MP tackles parole eligibility

Colin Mayes tabled a private member’s bill in the House of Commons that seeks to extend the parole eligibility period.

The vast majority of private member’s bills never make it into law, but that shouldn’t stop our elected officials from trying.

I can certainly appreciate where Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes is coming from with a bill he introduced into the House of Commons on Monday.Mayes tabled a private member’s bill in the House of Commons that seeks to extend the parole eligibility period for those convicted of abduction, heinous acts of sexual assault and murder from the current 25 years up to a maximum of 40 years.

“Currently, any Canadian convicted of both first- or second- degree murder is given an automatic life sentence, but the provision barely puts an offender in jail for longer than 25 years, the time at which first-degree murderers are first eligible for parole,” he said.

A main rationale is the pain victim’s families must endure in attending parole hearings every two years once a convict’s 25-year sentence expires.

At these hearings the graphic evidence is presented to a panel, along with information about the convict’s attempts at rehabilitation or lack thereof. Families of victims who wish to speak for their murdered loved one and oppose parole must face the prospect of such a hearing on a regular basis.

“When passed, this bill will assist families by not having them deal with the re-enactment of what happened to their loved ones, over and over again. Families need closure,” Mayes said in a press release.

One can not help but think of how the timing of the bill coincides with the conviction of Matthew Foerster for the 2011 murder of 18-year-old Taylor Van Diest of Armstrong.

On Saturday, the jury determined Foerster was guilty of first-degree murder, rather than manslaughter. First-degree murder carries certain stipulations for conviction, including that the murder be premeditated or that it was committed in the course of a sexual assault of the victim.

I was personally pleased to see that the jury did not buy the defence’s argument that Foerster was simply looking for casual sex, rather than intending a sexual assault against the teenaged girl. The jury sided with the Crown’s assertion that Van Diest was murdered because she attempted to fight off Foerster’s advances. In the end, the DNA found under her fingernails when she scratched Foerster’s neck in an attempt to protect herself told the tale.

My heart went out to Taylor’s family and friends, knowing what they must have endured to sit through the testimony and face the man who took the life of their beloved daughter, sister or friend. I shudder to think of them being forced to endure such testimony or justify Foerster’s continued incarceration to a parole board on a regular basis.

If adopted, Mayes’ bill would come too late to help the Van Diest family. But it may spare others.

It’s a laudable effort.

Salmon Arm Observer