Exclusive: Guards warned about Pickton’s book a year ago, union says
Published Tuesday, February 23, 2016 11:40AM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 23, 2016 11:55AM PST
The union representing federal prison guards says it warned the federal prison service about the scheme to publish a book by Canada’s most prolific convicted serial killer almost a year ago.
But the Correctional Service of Canada didn’t respond with orders to read or censor correspondence from Robert Pickton or from the other inmate who sent the manuscript from a maximum security prison – an order the guards need to seize writings, said the union’s regional president.
“We were made aware that the manuscript existed last March. That was the first time we talked about this book. We talked again in July and August. From that point we don’t know what the Correctional Service of Canada did with that information,” said Gord Robertson, the Pacific Regional President of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.
“We’ve seen assertions that Correctional Services Officers should have stopped this. We don’t have the right to read everything. There has to be an order given to use to allow us to read it,” he said.
Robertson said he’s not sure who was behind the scheme to get the book published – Pickton or the other inmate.
“Pickton did sign over the rights to that manuscript to another individual,” Robertson said. “Quite likely he was the one pushing for it to happen.”
It’s another clue into the curious story of how Pickton’s book was sent from the maximum security prison, Kent Institution, about 120 kilometers east of Vancouver. It appears that Pickton gave the manuscript to another inmate, who mailed it from prison.
The book then made its way to a retired California construction worker, Michael Chilldres, who typed it up and published it with Colorado-based Outskirts Press. Chilldres said he was doing it to raise money for a lawyer for that other inmate, an old friend of his.
The book briefly hit number one on Amazon Canada’s bestseller list, before appeals from families of the victims, Canada’s public safety minister, and B.C.’s premier prompted both Outskirts Press and Amazon to retract the book, with apologies.
The book, called “Pickton: In His Own Words,” was a 144-page argument for Pickton’s innocence, containing long passages about work on the convicted killer’s Port Coquitlam Pig Farm, but also slams police officers, prosecutors, the judge in the case and the jury for getting the case wrong.
That’s despite an enormous investigation, a lengthy search of the farm, witness testimony of Pickton both explaining how he planned to murder as many as 49 women, and one witness who said she saw Pickton butchering a woman.
Bringing back those memories has been a horrible experience, said the father of one of the victims, Ernie Crey.
“He’s left us in a prison of our own. I’m not going to buy that book. I’m encouraging other people not to buy it,” Crey said.
In Question Period in Ottawa Monday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he wanted an investigation into how the book got out.
“The impact of this book by Pickton is painfully traumatic,” he said. “We will be examining all those who have assisted in any way from this odious enterprise.”
The Correctional Service of Canada told CTV it is investigating. A spokesperson said the agency can’t speak about the events, in order to protect the inmates’ – including Robert Pickton’s – privacy.
But it did refer to Commissioner’s Directive 85, “Correspondence and Telephone Communication.” It says, “Normally, letters to and from inmates shall not be read.”
The directive lists several exceptions, including whether the correspondence would jeopardize safety, and the institutional head can decide the copy can be retained, with notification to the inmate.
Pickton has the right to write, said Robertson. “We can’t seize that kind of material.”
But Robertson said he supports a law that would prevent profits from going to inmates writing about their crimes.
“We need to have a law in place across the country,” he said.
Premier Christy Clark pushed for such a law Monday, as did Solicitor-General Mike Morris.
“There’s no way as long as I’m Sol-Gen that anyone’s going to make a nickel off Robert Pickton’s book,” Morris said.
Crey said he was writing to both federal and provincial government to ask for a law that prohibits profits from going to people writing about their own crimes.
“We have to take that incentive away from people like Mr. Pickton,” he said.
Right now, only four provinces have such a law: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.
A federal law was considered in 1997 but did not pass both the House of Commons and the Senate.