Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Report on Quebec woman murdered by offender on day parole calls for better oversight

Report on Quebec woman murdered by offender on day parole calls for better oversight

Correctional authorities will change how federal offenders on day parole are managed in Quebec following recommendations in a report released Thursday into the murder of Marylene Levesque nearly one year ago.

A joint investigation by corrections and parole officials into the management of Eustachio Gallese’s case found there were warning signs his case management team did not properly assess.

Levesque, 22, was found dead Jan. 22 in a Quebec City hotel room, stabbed numerous times by Gallese.

Gallese had met Levesque, a sex worker, in June 2019 during visits to an erotic massage parlour for sexual purposes — something he was granted permission to do by a parole officer, despite his history of domestic violence.

The permission was subsequently revoked by the Parole Board of Canada in September 2019, but when he pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder last February, Gallese told a judge he didn’t abide by the edict. Gallese was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for 25 years for Levesque’s killing.

During that hearing, the court heard that Gallese began to develop a “certain attachment” to Levesque, but had become jealous and obsessed and feared rejection when he stabbed her 30 times before turning himself in hours later.

At the time, Gallese had been serving a sentence for second-degree murder in the killing of his ex-spouse in 2004.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who joined the heads of the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board to discuss the report Thursday, said Levesque’s death was preventable.

“The board of investigation has identified shortcomings in the case management and supervision of the offender while he was in the community,” Blair told a virtual news conference.

“This was a terrible tragedy that should never have happened, and Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada are taking very significant steps to make sure it never happens again.”

The head of the Correctional Service of Canada said it does not approve delinquents having access to sexual services. Anne Kelly told a news conference that in 37 years at the service, it’s not something she had heard of.

“The community supervision strategy in this case was completely inappropriate,” Kelly said, noting a Canada-wide review of community release strategies was conducted after Levesque’s killing.

In response to the report, the Correctional Service of Canada says that it will be taking control of all aspects of community supervision of federal offenders in Quebec to create a single system in the country.

Quebec was the only province where the model of supervision allowed staff at community residential facilities to supervise parolees — an arrangement that had existed for 40 years.

But the report noted “the community supervision model in place in Quebec led to shortcomings in how this case was managed,” with confusion regarding roles and responsibilities between the halfway house and the correctional service.

The supervision of roughly 155 federal offenders in Quebec currently overseen by staff outside the Correctional Service of Canada will revert to the federal agency.

“At this point, what I’d like to see is a uniform model across the country in terms of the supervision of federal offenders in Canada,” Kelly said.

The federal corrections agency oversees about 9,400 paroled offenders in communities across the country, including about 2,000 in Quebec.

The report also called for better collection and sharing of information on offenders and better followup with contacts, such as family and acquaintances, to evaluate risks an offender might pose. Parole officers will have to undergo intimate partner violence training as well.

Conservative public safety critic Shannon Stubbs and Pierre Paul-Hus, the party’s critic for public service and procurement, said in a statement that Gallese should never have been out on parole.

“We are dismayed and concerned by the issues identified in the report looking into the senseless murder of Marylene Levesque,” they said. “There are serious, ongoing issues in our corrections system that the Liberal government is responsible for fixing.”

The report did not include any recommendations for the Parole Board of Canada but did note that while Gallese was told not to go to massage parlours for sexual services, the written decision didn’t emphasize that aspect. That discrepancy wasn’t considered a factor in the killing.

However, the Parole Board of Canada has requested members undergo refresher courses on writing decisions, with a focus on consistency between oral instructions and what ends up in writing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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