12 September 2013 – In Edmonton, on September 11th, families of the victims expressed their overall pleasure with the sentence given to multiple killer, Travis Baumgartner, of 40 years without parole for killing his co-workers. Yet, their ongoing pain was also clear.
Baumgartner, the former armoured car guard who shot four of his co-workers, three fatally, in a robbery on the University of Alberta campus in June 2012, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 40 years. It is the harshest sentence handed down in Canada since Arthur Lucas was executed in 1962 for the murder of a police informant.
Associate Chief Justice John Rooke described Baumgartner’s crime as unspeakable, outrageous, cowardly and cold-blooded. Baumgartner, showing “absolutely no compassion for life,” executed the guards in cold blood, shooting three in the back of the head at point blank range, Rooke said. The fourth guard was “ambushed, taken by surprise with no chance.”
While Rooke’s voice cracked as he quoted excerpts from the victim impact statements, Baumgartner remained expressionless in the prisoner’s box. In his decision, Rooke considered two aggravating factors: that the crime was planned and was a breach of trust, saying Baumgartner was hired specifically to keep his colleagues safe.
Rooke agreed to a joint request from the Crown and defence that Travis Baumgartner, 22, be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 40 years, setting a precedent under legislation passed in 2011 that allows judges to hand out consecutive sentences to multiple murderers.
Reaction to sentencing
Chief Crown prosecutor Steve Bilodeau said the sentence sends a message that in cases of multiple murder, it matters that more than one person has died.
Bilodeau said Baumgartner’s sentence indicates how strongly the community feels about the victims of violence, adding that the legal change came about because past victims felt that justice wasn’t being done.
Outside the courtroom, the families of the victims spoke about the ruling, many expressing support for the judge’s decision.
“[Rooke] gave us some hope that within our justice system we can count on the fact that when there is a multiple murder … there is going to be honouring of more than one victim, more than one loss of life,” said Brian Ilesic’s aunt, Janet Stosky.
“I’m not sure that when you are going through this level of pain if you can ever feel satisfied with the justice that is available … but I do believe they worked very hard for us and I think that we’re grateful. And I think that we’ve been honoured today.”
However, Eddie Rejano’s brother Joseph said nothing will replace the loss of his brother, who was also the father of two.
“They’re growing up without their father. You can’t explain that to a child,” he said.
“It’s the system” he said. “You call it justice, sure, justice — but my way of justice is back in the old days you hang them. That’s justice for what he did.”
“It’s one of the better sentences we’ve ever had in Canada, considering the death penalty is out now,” said Victor Shegelski, “but my wife is still dead. And now I get to contribute my tax money to keep her killer alive – so that’s definitely disappointing.”
Baumgartner pleaded guilty in the deaths of Michelle Shegelski, 26, Eddie Rejano, 39, and Brian Ilesic, 35, at HUB Mall, a student residence and indoor food court. A fourth guard, Matthew Schuman, was critically injured in the shooting.
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) was recently amended when Parliament passed Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act. Now, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) can share more types of information with registered victims and more people will be eligible to register as victims.
The definition of a victim under the CCRA has been broadened. If a victim of crime is deceased, or is not able to act for him or herself, anyone who has custody of, or is responsible for, a dependent of a victim is eligible to receive information about the offender. For example, agencies or individuals that have legal guardianship of a minor may now register as a victim with CSC or PBC to receive information about the offender.
As a result of the amendments to the CCRA, CSC can now share the following additional types of information:
- the reason why an offender is transferred from one institution to another;
- advance notification, if possible, of when an offender is transferred to a minimum-security institution (notification for transfers to other security levels will continue to be provided);
- the reasons for any temporary absences approved for the offender;
- the programs, designed to address the offender’s needs and contribute to their successful reintegration into the community, in which the offender is participating or has participated;
- any serious disciplinary offences the offender has committed during their sentence.
CSC will continue to provide registered victims with ongoing information about transfers, temporary absences and travel permits as these events occur. However, information about an offender’s program participation and serious disciplinary offences will be provided, if the victim wishes to receive it, by way of a written annual summary report. CSC believes providing a written report will be helpful given the amount of information that could be contained in such a report. Due to the number of people registered to receive this information, CSC plans to distribute these reports over the course of the coming year. If a need to receive this report by a particular date arises (for example, if the offender has a parole hearing or court appearance coming up), CSC will make every effort to provide it within the requested timeframe.
You can learn more about the recent changes by visiting CSC’s Victim Services website at www.csc-scc.gc.ca/victims-victimes/index-eng.shtml.
These amendments also affect the Parole Board of Canada. Under the amended CCRA, a registered victim may also request from the PBC:
- information about why an offender has waived a hearing; and
- the reason for any Unescorted Temporary Absence (UTA).
As well, through the PBC Decision Registry, anyone may request copies of Board decisions, including decisions on Escorted Temporary Absences (ETA) under Board authority.
Any registered victim may present a statement at a hearing, and this right is now entrenched in law. This has been a practice at the Board for many years. As well, the PBC will be able to go forward with a parole review and make decisions on a case if an offender withdraws his or her participation 14 days or less before the hearing date. This does not apply if the withdrawal is for reasons beyond the offender’s control. It also does not affect an offender’s right to request a postponement, to waive a hearing, or to withdraw a temporary absence application.
You can find more information, including how to apply to the PBC Decision Registry, by visiting www.pbc-clcc.gc.ca. The form that victims complete to request information from CSC and PBC has been updated to reflect the changes introduced by Bill C-10. It is posted on their websites.