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Either Mendicino knew or the department in charge of prison, the border and stopping terrorism is incompetent.
Even the head of Canada’s federal prison system appears to have doubts about Marco Mendicino being kept in the dark about Paul Bernardo’s transfer to a medium security facility.
Documents released to the Canadian Press wire service show that there were definitely attempts to make sure the minister knew.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has been under fire since the news broke that Canada’s most notorious serial killer was transferred from a maximum to medium security prison. The transfer happened in May, the news became public in June but both Mendicino and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have said they didn’t know despite senior staff having been informed in March.
Anne Kelly, Commissioner of Corrections Canada, even followed up with Shawn Tupper, the deputy minister of Public Safety Canada, and Tricia Geddes, the assistant deputy minister. Kelly emailed them both days before the transfer.
“I had said I would confirm the transfer with you. It will occur next week,” Kelly wrote on May 26 in an email with “High Profile Offender” in the subject line.
Tupper wrote back minutes later to thank Kelly for the update.
One of the lines the Trudeau Liberals have been using in defence of Mendicino not being briefed that Bernardo’s transfer was happening is that his young staff didn’t know who Bernardo was. The claim has never made sense — now we know that this information was communicated with words like “High Profile Offender” in the subject line.
We also know that neither Tupper nor Geddes are young twentysomethings fresh out of university and working their first jobs. Tupper has been a senior civil servant, at director level or above, since 2000 while Geddes has been in senior positions for a decade.
Does it seem likely that experienced civil servants would know about the transfer of a high-profile serial killer like Bernardo for months, have it confirmed days before it happens and yet never raise it with the minister? Not in any functioning office.
Kelly, who has faced calls for her to be fired over her handling of this transfer, is shown to have clearly followed protocol. After news of the transfer became public, Mendicino blasted the decision on social media and in response to journalists.
“The Correctional Service of Canada’s independent decision to transfer Paul Bernardo to a medium security institution is shocking and incomprehensible,” Mendicino said in a statement.
“Hello minister, saw your tweet,” Kelly wrote. “I remain available to meet with you.”
“Yes, we’ll co-ordinate a call,” was the minister’s reply within minutes.
Days later, on July 6, Kelly sent a follow-up email to Tupper and Geddes with the subject line “PRIVATE – Transfer.” She was hearing that the minister had not been notified and the Privy Council Office was asking questions of her agency.
“I understand from my staff that someone at (the Public Safety Department) said (the minister) had not been notified,” Kelly wrote.
“We have a notification process in place as you know and we certainly followed it.”
Somebody didn’t follow protocol and inform the minister, or we are being asked to believe a lie with the claim that he was never told.
It seems highly unlikely that his deputy minister and assistant deputy minister knew, that his political staff knew, that they all knew months ahead of time and only informed the minister as the transfer was happening. Either someone is lying and Mendicino knew, or the government wants us to believe that the department charged with running prisons, overseeing the border and defending Canada against terrorist attacks is utterly incompetent.
Neither option looks good on the government.
Mendicino has caused enough problems for this government — mishandling of the convoy, the firearms legislation and foreign interference — that in previous governments he would have been fired by now.
Instead, wait for him to be quietly shuffled off to a less-dangerous portfolio sometime over the sleepy summer months.
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