Hounding Homolka: who cares about the kids?

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There’s nothing I love more than defending religion, serial killers and bad jokes, but that seems to be a recurring theme in my columns these days.

In case you’ve turned off your sarcasm detector, I should probably point out that I’m an atheist, a pacifist and unfailingly funny as hell, so the above statement is such an obvious lie that you can expect it to be retweeted by Donald Trump at 2 a.m.

Anyhoo, how about that Karla Homolka, eh? How dare she have kids and send them to school!!! CityNews reporter Domenic Fazioli managed to track down the notorious convicted serial manslaughterer, who has been out of prison since her 12-year sentence expired in 2005. She has been fairly productive since getting out of jail, by which I mean pregnant, and is now the mother of three children, the oldest being a 10-year-old boy.

Fazioli, the same journalist whose reporting outed Homolka in Châteauguay in April 2016 and made sure her kids were unwelcome there, followed up his first scoop with a report on Tuesday that Homolka’s kids were now attending a small private religious school in NDG, where the result will likely be another de facto banishment.

I could go on in detail (it’s all here) about Homolka’s involvement in the rape/murders of at least three women, for which her ex-husband Paul Bernardo was convicted (and who will likely see the inside of a coffin before he sees the outside of a prison wall). Like most sane people, I believe Homolka literally got away with murder thanks to a plea deal to testify against Bernardo, a pact inked before prosecutors found videotaped evidence that showed Homolka was an active participant in at least two horrific rapes and killings, and an accomplice in the killing of her own 15-year-old sister.

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that she should have faced the same fate as Bernardo.

But she didn’t. And because the Canadian Criminal Code contains no provisions for the forced sterilization of prisoners no matter what their crime, Karla Homolka was able to have offspring.

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It astounds me that Homolka was able to find someone who’d want to have kids with her— or that either of them thought it was a good idea, given her notoriety and the public disgust with her crimes — but once those children were born, they inherited the same rights as you or me. And I believe those rights have been violated by CityNews, which not only told the world where they go to school (for the second time), but literally painted a target on their backs by airing video that showed their distinctive backpacks as well as the vehicle that their mother uses to pick them up at school. (They at least blurred the licence plates and the kids’ faces, but when you pinpoint the precise location where the kids can be found twice a day, it hardly matters what other details you mask.)

The news hook that the station used to justify this invasion of the children’s privacy was the Homolka, now 47, had once accompanied a kindergarten class on a field trip (with other adult supervisors) and that once she “even brought her dog into the classroom for children to pet,” Fazioli laments.

It’s hard to see how reporting these “crimes” was in the public interest. The school was aware of Homolka’s background, as were the parents who complained about her presence on the field trip. Although you can certainly sympathize with parents who don’t want their kids interacting with Homolka, that’s an issue that didn’t require international TV coverage to resolve. But the station was apparently more interested in a ratings boost than resolving any real-life problems, as evidenced by its decision to publicly identify the school.

No matter how great the public’s revulsion might be for a convicted (or even unconvicted) rapist, killer or pedophile, our laws do not permit their exile once their sentences have been served. We can’t just pack them in boxes and ship them to the Island of Misfit Toys. Karla Homolka has to live somewhere, and chasing her from one community to another doesn’t protect anyone any more than pushing sex workers from one corner to another reduces prostitution.

What makes this case worse than usual is that the victims aren’t limited to the initial crime; Homolka’s kids are now paying the price. It must be hard enough to live with their knowledge of mom’s past crimes (I can only imagine how that conversation went), but to be ostracized and chased from one school to the next thanks to the media’s Homolka obsession is cruel and unusual punishment.

Youth Protection officials need to investigate these incidents and ensure the safety of both the Homolka children and their classmates, even if that means charging anyone who violates the children’s legally protected privacy rights. This is what angry parents should have done if they were unhappy with the school’s response, rather than calling the local TV station.

The sins of the mother are hers alone. If we allow the needless suffering of Homolka’s children to be part of her punishment, that will be our own crime.  ■

Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist. His sardonic observations about the city and province appear on Cult MTL every week. You can contact him by Email or follow him on Twitter.

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