VANCOUVER – British Columbia is promising a law to prevent offenders profiting from their crimes after a book reportedly written by serial killer Robert Pickton was published, drawing condemnation from the premier and the federal minister of public safety.
By Monday afternoon, the 144-page book titled “Pickton: In His Own Words” was no longer available through the website of online retailer Amazon.
Outskirts Press, which published the book, issued a statement Monday saying it had asked Amazon remove the book from its website.
“We have a long-standing policy of not working with, nor publishing work by, incarcerated individuals,” the statement said.
“Outskirts Press apologizes to the families of the victims for any additional heartache this may have caused.”
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told the House of Commons that the Correctional Service of Canada is investigating how the manuscript got out.
“We will be examining all those who have assisted in any way in this odious enterprise,” he said during question period.
Citing privacy laws, the Correctional Service of Canada said it cannot provide details on an offender’s file, but “it has been made aware of the book that has been published and understands the content may be offensive to some.”
It said in a statement that federal offenders aren’t allowed to profit from recounting their crimes if it is contrary to the goals of an offender’s correctional plan or poses a threat to someone’s safety, including victims, or to the security of a federal institution.
People serving sentences in federal correctional facilities have limited access to computers, but do not have access to the Internet or to email. The service said prisoners are able to communicate with members of the public in writing and are entitled to privileged correspondence.
The Pickton book raised questions about whether there is a need for legislation preventing offenders from profiting from their crimes, something that B.C. Premier Christy Clark promised.
“I am at a loss for words. To think about the pain that he’s prepared to willingly cause all of the families of those people who he murdered,” Clark told reporters in Vancouver.
“I have trouble understanding it and I think people will want to know that their government is doing everything it can to want to stop him from profiting from this at the very least.”
Solicitor General Mike Morris asked Amazon to stop carrying the book, saying he thinks it’s “despicable” that someone could profit from their crimes.
“There’s no way as long as I’m (solicitor general) that anybody’s going to make a nickel off of Robert Pickton’s file,” he said.
There is no confirmation that Pickton actually wrote the book, but a statement from Morris said the province is investigating every means possible to ensure the 66-year-old from Port Coquitlam will not profit in any way.
Pickton is serving a life sentence for the second-degree murders of six women and is being held at Kent maximum security prison near Agassiz, B.C., about 120 kilometres east of Vancouver.
Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.
This isn’t the first time Amazon has come under fire for selling works by notorious Canadian criminals. Last year the company was pressured to pull killer Paul Bernardo’s fictional ebook about the Russian Mafia and al-Qaida.
Criminal lawyer Ari Goldkind said people who have been convicted of a crime have the same right to express themselves as other Canadians.
“They are as entitled to freedom of expression, freedom of creativity to publish a book,” Goldkind said. “They’re as free to write as you and me.”
However, four provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia – have laws governing whether an offender can profit from their crimes, such as through book revenues.
“If there’s profit off the recounting of your crimes, it’s a no go,” Goldkind said.