(The last in my Karla Homolka-related series of posts)
During the past week, many Canadians have expressed horror and revulsion over the fact that Karla Homolka has been doing some volunteer work with children at an elementary school her kids attend.
And hate. It’s clear that many people hate Homolka with a passion. From newspaper columnists to their readers to people commenting on social media, many feel she should be hounded by the media and the public for the rest of her life, and that she should never have anything resembling a normal life.
(Quick recap for U.S. readers and others abroad: Homolka was convicted of manslaughter in the sex slayings of three girls 25 years ago in Ontario after making a plea bargain for a 12-year sentence in exchange for testimony against her monster husband, Paul Bernardo. After the deal was made, a video cassette was discovered that showed Homolka was a willing participant rather than the victim she had portrayed herself to be, but the Crown couldn’t go back on their deal. It was probably the most sensational case in living history in this country. Homolka is free now and lives in the Montreal area with a new partner and her three kids.)
I’m sure all of those expressing their outrage about Homolka this week feel she should, at the very least, have been locked up for life with dangerous offender status so that she could never be released.
But in the surreal light of the fact that Homolka walks among them now, I wonder how many of those angry citizens would now vote in favour of having the death penalty reinstated in Canada — if they weren’t already in favour of it. Because the fact is, many murderers do serve their sentences and are set free; a maximum life sentence in Canada is usually no longer than 25 years, but most murderers are released long before that. So, they are out there. And the families and friends of their victims no doubt struggle with that fact the same way the friends and families — and general public — do every time Homolka’s name resurfaces again with sensational media headlines.
Not suprisingly, a majority of people in Canada and the United States do support capital punishment, Wikipedia reports. “According to one poll, support for the death penalty in Canada is approximately the same as its support in the United States, at 63 percent in both countries as of 2013.”
But there is little chance our Liberal government would even consider reinstating capital punishment. And when a Conservative government eventually returns to power in Ottawa, it is unlikely they would give the matter much thought either: the last time a Conservative government voted on the issue, in 1987, it was defeated by a vote of 148 to 127.
Still, with the media promising to hound Homolka and, in turn, fan the flames of anger and hatred for her, it is conceivable that some of the liberal types previously opposed to the death penalty might give it some thought, if only so that they and everyone else can get some closure on the horrific crimes she and Bernardo committed.
And that’s what capital punishment does: it provides closure, both for the victims’ families and friends, and for the killers. Few would be thinking about Homolka today if she had been executed 25 years ago. And, for those who believe there is some sort of spiritual order to the nature of things (as I do), Homolka would have paid some karma — reaping what she sowed — and moved on.
The idea that murderers suffer while serving sentences in Canadian prisons is laughable: they are well taken care of, and they don’t have any of the pressures faced by the working-class heroes of society. If they suffer at all, it would only be a matter of a troubled conscience before ultimately forgiving themselves (because, ya know, they can’t change what they did, but surely would if they could).
Karla Homolka is a major test for society, and it is clear that many, perhaps the majority, cannot forgive her. Social media has become the new forum for lynch mobs, and she will be figuratively lynched over and over again throughout her life every time the media finds a news hook for a headline. And the families and friends of her victims will suffer all over again with each lynching . . .
Photo: Execution of Stanislaus Lacroix by John Robert Radclive on March 21, 1902, at Hull, Quebec, said to be the last publicly viewed execution in Canada. Onlookers can be seen observing the gallows from surrounding rooftops and telegraph poles. (Credit: Library and Archives Canada/Wikipedia)