institution in Quebec on Monday, May 29, 2023. Photo of Bernardo via CSC, photo of Millhaven Institution by John Andrew.

Content warning: This article includes content about sexual assault, rape, and murder.

After public outcry and backlash from the Minister of Public Safety, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has addressed the move, without notice, of one of the most notorious serial killers in the history of the country.

As first reported by Kingstonist, convicted murderer and rapist Paul Bernardo was transferred by CSC from the maximum-security Millhaven Institution, located in Loyalist Township, to the medium-security La Macaza Institution in Quebec — a former military base-turned residential school that was converted into a prison in 1977, 13 years after Bernardo was born.

Since the news of Bernardo’s transfer broke on Thursday, Jun. 1, 2023, Canadians coast to coast have voiced concern about the lack of transparency demonstrated by CSC in making the move and then refusing to confirm they had done so — particularly since the federal correctional agency had not notified the public first. Marco Mendicino, federal Minister of Public Safety, issued a statement on the matter on Friday, Jun. 2, 2023.

“The Correctional Service of Canada’s independent decision to transfer Paul Bernardo to a medium security institution is shocking and incomprehensible,” Mendicino wrote in a statement made public on social media.

Mendicino went on to say the ministry’s thoughts are with the families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy — both of whom were brutally tortured, sexually assaulted, and murdered by Bernardo and/or his partner in crime, Karla Homolka — as well as “all of those affected by these horrific crimes.”

“We stand with them, and all Canadians who are rightfully appalled by this move,” Mendicino wrote.

While Bernardo was convicted of three murders and a string of rapes, his illegal predatory behaviour beginning as early as 1984, many researchers, analysts, and writers have speculated there could be more victims than those that have been confirmed. It was those victims Mendicino focused on in his statement.

“Having devoted my career as a federal prosecutor to protecting our communities, I have reiterated my firm expectation that CSC take a victim-centered [sic] and trauma-informed approach to these cases,” he said, noting that he intends to address the transfer decision directly with CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly.

“Canadians expect the most serious crimes to have the most serious consequences, that the Victims Bill of Rights be followed, and that the safety of our communities is placed above all.”

Three days later — and nearly a week after Bernardo was moved out of Ontario on Monday, May 29, 2023 — the CSC issued a statement on the matter via social media, noting that the agency’s decisions “are taken with the utmost care for public safety and victims’ rights, and follow the rule of law.”

“First, we want to acknowledge that our decisions have impact on victims. These were horrific crimes and we regret any pain and concern this has caused,” CSC said — “this” seemingly referring to Bernardo’s transfer.

“We want to assure Canadians that this offender continues to be incarcerated in a secure and controlled facility — with every precaution in place to maintain public safety.”

The statement goes on to say that CSC wants Canadians to have confidence in its decisions, which prompted Commissioner Kelly to order “an additional review of this offender’s security classification to ensure it was appropriate, evidence-based, and more importantly, adequately considered victims.”

“We are restricted by the law in what we can divulge about an offender’s case. However, the following context is important,” the statement reads.

“Paul Bernardo has been incarcerated since 1993 and continues to serve an indeterminate and life sentence — the most serious possible in Canada. Dangerous offenders are closely monitored. It is important to know that medium security facilities have the same perimeter controls as maximum security institutions (high fences, armed controls, armed correctional officers equipped with proper security equipment, etc.). These facilities are strictly guarded 24/7, inmate movement is controlled, and we have rigorous security protocols.

“Our decisions on security levels must apply the law, as defined in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. In fact, a review is required every two years. This ensures that inmates continue to be placed at the appropriate security level, and that the placement responds to any reassessed security requirements. It is important to note that some inmates never make it to minimum security nor do they return to our communities.”

According to the statement, security classifications and transfers are based on:

  • Risk to public safety
  • Escape risk
  • An offender’s institutional adjustment
  • Other case-specific information, such as psychological risk assessments

“Let us be clear that, at any point, an inmate can be placed, or returned to, a higher security level if deemed necessary to ensure the safety of the public or our institutions. And, pending the review, we will not hesitate to do so, if needed,” the statement concludes. “Throughout Paul Bernardo’s sentence, we have continued to provide information and updates to all registered victims through our National Victim Services Program, and will continue to do so moving forward.”

2 thoughts on “Minister of Public Safety, CSC address transfer of Bernardo from Millhaven Institution

  • I guess someone forgot to float a trial balloon to see if this was a socially responsible/acceptable move on CSC’s part. I’m sure there are other maximum and super max penitentiaries they could have moved him to without the public getting upset.

  • Keep him where he was! Would YOU want to be responsible for him escaping? He’s got nothing to lose by trying¡

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