CALGARY—A Calgary man has started an online petition with the hope of revoking day parole for a woman who was imprisoned for his little girl’s death.
Ryan McGrath’s daughter, Ceira, was 18 months old when she was asphyxiated by the strap of a car seat while inside a closet for hours at an unlicensed day home in November 2015.
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Elmarie Simons, the home’s operator, pleaded guilty last April to criminal negligence causing death and was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.
The Parole Board of Canada has granted Simons day parole—a decision which McGrath says sets a frightening precedent in cases involving serious offenders.
He plans to take the petition to the federal justice minister with the goal of bringing about changes in the parole system.
So far, he’s gathered almost 5,000 names.
“I think people are similarly outraged like we are. It’s good to see the support and I hope it keeps growing,” McGrath says.
He says the family was not notified of Simons’s scheduled parole hearing in January and was shocked to learn there’s also the possibility of full parole by this summer.
“The sentence was outrageous. The parole board even states that she (Simons) shows little insight or regard for her crime and hasn’t even accepted responsibility, yet she’s granted parole. The system’s broken and it needs change.”
The parole board and Correctional Service of Canada do not automatically update victims or families of victims on the timing of parole hearings or their outcomes.
Officials say some people prefer not to receive any further information about an offender, while those who would like updates must submit forms.
McGrath says the requirements to receive updates on Simons’s parole eligibility may have been discussed following her sentencing, but if they were, the family missed it.
During her sentencing hearing, court was told Simons put Ceira in a child seat that was too small, buckled the chest strap, and left her in a dark closet for more than five hours.
Simons left the home to run errands. Her visiting brother was at the house, but she didn’t tell him that Ceira was upstairs.
Under terms of her day parole, Simons cannot provide care for any child under the age of 12 unless she is supervised by another adult who has been approved by her parole supervisor.
She must also take a treatment plan and refrain from contact with the McGrath family.