3 min

Parole officer’s murder did not have to happen

Lesbian partner has tough questions for the system

Credit: Xtra files

“How are you?” It’s a simple question, but one Anne Lynagh has been getting a lot these days. The answer, she says, is a whole lot more complicated than she ever imagined it would be.

“There are bad days, and there are good ones,” Lynagh sighs. It has now been six weeks since Lynagh’s partner of six years, Louise Pargeter, was murdered on the job.

Pargeter was a parole officer working in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. On Oct 6 she was asked to visit a parolee for a home visit. That parolee, Eli Ulayuk, had been released from prison after he had been put there in large part due to recommendations made by Pargeter. Lynagh argues it was well within the realm of possibility that Ulayuk would have a vendetta against Pargeter.

Pargeter arrived at the house, apparently under the impression that other members of the family would be there. They weren’t. Pargeter was stabbed to death.

Ulayuk will now stand trial for first-degree murder.

Lynagh would learn that her partner was dead more than five hours after Pargeter arrived for her final parole visit. Since then, the murder of Pargeter has raised a litany of questions about the way in which the Canadian government manages the safety of its parole officers. Why was Pargeter visiting this parolee on her own? Why, when Pargeter was missing in a town as small as Yellowknife, was response time by her superiors so incredibly slow? Why was Pargeter assigned this parolee, considering she had been instrumental in having him locked up for a two-year period prior to his being released earlier this year?

For her part, Lynagh feels the case was mismanaged. She has taken to the airwaves, giving interviews on national public-affairs shows to discuss the factors surrounding her partner’s death. Lynagh and Pargeter’s parents are calling for a full public inquiry and debate into the duties parole officers perform and the safety measures that are and are not taken to protect them. Lynagh suggests that one statistic alone is causefor alarm: in the past five years, 60 people have been murdered at the hands of parolees. Doing the math, that means one Canadian has been killed every month.

The federal government department in charge of parole officers, Corrections Canada, announced a series of changes in their safety protocol in late October, a direct response to Pargeter’s death. They include making sure that female parole officers do not visit parolees alone and that police are notified when such visits are taking place. As well, Corrections authorities in the Northwest Territories have launched an internal investigation that will table its findings in January.

But Lynagh says that’s not good enough. “This is a horror story, really,” she says. “The more you scratch the surface, the more horrifying it becomes. When we get to the bottom of this, I think the public will really be as horrified as we are.”

Lynagh and Pargeter’s parents insist that nothing short of an external review of the parole office in Yellowknife, as well as a complete review of the safety measures in place for parole officers across Canada, is what is needed.

Lynagh says she feels homophobia has not been a factor in this case. Despite Yellowknife being a small place, most people in the community knew that she and Pargeter had been together for years. Since Pargeter had recently given birth to their daughter, everyone who knew them knew they were parenting together and had formed a family.

“We never apologized for who we were and we didn’t take any shit. In a community this small, everyone knows a lot about everyone else. I’m not about to start apologizing now.”

But Lynagh is quick to add that she feels gender probably did play a role. “Misogyny is a big factor in northern communities,” she says. “There are a lot of attitudes toward women that are not good. There must be safe-guards taken for people whose jobs mean that they are placed in dangerous situations.”

At the time of her murder, Pargeter had just returned to her parole officer job after a year’s maternity leave. “This is terrible for me. But our daughter lost her mother on that day.”

There have already been services to honour and remember Pargeter in Yellowknife and in her home town of Calgary. On Mon, Nov 29, there will be a memorial service for her in Ottawa, where she will be presented posthumously with a medal for her dedication to the job.

“I appreciate the gesture,” says Lynagh. “It’s nice that shewill be honoured for her work. But I’d rather have Louise back than a medal.”