Friends of Roxanne Louie seek reversal of decision to grant her murderer day parole

A red dress symbolizing MMIWG+ hangs in syilx Okanagan territory on Red Dress Day in 2021. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna

CONTENT WARNING: This story includes content regarding “Canada’s” ongoing genocidal epidemic of MMIWG+ including graphic details. Please look after your spirit and read with care.

More than 300 people have signed a petition demanding that the Parole Board of Canada reverse a decision to grant six-month day parole to a woman serving life in prison for murdering syilx mother Roxanne Louie.

Laurie Wilson, a syilx community member and friend of Louie, created the petition which says the Parole Board’s process has been “patently unfair and discriminatory against the family of Roxanne Louie and the Okanagan Nation at large.”

She writes that Louie’s family and community were not notified or given an opportunity to provide input when killer Grace Robotti was in the process of being granted conditional release.

“We, the undersigned, demand that the Parole Board of Canada rescind the granting of any parole to Grace Robotti because of the lack of input from (Roxanne’s) family and community,” the petition states. 

“A decision in this matter should be delayed until the submissions from family and community can be heard, recorded and considered.”

Parole board says Robotti has ‘expressed genuine remorse’

Robotti, now 73, was sentenced to life in prison in 2017 with no eligibility for parole after 10 years for killing Louie in 2015. She was charged with second-degree murder and indignity to a dead body. 

Louie, a member of Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB), was 26 years old and the mother of Robotti’s great-grandson. Robotti is originally from Italy.

According to the Parole Board of Canada’s decision in granting Robotti day parole — which was made official in December 2023 — Robotti struck Louie multiple times in the head with a crowbar following a dispute over the care of Louie’s child, which occurred in the presence of the child at Robotti’s home in snpink’tn (Penticton).

“You struck the victim multiple times to the head and face, more than what was necessary to merely provide for your own safety,” the Parole Board wrote to Robotti in their decision.

After the incident, Robotti enlisted the help of her brother, Pier, to hide Louie’s body. A court heard during her trial that the siblings carried Louie’s body into a car, drove to a secluded forested area in the nearby community of Naramata, and dumped her body down an embankment. 

The Parole Board’s decision goes on to tell Robotti: “From the outset of your sentence, you have expressed genuine remorse for your actions. Through successful completion of programming, you have made significant gains in your ability to take responsibility and accountability.”

A special condition for her day parole was imposed, where she is not to have any direct or indirect contact with Louie’s family, “unless with the prior written authorization of your Parole Officer,” the decision states.

“You were able to identify how your offence is likely to have undermined the sense of safety Indigenous people may feel.”

The Parole Board ultimately decided that Robotti’s risk to society while on day parole “would not be undue” and would “contribute to your reintegration as a law-abiding citizen.”

“As a result of your good institutional behaviour and your program performance you also improved upon your correctional plan ratings. Your progress is a risk mitigating consideration,” the decision adds.

When Robotti was sentenced in 2017, the court ruled that she would not be eligible for parole for 10 years. Yet, the Parole Board’s decision in granting day parole to Robotti comes six years into her sentence. 

“Under the law, all offenders in federal custody, including those serving life sentences, are eligible for parole consideration at some point in their sentence,” the Parole Board of Canada wrote in a statement to IndigiNews.

The statement attributed to Lisa Saether, the Parole Board’s Pacific regional manager of community relations, also noted that people serving life sentences are eligible to apply for day parole three years before their full parole eligibility date.

The Parole Board had also approved multiple escorted temporary absences (ETAs) for Robotti in July 2021 and December 2022. She was assessed as a minimum-security offender in February 2022, and has been housed at a minimum-security institution since March 2022. Prior to being granted day parole, she was accepted for day parole destinations at two undisclosed local community residential facilities.

In making decisions, the Parole Board said that their members “consider all relevant available information related to the offender’s case,” such as the nature and gravity of the offence; information obtained from victims, the offender and other components of the criminal justice system; and including assessments provided by correctional authorities.

However, in Wilson’s petition, she writes that the decision to grant parole was “based only on (Robotti’s) own self serving submissions and behaviour in a restricted environment “

“Family and community are outraged at the circumstances that allowed Ms. Robotti to make submissions while the family was not notified or given an opportunity to make submissions,” she writes.

Many syilx community members, including Marty Marchand, learned about Robotti’s granted day parole through local media coverage. 

“(The Parole Board) never even contacted any of Roxanne’s family or any of those who had a victim impact letter,” said Marchand, who was a friend of Louie.

“They never even contacted one person to inform them that Grace was applying for day parole and then was granted it.”

Wilson called it “the height of incompetence and of insults.”

“I don’t know how they can justify making that decision based on her submissions only,” she said. “I would’ve picked up the phone and talked to someone in the family.”

Individuals have to be registered as victims in order to receive information about the offender who harmed them — such as parole date hearings, which they are able to attend virtually or in-person, the Parole Board’s statement said.

At parole hearings, victims can outline any “continuing physical, emotional or financial impact the offence has had on them.” They can also request that the Parole Board consider that certain special conditions be imposed on the offender’s release.

The Parole Board’s statement pointed out that people can register as victims through the Parole Board’s online “Victims Portal,” or by completing a registration form with the Parole Board or Correctional Service Canada.  

“Victims may provide information to the PBC at any time related to safety concerns, the offender’s risk to re-offend and/or the effect the crime has had on them, their family, or the community,” the Parole Board’s statement added.

“While I can appreciate how concerning it can be to victims, their family and the community when an offender is granted a form of conditional release, I can assure you that public safety is always the paramount consideration in all PBC decisions.”

‘Disgrace for the criminal justice system’

On January 5, around 70 people from the community came together, drummed and marched to the snpink’tn courthouse to denounce the Parole Board’s decision. syilx leadership and local government joined family members in expressing “disgrace for the criminal justice system.” 

At the time of her murder, Louie had been living in “Vancouver” and was visiting family and friends in snpink’tn for the holidays. 

“It was her first year down there for fashion school,” said Wilson.

“As a little girl, that’s all she did was draw — draw pretty dresses and look at pretty dresses.”

She remembers how her daughters, with their kids, would regularly go to the beach in snpink’tn with Louie and her child when she was living there. 

“She was just a joy,” said Wilson.

“And then you see her with her kid, you go, ‘Wow, I just love seeing that.’ I just loved seeing it.”

In 2013, Louie and her child’s father Dylan Spence, who is the grandson of Robotti, became “estranged after a violent incident,” according to local media coverage of the trial, leading to a bitter custody battle between the two families over the child.

Wilson said she spent years helping Louie by acting as her legal advisor as she was dealing with such issues.

“We knew for years (Robotti) was threatening her. I advised her during all the times that they applied for custody, when they called the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) on her,” said Wilson, who launched the petition shortly after the rally for Louie.

“I was her legal advocate at that time, so I knew what she was afraid of.”

The goal of Wilson’s petition is 500 signatures, and even if that’s met, she said that she has little faith in the Parole Board reversing their day parole decision for Robotti.

“She isn’t a danger to any other white person, so they’ll forget about her. There will be no impact, not even a ripple, for what she did in her circles,” she said.

After Louie’s death, a court heard that the Robottis scattered her belongings and the murder weapon in dumpsters strewn throughout the city, before reporting her missing. About a week later, they turned themselves into the police when Pier revealed the offence to multiple people. 

Friends and family of Louie believe that she might have still been alive during the ordeal. 

“There were handprints on the tree, like she was trying to get up and get out. This is the treatment of our people,” said Marchand, who organized the rally in her honour last month.

The night before she died, Wilson said Louie had told her cousin that, “the only thing they have left to do is kill me, because they want the boy.”

“This was the end of that fight – (Louie) had to go to court to be able to take her son to Vancouver. And (the Robottis) lost that. So her fears — and my fears as her advocate — went sky high when that happened.”

Wilson said that she wasn’t surprised by the Parole Board’s outcome, calling it a reflection of systemic issues within the “Canadian” justice system. 

“The two-tier system is really, really evident sometimes,” she said. 

She also criticized the Parole Board’s tender treatment of Robotti, arguing that had the roles been reversed, Louie would have no chance at parole.

“This would not happen to an Indian. This just would not happen if this was an Indian person. Everybody knows that,” she said.

Marchand shared similar sentiments.

“If I committed that crime, we wouldn’t be getting that treatment. And I know that because my skin is brown,” said Marchand.

Both Wilson and Marchand said that they intend on keeping Louie’s memory alive and calling attention to the injustices towards her. 

Wilson said she wants to leave copies of the petition at local band offices, and hopes to meet with chiefs and councils across the Okanagan to discuss justice for Louie. 

“Just the pain of losing a bright light. It’s someone you look at and smile. You go, ‘Man … she’s done good for herself,” said Wilson. 

“She was just different.”

Source link

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart