Shane Ertmoed (right) is serving a life sentence for killing 10-year-old Heather Thomas on Oct. 1, 2000. (File photos)

Shane Ertmoed (right) is serving a life sentence for killing 10-year-old Heather Thomas on Oct. 1, 2000. (File photos)

Petition to keep Heather Thomas’ Cloverdale killer in prison doesn’t change parole board decision

The family of 10-year-old girl wants an end to unescorted absences by murderer Shane Ertmoed

The Parole Board of Canada is not budging on its decision to allow a convicted murderer from Cloverdale to go on escorted absences from the prison.

A petition started in Langley, calling for convicted killer Shane Ertmoed to remain behind bars without parole or day release has gathered more than 16,000 signatures.

Heather Thomas was 10 years old when she was lured and murdered by Ertmoed, in 2000.

Her body was later discovered by hikers near Maple Ridge.

Ertmoed was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

However, the petition, launched by Langley lawyer Rebecca Darnell on behalf of Heather’s family, notes that Ertmoed has been making applications for temporary absences from prison for several years, and starting in May of this year, the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) granted his request for escorted absences.

Darnell said Ertmoed is now allowed outside his prison, a minimum-security facility on Vancouver Island, for up to eight hours a day, five days a week.

“It has been advised that he will be employed by a non-profit organization to clean up public parks and trails, which are frequented by young children, teenagers, and families,” Darnell wrote in the petition.

Darnell also started a gofundme campaign to raise $50,000 for treatment and education for Heather Thomas’s mother and brother.

“Ertmoed disclosed during the parole hearing that he recently had a disturbing sexual urge,” the petition notes.

Darnell has sent the petition’s 16,000 signatures to the Parole Board as well as to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“He is not safe and the Parole Board in rubber stamping his release places the community in unacceptable danger,” Darnell wrote in the letter accompanying the petition.

The Parole Board found that Ertmoed was an “average” risk to re-offend during its hearing on his request for absences.

The board responded to the petition and letters by saying that the complaints were inadmissible to its process.

“We have also determined that the PBC did uphold Ms. Aspin’s rights as a victim under the CVBR [Canadian Victims Bill of Rights] in its May 4, 2021 decision,” said the letter, signed by PBC executive director general Daryl Churney.

“Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), all offenders in federal custody, including those serving a life sentence, are eligible for various types of conditional release at different points in their sentence,” Churney wrote. “While I can appreciate how concerning it can be to a victim when an offender is granted a form of conditional release, I would like to assure you that the protection of society is always the paramount consideration in all PBC decisions.”

Darnell said the issue is broader than just Ertmoed, comparing him to other killers who have made bids for parole recently, including the notorious Ontario killer and rapist Paul Bernardo.

“The family and friends of Heather are asking that the government of Canada conduct a public inquiry into the treatment of those who take a life for sexual gratification,” Darnell said.

READ MORE: Petition, fundraiser started for family of Surrey girl murdered in 2000

A public inquiry should be held into the operation of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Parole Act, Darnell wrote, to obtain recommendations for ensuring community safety.

“I am not advocating for reinstating the death penalty but rather to ensure that life in prison means just that and that any opportunity for release into the community is thoroughly examined by those who are independent and objective as well as qualified to analyze and understand the gravity of the potential release of these offenders into our community,” Darnell wrote.

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