By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Lisa Freeman wants other victims of crime to know they can avoid the trials and tribulations she has personally experienced.
Over the past five years, the Oshawa native has become a well-known critic of the Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Service Canada.
Her conflict with those organizations stems from parole hearings for Terry Porter, the man who murdered Freeman’s father, Roland Slingerland, in February 1991.
A few years ago, Freeman decided that she wanted to push back and share her story through the written word.
“It was always in the back of my mind [to write a book],” Freeman reflected, adding the idea gained traction for her as “more people reached out to me, saying, ‘you know, you should write a book'”.
Freeman’s book, She Won’t Be Silenced was published late last year by R.J. Parker Publishing, a Toronto-based company.
“They took a gamble on me I think because it’s such a different story,” Freeman says. “It’s not your typical true crime because it’s written by the victim’s daughter and not a reporter or police officer.”
She Won’t Be Silenced chronicles the circumstances surrounding the murder of Freeman’s father, as well as her views on dealing with the parole board and correctional services.
“I’m telling my story of how I fought through the system with very little help,” she says.
Freeman admits there was a time when she was not open about her father’s murder and how it affected her life.
“I was 21 years old when my dad was killed and for the next 20 years, I didn’t talk about it with anyone,” she says.
However, five years ago, Freeman discovered that Porter was indeed eligible to apply for some types of parole, community service leaves and had already been granted escorted visits from prison.
Holding a certificate that states Porter, who was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of first-degree murder, would have no chance of parole for 25 years, Freeman says the revelation left her dumbfounded.
“The first thing we asked was, ’25 years isn’t up yet, why is this man able to go anywhere,” Freeman says.
“I quoted this certificate and they told me ‘well, that really doesn’t mean anything’. What’s the point of this certificate?”
Freeman says this was the beginning of a sequence of grievances that ultimately led her to pen She Won’t Be Silenced.
At a victim impact statement hearing in 2013, Freeman says she was named twice in front of her father’s killer, something that left her feeling ‘violated’.
“They told me it was his right. I said ‘you know what, this is not right.’. Somewhere along the line victims’ rights have been superseded by the offender’s rights,” Freeman says.
Freeman says she had no issue signing her victim impact statement but explained, “there’s something different about being in the same room, in close proximity [to the man who murdered her father] and just having your name bantered about.
“If they had asked me, I would have asked to be introduced as the victim’s daughter…that’s all anybody needed to know that day. But they didn’t ask.”
Reflecting back to that day, Freeman says she “can’t believe how naive I was.”
“I just assumed that they would have recognized that I wouldn’t want to be named in front of this man.”
Freeman would take her complaint about being named at the parole hearing to the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.
About a year later, through a private members bill, laws were changed so victims of crime are given a choice of how they’d like to be addressed at parole meetings, or if they even wanted to be addressed at all.
“It’s a huge change. It’s just strengthening your control. And when you go into a room like that, you don’t have a whole lot of control.”
An outlet Freeman has turned to for support locally is Victim Services of Durham Region.
“They have been fantastic,” she says. “When you talk about a sense of community and helping other people, Victim Services of Durham Region does that tenfold.”
Yet that one positive outcome has not lessened any of Freeman’s condemnation for the Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Services Canada.
“I don’t trust them at all…I don’t put any worth into what they say to me,” Freeman says.
Because of this, Freeman says her book is also a way for her to help others who face a similar situation.
“I think the only way to bring change is to speak up about it and to highlight the things that are wrong with the Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Services Canada in regards to victims of crime.”
She Won’t Be Silenced has garnered a large amount of feedback, Freeman says.
“I’ve gotten letters from as far away as Australia from people saying “I’ve read your book and I thought it was just [me] going through this.”
The book has been made available in library branches across Canada, something that creates a great pride for Freeman.
“To me, that’s huge because I want everyone to be able to access it.”
As far as what the hold future holds, Freeman says she would like to carry on what she has started.
“I’d like to continue doing more things like this. Perhaps writing other victim’s stories and how they’ve gotten through it,” she says.
She has applied to Canadian Arts Council for accreditation as a literary writer, something she says will open up opportunities for more grants and perhaps touring to speak about her story, a story she says is far from over.
Recently, Freeman learned Porter had been transferred to another prison in British Columbia for “cultural and spiritual reasons.”
The most disturbing part of this news for her is the prison is located only 12 kilometres away from where her sister lives.
Freeman says she was only notified of Porter’s transfer 24 hours after it was completed.
She was told she could attempt to have Porter moved to another prison by contacting the wardens involved with the transfer.
However, she was then told this was not possible because of inconsistent regulations between Ontario and British Columbia.
She once again contacted the federal ombudsman’s office and was informed she could indeed try to get Porter transferred to another prison.
Whatever the outcome, Freeman says she believes there is more to Porter’s request than “cultural and spiritual reasons”.
“Logic tells me he’s setting up for full parole in that community and I don’t think he should be in the community where my sister lives,” Freeman stated.
She Won’t Be Silenced is available through amazon.ca