It is pretty hard for most Canadians to feel like protecting a guy like Clifford Olsen’s right to walk on the same earth as the mothers and fathers of the children he killed.
In 1980 and 1981, Olsen went on a sick one-man killing spree across BC. Over nine months, the self-proclaimed “Beast of BC” murdered at least 11 children, between the ages of nine and eighteen.
He killed them with hammers, or strangled them, or stabbed them with knives.
He was finally apprehended as he was closing in on two young teenage girls. They survived the encounter as the RCMP chased him to the ground.
At the time of his arrest near Long Beach on Vancouver Island, only three of the children’s bodies had been found.
What followed was a sick, but probably necessary, deal with the devil. Olsen revealed the locations of the bodies and details about the killings in exchange for $100,000 per child payable to his family.
He relished the limelight of his notoriety.
The judge, Harry McKay, said at the time of his sentencing, “I don’t have the words to describe the enormity of your crimes and the heartbreak and anguish you have caused so many people. No punishment a civilized country could give you could come close to being adequate….You should never be granted parole for the remainder of your day. It would be foolhardy to let you at large.”
He was sentenced to life in prison.
It should have been, frankly, the last we heard of this worm.
But this is Canada and in 1987 he was granted leave to appeal for parole under the “faint hope clause” or Section 745 of the Criminal Code. Designed to provide truly rehabilitated men and women an opportunity for early release, it was never meant to be used by a sick and vicious man to gain even more attention for himself.
Now, after serving twenty-five years (or two years for each child he killed) the Canadian justice system will reward him for his horrific actions by allowing him to apply for parole every two years.
And he will - what else does he have to do with his time?
Conservative Justice Minister, Vic Toews, is looking at options to summarily dismiss gratuitous parole applications. Hopefully that’ll happen before the next Olson circus in 2008. Beyond the financial cost to the system, there is the emotional turmoil faced by the families of the murdered children.
Remarkably, there are people who oppose this change – who feel each and every criminal, regardless of their crime or their conduct, deserve a chance to try and re-enter normal society.
Hopefully, these, like those at the John Howard Society, are the minority.
Because when Olson was asked in the 1980s, what he would do if he got out again, he answered, “I’d take up where I left off.”
And that should be enough to keep him in a dark, dark place for the rest of his pathetic life.