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Mendicino grapples to explain lack of Bernardo info despite his office, PMO knowing

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says it is “unacceptable” he was kept in the dark about Paul Bernardo’s controversial prison transfer. 

Questions are swirling on Parliament Hill today about why he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were among the last to know about it, despite their staff being informed months earlier.

The Liberal government was already dealing with fallout from the Correctional Service of Canada’s decision to move the convicted killer and serial rapist out of a maximum-security prison in Ontario to a medium-security institution in Quebec.

But further controversy erupted this week when the correctional service confirmed it told the minister’s office about the transfer in early March and again in late May once a date for the move had been set.

Trudeau’s office says he was briefed on the transfer the day it happened, while Mendicino says he only found out about it a day later. 

A spokeswomen for Trudeau says the Privy Council Office alerted one of his staffers about the potential move in March, and the staffer reached out to Mendicino’s office for more information. 

Audrey Champoux, a spokeswoman for Mendicino, says Trudeau’s office received the first notification.

After staff for the public safety minister heard from Trudeau’s office about it, she said, they followed up with the correctional service.

That’s when the service provided staff with initial details that she described as “generic communications products about inmate transfers.”

Speaking to reporters after appearing before a parliamentary committee today, Mendicino called it “unacceptable” that he wasn’t informed earlier by his staff.

He acknowledged that the fact he and Trudeau were among the last informed was a “challenge.”

Mendicino said he has issued a directive to make sure the public safety minister is personally informed when a high-profile inmate is to be transferred.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2023. 

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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