‘Life means life’: protesters demand change on 10th anniversary of Tori Stafford’s death

Led by Rodney Stafford on the 10th anniversary of his daughter’s abduction and murder, a few dozen victims of crime and their supporters came to Parliament Hill, calling for stricter treatment for offenders and better treatment for victims.

In driving freezing rain, victims shared painful personal experiences one by one, as well as their frustrations with the justice system.

“Why is it when I was abducted, why is it when I was raped or tortured, I got nothing, but this individual that did this to me has gotten a roof over his head, he gets three square meals a day, he gets his own education? Why is it that I gotta suffer?” asked Zachary Miller, a victim of notorious pedophile Peter Whitmore.

“We will forever we broken inside due to her being taken from us,” said John Taggart. He told the crowd his 31-year-old daughter Autumn was raped and murdered by a stranger who scaled three balconies to reach her bedroom in 2018.

“So we’re asking that families not be made to endure being victimized again and again by this system,” said Taggart.

The group assembled on Parliament Hill Monday is broadly pushing for more rights for victims.

On the 10th anniversary of Tori Stafford’s death, protesters on Parliament Hill call for changes to the justice system.

“Our voices are not being heard,” said Maureen Basnicki, whose huband, Ken, was killed in the Sept. 11th, 2001 attacks.

“The tools to be reintegrated into society shouldn’t just go to the perpetrated. We’re focused on the perpetrators, what about the victims?”

“Basically, you get the run around,” said Rodney Stafford of his treatment as a victim of crime. Tori Stafford was eight years old when she was abducted after school in Woodstock, Ontario on April 8, 2009, and then brutally raped and murdered.

“You get told, ‘Here’s a little bit of counselling, you’ll do better for yourself. You gotta keep moving forward, though, keep your chin up.’ But you’re struggling day to day to make it through, ends meet, when the people who took your child is on the inside, getting an education, getting their meals.”

Justice Minister David Lametti said victims are an important part of the justice system.

“Listening to victims and hearing what their experiences were and particularly taking those experiences and seeing how we can improve the system [are important]. So I’m willing to listen to hear what they have to say,” Lametti told reporters before Question Period on Monday.

“I’m happy they participate in the system and I obviously have the utmost empathy for what they’ve gone through.”

Protesters also want stricter rules for convicted criminals.

Tori Stafford’s case was thrust back in the spotlight last fall, when Rodney learned one of her killers was transferred to an Indigenous healing lodge.

After national outrage in response to that transfer, Terri-Lynne McClintic was moved back to a traditional prison, and tougher rules were put in place surrounding the transfer of female offenders.

“If a judge imposes a sentence of 25 years, max sentence, that should stick,” Rodney told Global News. “Especially when it comes to taking the life of a vulnerable person. There should be no leniencies, no day pass, no nothing.”

He is also frustrated the other person convicted of killing his daughter, Michael Rafferty, is now in a medium-security institution.

“The one individual that he’s particularly concerned about, that individual is in a federal correctional facility that is specifically designed to deal with sexual offenders,” said Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

“He is behind two fences that are 13 feet high, topped with razor wire. The facility is under surveillance, physically and electronic, all of the time to ensure that he is properly dealt with and that justice is served.”

But Stafford says he is fighting for all victims of crimes — not just his daughter.

“To me, it’s important that Canada knows that it’s not just me on this fight. There’s thousands of other victims out there going through the exact same things. It’s just I was able to build a platform for everybody to stand on and now we can fight together,” said Stafford.

Reflecting on the 10th anniversary of Tori’s abduction, Rodney says he’s glad to spend it fighting for justice.

“In all honesty, it’s no different from any other day. It’s just unfortunate. It’s been 10 years, I haven’t had my daughter by our sides. But it’s just like another day — keeping fighting it, and this is all we can do.”

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