The Conservative government in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan is under scrutiny after a convicted murderer was invited to attend his tough on crime speech.
On Wednesday, the province’s Lieutenant Governor Russell Mirasty delivered the Speech from the Throne, outlining the Conservative administration’s agenda and saying the federal government was being “too soft” on violent offenders.
“This session, my government will take significant steps to crack down on the illegal and violent use of firearms in the commission of crimes to ensure that families feel safe in their communities,” Mirasty told a group of legislators, their guests and members of the public. gathered in the provincial capital of Regina.
Colin Thatcher, a former provincial cabinet minister and convicted murderer, was seated in the audience.
Thatcher was convicted in the 1983 death of his estranged wife JoAnn Wilson, who was found beaten and shot in the garage of her home nearly 40 years ago. The couple had been embroiled in a bitter divorce and a custody dispute over their three children.
Thatcher, who has long maintained his innocence, was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He served 22 years before being granted full parole in 2006.
Lyle Stewart, the provincial lawmaker who invited Thatcher, told The Canadian Press he was “a wonderful person” who had a difficult life due to the decades he had spent in prison for the murder of his wife.
“Colin was a longtime MP [member of the legislative assembly]and he’s a constituent of mine and a friend of mine and that’s why I [invited him] and I’m glad I did,” Stewart said.
But on Thursday, Stewart released a statement apologizing for the invitation which he called an “error in judgement.”
Provincial Public Safety Minister Christine Tell also defended Thatcher’s presence in the audience, telling reporters she did not think the lens of a convicted killer attending a speech on crime was problematic.
“He has now paid that debt to society…and he is living his life as a citizen of our province,” Christine Tell said. “He has the right to be here. It doesn’t matter. He has the right to be here like anyone else. He is a free citizen.
Thatcher declined to answer questions from reporters on whether he thought the province needed tougher measures on crime. After the speech, he attended a social gathering with Stewart.
Premier Scott Moe did not comment.
Saskatchewan’s rate of family violence is one of the highest in the country and more than double the national average.
NDP leader Carla Beck, who attended the speech, told reporters she was shocked Thatcher had been invited.
“I think it’s remarkable, again on a day when the government is talking about getting tough on crime,” she said. “I would ask the government to hold themselves to the same standards, to be a little less hypocritical about [domestic violence] and frankly digging into and actually addressing the issue of domestic violence.