As the hoi polloi calling for Marco Mendicino’s head continues to grow over the transfer of convicted killer and rapist Paul Bernardo to a medium security prison, there is a rather odd defence for the public safety minister which has not been explored.

The staffers who knew about Bernardo’s transfer were undoubtedly young — perhaps too young to even know who Bernardo is.

Hence, the truth is spoken regarding political aides on Parliament Hill being described by MPs as the “boys (and girls) in short pants.” They are not paid much.

A spokesperson for the prime minister’s office has revealed that Justin Trudeau was only told the convicted felon would be moved to a medium-security prison on the day it happened — despite his staff being notified months in advance.

Ditto with Mendicino.

There are now calls from the Opposition for his resignation, of course, after news broke earlier this week that his office was also told three months ago about Bernardo’s impending transfer.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre believes Marco Mendicino should be held responsible and doesn’t believe his claims that he did not know of the transfer ahead of time.

Now I’m just guessing. But in 2015, when I was a communications advisor to Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, I got the distinct impression that the age of the average political aide was somewhere around 23.

So, in today’s world, that puts them born in the year 2000.

Paul Bernardo was born in 1964. At 58, he is damn near an old man. When he was committing his heinous crimes, first as the Scarborough Rapist and then as a schoolgirl killer between the years of 1987 and 1990.

So the majority of aides on Parliament Hill had yet to be born when Bernardo was doing his dirty work. Ask them what the Berlin Wall was and you’ll probably get some puzzling looks, although politics might help them make a connection.

When it comes to Paul Bernardo, however, it is extremely doubtful he was ever studied in high school so how would they know about this particular psychopath who committed his offences a decade before they were born?

So there is the possibility that when word came down of Bernardo’s transfer from the Millhaven maximum-security penitentiary near Kingston, Ont., to a medium-security prison in the Quebec Laurentians, he’d be no different from a “Joe Smith.”

There’d be no red flags, just a name. And you can’t possibly know what you don’t know.

Now this may be a bit of a reach but with first-hand knowledge of Parliament Hill such as mine; it may just have some credence — which would drive Trudeau and Mendicino up a wall when, if true and knowing what they know, they didn’t get word of Bernardo’s transfer until the 11th hour.

Trudeau is 51; Mendicino’s 49. Twice the age of the average staffer, they’re old enough to know.

Mendicino expressed shock when news of the controversial transfer broke. Correctional Services has since confirmed his office was informed of the pending transfer on March 2, and then notified again on May 25 that it would be happening four days later.

The public safety minister says his staff never told informed him and corrective measures have been taken in his office.

He released a statement on Wednesday afternoon, saying he shared the “anger and disappointment” of the decision and outlined the directives he will be issuing to the Correctional Service of Canada “to ensure that they put victim’s rights at the centre of these decisions.”

The minister has not said if anyone on his team has been fired, and neither has the prime minister.


  • Mark Bonokoski

    Mark Bonokoski is a member of the Canadian News Hall of Fame and has been published by a number of outlets – including the Toronto Sun, Maclean’s and Readers’ Digest.