Drunk driver who killed family of 4 moved to 'healing lodge' after serving 1 month
A man who lost his son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren to a drunk driver says he was disappointed to learn that the woman sentenced to 10 years in prison for their deaths was moved to a minimum-security “healing lodge” just one month after her sentencing.
Jordan and Chanda Van de Vorst, along with their children Kamryn and Miguire, were killed last January when Catherine McKay ran a stoplight and crashed her SUV into their vehicle on Highway 11 north of Saskatoon.
McKay pleaded guilty last summer to four counts of impaired driving causing death. A joint submission by the Crown and defence stated she had consumed at least seven drinks and had been driving at 120 km/h.
McKay is living at the Okimaw Ohci healing lodge, a minimum-security facility that incorporates Aboriginal teachings into its rehabilitation programs. It has residential houses instead of cellblocks and inmates, including McKay, are allowed supervised day release.
Jordan Van de Vorst’s father Lou Van de Vorst says he is shocked that someone who killed four people could be transferred from prison so quickly, adding that the punishment should reflect the severity of the crime.
“We miss our kids every day,” Van de Vorst said. “More than once a day, my wife and I think of our children and our grandchildren and my daughter in law."
Corrections Canada would not comment on McKay’s specific case, but said that each offender gets assessed at intake and an individual rehabilitation program is made.
“Indigenous programs target offenders’ needs in the context of indigenous history, culture and spirituality while at the same time addressing the factors related to criminal behaviour,” Corrections Canada said.
McKay’s lawyer Leslie Sullivan said that she believes healing lodges make a positive impact.
Regina mental health councillor and residential school survivor Grant Severight also defended the use of a healing lodge for McKay.
“She didn’t get up that morning to say, ‘I’m going to go onto a highway in a drunken stupor, I’m going to run into this car and I’m going to kill people,’” he said. “She never planned that.”
Prisoner advocate John Hutton, who leads the John Howard Society of Manitoba, said that prison is not the right place for someone who suffers from addiction issues and does not present a danger to society.
He said McKay will likely be eligible for parole within a few years whether she’s at a healing lodge or not, and “she’s going to make a better use of that (time) in the healing lodge.”
Van de Vorst said he believes in rehabilitation but wants to see more consideration for victims. He also said he hopes McKay’s rehabilitation includes speaking out against impaired driving.
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