The Haunting Effect of Paul Bernardo’s Crimes Still Felt by Canadians

The impact of Paul Bernardo’s crimes continues to haunt Canadians almost 30 years later, as revealed in the numerous messages received by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office following Bernardo’s transfer to a medium-security prison.

One message stated that a personal friend who served on Bernardo’s jury remains traumatized to this day, and that several jury members continue to meet regularly for psychological support. This highlights the lasting emotional toll that Bernardo’s crimes had on those involved in the justice system.

Bernardo was moved from a maximum-security penitentiary to a medium-security prison in late May, which triggered a strong emotional backlash from Canadians. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and others called on Trudeau and the public safety minister to reverse the decision, but the government explained that it was unable to intervene since the Correctional Service of Canada operates independently.

As a result of the outcry, a review was conducted to examine the decision to transfer Bernardo. The review concluded that the decision was correct, but acknowledged that the families of Bernardo’s victims could have been better notified.

Bernardo is serving an indeterminate life sentence for the kidnapping, torture, and murder of two teenage girls. He has been declared a dangerous offender. Canadians who reached out to Trudeau’s office shared their memories of the case and expressed their fear, sadness, and disgust at the time of the killings.

Bernardo’s crimes had a profound impact on communities, with some individuals recalling the fear and precautions they took during that period. Bernardo’s acts not only changed personal outlooks on security but also influenced how parents raised their children, emphasizing the importance of caution in everyday activities.

In addition to his crimes against the two murder victims, Bernardo admitted to sexually assaulting 14 other women. The messages sent to Trudeau’s office also revealed concerns from rape survivors who expressed their disappointment at Bernardo’s transfer to a medium-security prison.

The Correctional Service of Canada defended Bernardo’s transfer, stating that he is not a risk to the public in his current accommodations. The review of his move found that he met the criteria for reassignment as a medium-security prisoner, having demonstrated an ability to integrate with other offenders.

While the majority of the messages received by Trudeau’s office criticized Bernardo’s transfer, two organizations—the Canadian Prison Law Association and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies—voiced concerns about the opposition’s response, warning against emotional and punitive reactions to crime and incarceration.

The haunting effect of Paul Bernardo’s crimes serves as a grim reminder of the lasting impact that he had on the victims’ families, the justice system, and Canadian society as a whole.