An Ontario nurse said that she is “devastated” after being denied the opportunity to attend a parole hearing for the man convicted of murdering her father, and that it’s traumatizing the parole board will hear the case without her amid the new coronavirus pandemic.
Lisa Freeman said she has been preparing mentally for months to fly to British Columbia to deliver a victim impact statement at the day parole hearing for John Terrance Porter, who was convicted of bludgeoning her father, Roland Slingerland, to death with a hatchet in 1991.
Porter was convicted of first-degree murder in 1992 and was handed a life sentence of 25 years with the eligibility of parole.
“I was 21 when my dad was murdered. I identified him in the morgue. For 21 years, I’ve felt like I had very little control of anything,” Freeman told Global News. “I will be devastated not to be there. I feel like there’s an obligation to be there, not just for my dad, but for the rest of my family.”
“That it’s probably very likely continuing without me is damaging and re-traumatizing at an already stressful time.”
Freeman, who works at a long-term care home in Oshawa, Ont., first learned about Porter’s request for day parole from William Head Institution in Victoria, B.C., last November.
In a letter on March 17, Freeman was notified that the Parole Board of Canada was “cancelling all observer attendance at its hearings until further notice.” The letter arrived just as the federal government and provinces began taking emergency steps to lessen the impact of the deadly pandemic.
The parole board said she could submit her impact statement in writing and apply to receive an audio recording of the hearing once it’s completed.
Freeman requested to attend the hearing remotely via a livestream, which was also denied as parole hearings require “a secure video connection.”
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“I’m furious,” Freeman said, adding she wants the hearing postponed until all parties can attend.
The Parole Board of Canada said in a statement that hearings are now being conducted remotely and not in institutions, to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The cancellation of scheduled observers, including victims, at upcoming PBC hearings is a temporary measure that will be reassessed on an ongoing basis,” said spokesperson Holly Knowles in an email. “Victims will continue to receive all legislated information to which they are entitled.”
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