REGINA — Ontario will not try to stop convicted wife killer Colin Thatcher from collecting money on a new book, but Saskatchewan says it has no intention of allowing him to pocket the profits.
In a letter sent to Thatcher’s publisher, Toronto’s ECW Press, the Ontario attorney general’s office said it will not take action under a provincial law that prohibits profiting from recounting crimes.
The legislation is meant to stop criminals from keeping the money if they sell their crime stories. But the Ontario attorney general’s office said in an email to The Canadian Press that it’s leaving the responsibility up to officials in Saskatchewan.
“As Mr. Thatcher is a resident of Saskatchewan, this matter falls most appropriately within the jurisdiction of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice and Attorney General,” said the email from Valerie Hopper, with Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley’s office.
“It is our understanding that Saskatchewan recently passed new proceeds-of-crime legislation and questions regarding this legislation as it relates to Mr. Thatcher’s activities should be directed to the Ministry of Justice and attorney general of Saskatchewan.”
Don Morgan, Saskatchewan’s justice minister and attorney general, reiterated Monday that the province will use its new law to seize the profits of Thatcher’s book.
“We passed this law knowing that this publication was coming,” Morgan said in an interview. “Mr. Thatcher is a resident of Saskatchewan. The crime was committed in Saskatchewan, so our expectation is that our law applies and that we would be able to receive the funds.”
This is the first time that Saskatchewan has taken action under the new proceeds of crime legislation.
Morgan said the process of seizing the profits from Thatcher’s book has already begun and both Thatcher and his publisher are aware of the province’s intentions. But the minister could not say whether Thatcher plans to fight the seizure of his book profits.
“We don’t what position they’re taking yet.”
Morgan introduced Saskatchewan’s own Profits of Criminal Notoriety Act in May after word of the pending book prompted public discussion and a debate about whether the province needed to act.
Like similar acts in Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Alberta, the Saskatchewan legislation addresses the “recounting” of a crime by criminals for financial exploitation. The act allows the province to seize profits and forward them to victims of the crime in question or to a victims’ support fund.
The Saskatchewan legislation also borrows from the Alberta law to include the phrase “expression of thoughts or feelings” about the crime — and it’s that wording officials hope will cover the Thatcher book when it hits shelves in September.
In the book, entitled “Final Appeal: Anatomy of a Frame,” Thatcher, a former provincial cabinet minister, asserts his innocence in the murder of his ex-wife, JoAnn Wilson.
Wilson was bludgeoned and shot to death in the garage of her Regina home across the street from the Saskatchewan legislature in 1983. Thatcher was convicted of first-degree murder a year later and spent 22 years behind bars.
Publisher Jack David has said he doesn’t believe such laws would cover the Thatcher book. He also notes that Saskatchewan officials have not yet read the book.
David said the book, due to hit store shelves Sept. 1, describes the trial and Thatcher’s time behind bars, but not the gruesome slaying of his ex-wife. It also contains evidence uncovered by Thatcher’s private investigator that puts some witness testimony into dispute, said David.
The Ontario government letter points out that its decision does not apply to other governments or jurisdictions. David agreed that it’s “a handover from one government to another.”
“I think it means that they’re saying to Saskatchewan, ’OK, you guys, we’re going to toss the ball over to you. You can do whatever you want to do.’ It’s closer to home, obviously,” David told The Canadian Press in a phone interview on Monday.
“Does this change things at all? They’ll see the book and they’ll chew over it and have to decide.”