By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter
An Oshawa resident is fighting for victims’ rights and greater transparency within the criminal justice system and she has Oshawa MP Colin Carrie on her side.
Carrie, with the support of Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, MP Shannon Stubbs, shadow minister for public safety, and victims’ rights advocates Lisa Freeman from Oshawa, and Darlene Ryan and Bruno Serre from Quebec, have brought forward Bill S219, which will provide victims of crime and their families greater transparency in the criminal justice system, which Carrie says far too often re-victimizes those who have faced tragedy, loss and trauma.
“While the processes and systems related to perpetrators of crime are hot topics for debate, consideration for victims is often forgotten,” says Carrie. “Though this Bill does not solve all the issues facing victims of crime here in Canada, it is a very important step towards living up to our nation’s reputation as one that stands up for the most vulnerable, including victims of crime.”
Boisvenu recently introduced the bill into the Senate of Canada, and if passed, Carrie says it will provide victims of crime and their families with a more transparent criminal justice system and prioritize the rights of victims beyond the trial process,
“It will allow for people like Lisa Freeman to stop being re-victimized by a system that is supposed to be protecting them,” he says.
Freeman’s father, Roland Slingerland, was brutally murdered nearly 30 years ago in 1991 at the hands of John Terrance “Terry” Porter. Slingerland was caught off guard when Porter asked him for the location of a woman he was looking for. When Slingerland refused to give Porter any information, Porter became enraged, axing Slingerland to death.
Freeman, who was 21 at the time, was the one tasked with confirming her father’s identity at the morgue.
Porter was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 25 years.
However, in April 2020, just 20 years into his sentence, Porter became eligible for early parole. Due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time, Freeman was denied the ability to attend the hearing.
“I would have delivered an impact statement to try to capture how this has impacted my life for all these years, but I was denied that opportunity,” says Freeman, noting she was also denied the opportunity to attend the hearing virtually.
“I would have told them what it has been like for my whole life and my family to live with this crime and try to fit such an abnormal event into some sort of normal life, but we were completely denied our opportunity.”
Porter was granted day parole.
“He’s been incarcerated for many years. This was my opportunity to bring to the table, in person, that this is the real person who is suffering because of this crime, and grew up my whole adult life living with this crime,” she says.
In October 2020, Freeman learned Porter was up for full parole, and was again denied the opportunity to attend a hearing.
“He applied for full parole six months later and again the parole board denied me, not because of COVID but because they had the authority to do so, not have a hearing at all. They made a paper decision,” she explains, noting she was not informed of the date except that it would be in October.
“I was denied for no other reason than they could do it to me.”
She says for some people participation in the process is very important.
“I have been denied twice by the Parole Board of Canada and I do hold them accountable for re-traumatizing me and my family. It has been a very difficult time.”
She notes Porter was denied full parole in October because of the media coverage it received as Freeman continues to work to bring this issue to Canadians.
With the help of Oshawa MP Colin Carrie, steps are finally being taken to move forward to bring real change to victims’ rights.
Carrie originally introduced the bill in the House of Commons before the 2019 general election, and received support from other opposition members.
“This bill attempts to fully enforce the right to information enshrined in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and we are confident that by clarifying these decisions, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights will be enhanced,” says Boisvenu, who hopes to see the bill adopted by spring of 2021.
“For us, it’s a very important step, a short step, but it’s a step that will conduct us in the years to come to make a stronger reform on the parole board.”