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Parole board internal report calls for changes in rural offices

An internal review of Renfrew County parole offices was conducted shortly after Borutski was arrested and found lapses in supervision played a part leading up to the murder of three women.

The coroner’s inquest into the September 22, 2015 murders of three women in the Ottawa Valley has heard several witnesses describe Basil Borutski’s complete defiance of probation orders including mandatory attendance for anger management sessions, his refusal to sign a no-contact order, and other acts of defiance which enabled him up until he murdered the three women.

During day 13 of the inquiry the five-person jury received an overview of an internal report prepared by the Eastern Ontario Probation Office which examined the practices and policies of staff in the Renfrew and Pembroke offices in order to identify any shortcomings that allowed Borutski to commit the murders and to make a “lessons learned” section with several recommendations.

Among the recommendations are the creation of a transportation model designed for a rural community that will ensure those on probation with mandatory programming arrive to each session, increased monitoring and contact with offenders who are recognized as high risk and mandatory training for staff with emphasis on understanding the challenges of a rural community.

The recommendations are what advocates for victims of domestic violence, women’s agencies and shelters and countless family and friends of 66-year-old Carol Culleton, 36-year-old Anastasia Kuzyk and 48-year-old Nathalie Warmerdam, is what they have been lobbying for, and that lobbying began before the women were murdered.

When asked about the issue of contact between probation officers and Borutski prior to September 2015, James Pearson, a quality assurance manager for the ministry told the jury that "in this case, I think victim contact could have been made more frequently.”

The jury was informed prior to his testimony that although Pearson was a parole officer during the time period that Borutski was involved with the offices in Renfrew and Pembroke, he had no contact with Borutski at the two offices. He was tasked with reviewing the administrative practices to see what staff did and did not do when dealing with the offender.

One of his findings was not favourable towards the supervisory staff.  He discovered the staff reported on Borutski’s status as a high-risk re-offender, the staff noted, “While the risk of further violence is high there is no indication early on in the supervision period, based on any information available that indicated he was of sufficient risk to be considered Intensive as few indications were present that he presented an imminent risk.”

Pearson explained the report stated, “In retrospect it appears that the client was struggling with substance abuse, had deeply entrenched criminal orientation and anti-social qualities and to look very deep there are subtle indications of deviance that may have been made clearer with additional collateral information from personal sources and police.”

He admitted to the panel there was room for improvement in terms of frequency of contact and referenced the new report which examines that issue recommends not only more resources be allocated for rural Ontario and increased programming resources for men released from jail following their sentence for domestic violence.

These recommendations are just some of the factors the inquest jurors will consider later this week as the inquest is expected to conclude. Any recommendations put forward by the jury will be in the spirit of bringing forward changes to policies and protocols to better protect and support survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) in rural communities.

The report, written by two senior managers created a “death committee review,” and submitted their report shortly after Borutski was formally charged with the murders. Although the report stated its purpose was not find fault or cast blame, some of the findings indicated the protocol of 2015 was not adequate and as a result, there was no substantial intervention towards Borutski prior to the killings.  

Additional findings within the report highlighted a shortcoming in terms of an emphasis on gathering information about the offender and less emphasis on gaining information from individuals with knowledge of the offender and the victim’s information was not as detailed as the offender’s.

History of defiance

From 2011 to 2015, Borutski had frequent interactions with his victims and was in an intimate relationship with Kuzyk and lived with Warmerdam and her children for about three years in that time period he was sentenced to jail on various offences including assault, assault of a police officer, uttering death threats and other actions that led to his classification of high risk to re-offend in both December 2014 and February 2015.

Not only did Borutski defiantly ignore court orders, but the parole staff did not appreciate his true intentions and substance abuse issues upon his release from prison in 2013. Despite a recommendation that he attend substance abuse counselling “as directed” by his probation officer, he was never issued a directive to attend the counselling sessions from his parole officer.  

Pearson explained that parole staff contacted Borutski's brother and doctor and they had no concerns in the area of substance abuse. It was an assessment in direct contradiction of Warmerdam who informed staff he became violent and dangerous when drinking.

Valerie Warmerdam, daughter of Nathalie Warmerdam and one of three parties granted standing during the inquest, was visibly frustrated after Pearson’s report indicated that her late mother’s opinion of the man who shared her home, was less valued than others who had far less frequent contact with him. . 

"Do you think its good practice to consider the victim's information about triggers of violence in a domestic violence perpetrator to be less important than other sources," Warmerdam asked. "Certainly not," he replied. 

He never suffered any consequences for failure to attend the sessions citing a no-contact order which restricted his ability to enter Bonnechere Valley Township where the sessions were held. When informed of this, parole staff worked with the manager of programming to switch the location so he could attend without violating his parole. Despite parole staff making it possible for him to attend, he failed to attend one session.

Around the same time he brutally beat Kuzyk in her Wilno home resulting in severe injuries and was sentenced to jail for his crime. Once again upon his release he refused to attend court-ordered sessions stating he was very confused upon his release and was overwhelmed with anxiety.

Pearson acknowledged the lack of consequences for disobeying probation orders and a recommendation dealing with that issue was addressed in the report.

“It is recognized that tolerance for offenders not complying with the conditions in their probation orders once they're deemed high risk should be "decreased," Pearson said. 

It is now standard policy that a parole officer must make a decide within one day on whether to place a “high-risk” classification on an individual if an individual exhibits the ability to offend in a domestic violence situation.

He concluded his summary of the report by informing the panel that the report was shared with probation service managers and officials at the Ministry of the Solicitor General. He said probation officers were not involved when the findings and recommendations were shared with other staff due to confidentiality issues.

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