Why are we still obsessed with Karla Homolka?

Ex-convict, celebrity, pariah. What the aftermath of the Châteauguay revelation says about our media and justice system.


“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” — The Merchant of Venice

Apparently, the same holds true for the sins of the mother, especially if her name used to be Karla Homolka.

Journalists have once more dug up the location of the admitted and convicted killer/rapist, along with her then husband Paul Bernardo, of three women (including her own sister), who is now residing in the South Shore community of Châteauguay with her second husband, Thierry Bordelais, and three children.

While it’s understandable that some residents of the suburb would rather that Homolka — aka Karla Leanne Teale and Leanne Bordelais — choose another hamlet to hang her hat, that’s a sentiment that the Bordelais family is going to experience no matter where they go. Already, her family has been chased from Quebec to the Antilles to Guadeloupe and back again to Quebec, where they managed to keep a low enough profile that it took 18 months for a journalist to find her after her return was revealed by her (other) sister, Logan Valentini.

While the discomfort of her neighbours is understandable, the fear that some have expressed is decidedly less deserving of sympathy. The possibility that Homolka will repeat the kind of offences that put her in jail for 12 years isn’t impossible, but the average Châteauguay resident runs a much higher risk of dying at the hands of the neighbour with a record of drunk driving. Their children are statistically much more at risk of sexual abuse at the hands of a relative, or of being murdered by their future boyfriends or husbands.

Virtually any neighbourhood in the country harbours individuals who have committed crimes that might give a reasonable person cause for concern for their safety or that of their children. But we also live in a society where we have decided that these offenders have the same rights as you or I once their sentence has been served.

The alternative is to either throw away the key after a conviction or to exile released prisoners on some isolated island where their imprisonment never ends but merely takes on a slightly more genteel form.

Is that the kind of society you want to live in? Whether you agree with the punishment Homolka was given — 12 years for manslaughter in a plea deal that was negotiated before her true complicity was revealed in previously unseen recordings — her notoriety has given her, de facto, a permanent probation that will haunt her for the rest of her days.

As events of recent days reveal, with police called to disperse journalists camped out on her porch and her children’s school publicly revealed, her punishment has continued well beyond her release from prison 11 years ago.

Her children can now expect to be ostracized and taunted by other kids who were their friends just a few days ago.

The latest exposure will surely drive the Bordelais family to once more seek a new place to live where Homolka’s children, if they’re lucky, might find a few years more respite from the sins of their mother.

You may not think that she deserves better, but her children certainly do. ■

Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist. His sardonic observations about the city and province appear on Cult MTL every week. You can contact him by Email or follow him on Twitter.