Toronto Sun

November 5, 1999

Look who's in Karla's corner

By HEATHER BIRD -- Toronto Sun

MONTREAL -- So, it appears that Karla has some people in her corner after all. And, quelle surprise, it is women who are acting as her chief protectors.

The most vocal has been Nathalie Duhamel, the head of the local Elizabeth Fry Society, who has sought advice on taking legal action against reporters who might attempt to cover Homolka's stay at the halfway house here.

Homolka has become so notorious, she says, only because the media refuses to let the case go.

"I think we're not here to judge ... you haven't seen the tapes," she says, referring to the banned material which depicts Homolka assisting in the rapes of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French.

"It's been going for six years ... it's just one crime which was picked up on and (has) sold a lot of newspapers."

And Duhamel says she has a message for television crews, radio reporters and newspaper photographers who might try to document Homolka's movements from the sidewalk.

"(This) behaviour would be tantamount to a vendetta (and) ... we won't tolerate it," she says, refusing to specify how she intends to ban people from public property.

And as for those homeowners who might object to Homolka moving into the neighbourhood, Duhamel thinks they should get over it.

"The public doesn't really have a choice, they don't get to pick and choose ... It just doesn't work like that, there's one law that applies to all."

While "there is no place in Canada where she can reintegrate," she stands a better shot in Quebec than in Ontario, Duhamel says. And that means coming to Maison Therese Casgrain, the halfway house she runs for 25 inmates on the outskirts of tony Westmount.

Homolka will almost certainly end up there, because there is only one other halfway house for female prisoners in the province. It's smaller and in Quebec City, which would not be suitable for Homolka, says Duhamel. That's because she is an anglophone and the area is heavily francophone.

"(Although) she is learning French quite rapidly," she notes. Duhamel says while Homolka was saddened by the public reaction to reports of her lawsuit, she wasn't greatly surprised.

"She follows the news, she knows what's going on."

If, in fact, she does know what's going on, she must be heartened by the efforts made by Monique Giroux. The mid-level federal court employee was the one who unilaterally decided to ask the court to consider a blanket publication ban which has now muzzled all of the media in the country.

According to Michelle Lamy, who is the manager of the trial division of the federal court at 30 McGill St. here, Giroux was the one to notice that some of the Corrections Canada documentation on Homolka was stamped "protected." (Nearly all corrections documents are deemed to be confidential. Unless, of course, they're part of an ongoing court action, in which case they should be open to public scrutiny.)

Despite receiving the paperwork on Oct. 12, Giroux took no action until the morning of Nov. 4, after a number of media outlets requested federal court file number T-1677-99.

Giroux decided, without the knowledge of Homolka's own lawyer, that the matter should be taken before a prothonotary (a minor court official whose duties are similar to that of a justice of the peace) in a closed hearing without any notice to anyone who might want to contest the ban.

"Considering the material ... include(s) several psychological assessment reports, should this material be treated as confidential ...?"

And in the absence of anyone who could speak to the contrary, Richard Morneau decided to seal the file and issue a blanket publication ban which Giroux has interpreted to include 21 documents which make up the bulk of the 317-page file. Some of them are psychological reports, but others go directly to the heart of whether or not Homolka should be allowed to go to a Montreal halfway house.

Pascal Lescarbeau, acting for Homolka, was surprised to learn of the ban especially since he hadn't asked for it.

But now that it's in place, he warns he intends to contest any legal push to open the file.

Efforts, no doubt, will be made to access the material before a court date is set for her hearing. One hopes that it won't be held behind closed doors, but with the way things have been going, who can say?

Duhamel argues Homolka is being forced to pay because of a public perception that justice wasn't done in the first place. But it's not a matter of justice being seen to be done.

It's a case of justice being seen at all.

Copyright © 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.