Families of Paul Bernardo’s victims charged $19K in legal costs

A Canadian senator is urging the federal government to apologize after asking the families of Paul Bernado’s victims to pay thousands of dollars in legal costs.

In 2021, the families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy—who were kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered by Bernardo in the early 1990s—requested documents about the convicted felon’s parole hearing application.

The government denied their Access to Information and Privacy Act request and the decision was later upheld in court.

As a result, a lawyer representing the families said they were asked to pay $19,000 in legal fees.

Lawyer Tim Danson called the decision “disappointing” when speaking with CTV News Toronto on Thursday, and said they are currently appealing the ruling in federal court.

The fees, however, have since been waived.

“When the government lawyers understood that, to make a long story short, that we were going to shame them with respect for seeking costs against these particular families…they backed it off and they waived the requirement for the families to pay costs,” Danson said.

“That issue has now been resolved. But the fact that they sought $19,000 plus from the families is shocking, quite frankly.”

The issue was brought up again this week as the Senate continued to debate the transfer of Bernardo to a medium-security prison.

Conservative Senator Don Plett called the fees “shameful,” and said in the chamber the costs were only waived because the government was embarrassed.

He told CTV News Toronto that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should publicly apologize to the families.

“That would be the very first step,” he said on Thursday. “It’s an embarrassment to our country.”

“The government here has just simply been defending Paul Bernardo as against the victim’s family. And it’s just as clear as it can be and the most shameful thing in the world.”

The Correctional Service of Canada said it would review Bernardo’s transfer to ensure it was appropriate, evidence-based, and “adequately considered victims,” following the public and political outrage of its decision.

He is serving a life sentence in connection with the kidnapping, torture and murder of 15-year-old French and 14-year-old Mahaffy, and has also been convicted of manslaughter in the 1990 death of 15-year-old Tammy Homolka.

CTV News Toronto has reached out to the Minister of Public Safety for comment.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Siobhan Morris

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