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 Homolka sues Ottawa for violating her rights

Not allowing move to halfway house 'perverse,' suit says

National Post, Wednesday, November 3, 1999, Janice Tibbetts, Southam News

 Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo on their wedding day in 1991

OTTAWA - Karla Homolka, convicted in the killing of two teenage girls, claims in a lawsuit that the federal government has violated her constitutional rights by refusing to transfer her to a Montreal halfway house.

Homolka argues in a lawsuit filed in the Federal Court of Canada that it is time to begin her reintegration into society. In particular, she would like to become acquainted with Montreal, a city she plans to call home when she is eventually released.

"I do not think it is in my best interests, or anybody else's, for me to be released ... after eight years incarceration without any type of gradual release to a place where I have never been and do not know anyone," Homolka wrote in her application to be moved.

Homolka was sentenced to a 12-year term in 1993 for the killings of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. She is serving her sentence at Joliette Institution, a federal penitentiary for women 70 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

She will be eligible for release in July, 2001, after serving two-thirds of her sentence.

Her lawsuit -- filed under her lesser-known name, Karla-Leanne Teale -- alleges that the warden at Joliette Institution violated her constitutional rights by rejecting her application for six months of escorted temporary absences to Maison Therese Casgrain, a Montreal halfway house.

Marie-Andree Cyrenne, the institution's warden, made her decision in a "perverse or capricious manner" and relied too heavily on the negative opinion of psychologists, according to Homolka's suit.

A Corrections Canada report contends that Homolka is "out of touch with reality" because she feels she should be treated like everyone else. In fact, Corrections Canada argues she would likely encounter an explosive public backlash if she was temporarily released.

Homolka needs further sex-offender treatment and has to come to terms with public reaction to her crimes, according to psychologists' reports to Corrections Canada, which give her a low rating for reintegration into the community.

In a five-page handwritten statement, Homolka details her extensive therapy in prison, particularly at Kingston Prison for Women, which she says has prepared her for life after prison.

Homolka has earned a degree in psychology from Queen's University while serving her sentence. She has also completed programs on self-esteem, anger management, improving her inner self and surviving abuse and trauma.

"I learned to get rid of my mistrust, self-doubt, misplaced guilt, and defence mechanisms," she wrote. "I am now completely in touch with my inner feelings. My self-esteem is quite high and I am fairly easily able to deal with confrontation."

She says she fits in well at Joliette, where she was transferred two years ago as part of a plan to eventually close the Kingston Prison for Women.

Homolka and her former husband, Paul Bernardo, kidnapped, raped and murdered Leslie Mahaffy, 14, of Burlington, Ont., in 1991. One year later, the couple killed Kristen French, 15, of St. Catharines, Ont.

Bernardo is serving two concurrent life sentences for the murder, while Homolka pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Copyright Southam Inc.

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