Home Page News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising FAQ
Log In

Probe into death of sex worker suspended due to pandemic, say Correctional Service officials

By Palak Mangat      

'Some interviews will have to take place in person to properly conduct the investigation and so, it comes to its natural endpoint,' says Alain Tousignant, senior deputy commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, pictured on May 1, said in January that the Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Services of Canada would be carrying out a joint investigation into the death of 22-year-old sex worker Marylène Levesque, which has since been stalled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

The government’s probe into the death of a Quebec woman who was stabbed to death by a man granted day parole has been temporarily suspended because of the pandemic, says the correctional services commissioner. 

Marylène Levesque, a 22-year-old sex worker, was killed in January by a man out on day parole who was allowed to have relations with women to meet his “sexual needs.” 

“Because of COVID-19, we suspended the investigation for the time being, because those involved had to travel and of course that was not possible during COVID-19,” Anne Kelly, commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, told the House Health committee Monday.

 Under questioning from Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, Que.), Ms. Kelly said work will eventually “resume,” but did not provide a definitive date. The decision to suspend was made in mid-March, she said, when the outbreak was declared a “national health emergency.” (The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11.)

Noting that committee meetings are being held on Zoom, Mr. Paul-Hus asked why the probe could not also continue virtually. Ms. Kelly deferred to her senior deputy commissioner, Alain Tousignant, who likened the question to comparing “apples and oranges.”

“I think it’s a completely different kettle of fish, holding this kind of committee and running an investigation and speaking to employees, asking for their versions of the facts regarding situations, which were highly traumatic for them, and that have a great gravitas,” said Mr. Tousignant in French.

“In some cases, it will be possible to make summaries and to carry out some interviews over the phone and videoconferencing,” he added. “However, some interviews will have to take place in person to properly conduct the investigation and so, it comes to its natural endpoint.”

Ms. Levesque was found dead in a hotel room on Jan. 22 in a Quebec City suburb. Eustachio Gallese, a 51-year-old convict who was granted day parole, has since been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. 

Initially charged with second-degree murder, he then had his charges upgraded to first-degree murder, to which he pleaded guilty on Feb. 27. Ms. Levesque worked in a massage parlour, and had met Mr. Gallese at hotels before, according to reports. He admitted to planning the murder and stabbing her with a knife in the abdomen 30 times.

Mr. Gallese was sentenced in 2006 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years for the 2004 murder of his ex-wife, Chantale Deschênes. In a CBC report, parole documents showed he hit her on the head with a hammer and stabbed her numerous times after she decided to leave him.

The Parole Board of Canada turned down his request for full parole in September 2019, but granted him day parole with conditions and said his likelihood to reoffend was “low to moderate.” A deal with his case worker allowed him to have relations with women to meet his “sexual needs,” and he was required to disclose any relations he had to his parole officer.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair (Scarborough Southwest, Ont.) announced on Jan. 27 that the agency and Parole Board would be jointly investigating the death “that led to [her] tragic death.” According to Radio-Canada, the investigation could have ended as early as the beginning of April, as both the CSC and PBC allowed themselves two months to conduct the probe and make public the subsequent report. 

Ms. Levesque’s death has sparked widespread outrage from those working in the sex work industry; advocates calling for better protection under the country’s prostitution laws; and MPs. 

Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger has called for an independent inquiry to properly probe the death, instead of what he has called an “internal investigation” that’s carried out by the very agencies accused of mishandling the file.

At the time of Mr. Zinger’s February remarks, Mr. Blair said in a statement Ottawa is “committed to getting to the bottom of this situation.” The two vice-chairs overseeing the probe are external to both groups and “will be empowered to share any concerns publicly,” he said. 

The Hill Times

Palak Mangat

Palak Mangat is an online reporter with The Hill Times.
- pmangat@hilltimes.com

Feds say too early to talk opening Canada-U.S. border, but experts push for plan

News|By Neil Moss
There are a 'whole series of very complicated questions that nobody is talking about,' says border expert Edward Alden on the lack of planning for an eventual border reopening.

Has the Hill changed for women in the workplace post-#MeToo?

News|By Alice Chen
New prescribed policies, procedures forced people to think about how they were acting, creating a 'profound' change in terms of staff understanding how they need to relate in the workplace, says the PMO's Marci Surkes.

Syrian security situation used as guise for not having political will to repatriate detained Canadians, say experts

News|By Neil Moss
'I think [the Canadian government] needs to demonstrate a stronger case that there is a real security problem and it has never been able to do so,' says former diplomat Daniel Livermore.

New Senator working group to explore diversity, inclusion training in Red Chamber

Ontario ISG Senator Rosemary Moodie says the new group shows the ‘significant investment’ the Senate is putting into pursuing ‘meaningful improvement.’

Lone wolf MPs break down what it’s like to be a region’s solitary party voice

News|By Alice Chen
'It’s like you walk around and you have a target on your back … there is something a bit, not sadistic, but satisfying in getting rid of the last MP standing,' says McGill Prof. Daniel Béland.

Senate eyes filling The Chambers as renovation plans progress

More interim office space will be needed to house Senators who are set to be displaced by future renovation projects in the Parliamentary Precinct.

UNDRIP law a ‘game changer’ for reconciliation, says AFN’s Bellegarde, calling for accelerated plan in two years

Requiring free, prior, and informed consent is not a veto, says a former judge, it’s about how the government ‘operationalizes’ its approach to projects early on.

Duelling Liberal, NDP conventions a pre-election glimpse into campaign readiness

It was more important for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to distinguish his offer from the Liberal government, say politicos, with both parties presenting resolutions that offered similar progressive policy solutions. 

Canadians are ‘confused and anxious’: COVID-19’s third wave making Trudeau Liberals ‘vulnerable,’ say pollsters

News|By Abbas Rana
Canadians are tired and worried and they aren't making distinctions between the federal and provincial governments.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.