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‘Enough is enough’: Okanagan Indigenous community push back on murderer’s parole

Grace Robotti received day parole seven years into her life sentence

“The Parole Board of Canada said they weren’t aware of any victims.”

That was one of the damning statements shared by Laurie Wilson on the steps of the Penticton Courthouse at a walk for justice for Roxanne Louie, whose murderer recently received day parole after seven years into a life sentence.

Laurie and Dan Wilson spoke on behalf of Louie’s family and gave voice to the frustrations that the family and community feel over the handling of Louie’s murder at the hands of Grace Robotti.

The mother of Robotti’s great-grandchild, Louie, an Indigenous woman, was beaten to death with a crowbar and struck 26 times before her body was dumped on a Naramata forestry road while Robotti attempted to lie and cover up the crime.

A particular anger over the recent decision from the parole board was not only at a lack of notification that Robotti would be receiving day parole, but that she was up for receiving it in the first place. The first that the family, or the bands, heard about the decision was after the parole board’s decision and without a chance for anyone to provide submissions and impact statements.

“We’re not a government in their eyes, so we’re overlooked, and that’s repeated across Canada with every person in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Girls and Women [Report],” said Wilson. “Everybody that we’ve heard from has said the exact same thing.

“It’s a systemic problem where they don’t let you get involved with these kinds of things because it just raises up too many things for the government to deal with.”

READ MORE: Anger after day parole for Penticton woman who killed great-grandson’s mom

The Wilsons were not alone in condemning the parole board’s recent decision. Among the crowd of more than 60 people were Chief Greg Gabriel of the Penticton Indian Band, Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and MLA Joan Phillip.

“It’s a total injustice in a series of injustices, the first; Pier (Robotti’s brother) got away with Roxanne’s demise,” said Joan Phillip. “The second injustice is what’s happening today. At the very least, the Nation ought to have been informed. The community ought to have been informed. The family ought to have been informed.

“I will do what I can, to ensure that we send a message to Canada: Enough is enough. We need justice for Roxanne.”

Robotti was sentenced in 2017 for the murder, and for that received a life sentence with no eligibility for full parole until 2027. While her brother Pier received a 27-month sentence for his role. Despite that, she received escorted leave in a 2022 decision, and day parole in the recent December 2023 decision from the parole board.

“Our justice system is so damned flawed when they pass a sentence of a life sentence, it should be a life sentence not a sentence where you’re let go 10 years down the road,” said Gabriel. “The family has to live with this forever and ever. My heart goes out to the families that have to live with this and carry on without recognition from the parole board.”

While the march was organized informally, a promise of more formal action to change the way the justice system has handled the situation was shared by the gathered chiefs.

“We always seem to show up here. Way too many times,” said Chief Louie. “After this, we need to follow up with action, and we’ll discuss that at our separate councils, and at the ONA (Okanagan Nation Alliance) table.”

Penticton Mayor Julius Bloomfield also joined the march and was invited to speak by Stewart. He promised that the city would do what it could to support the family and to try and change the decision as much as it could.

At the end of the day, the decision by the parole board is being considered as the latest indignity given to the Indigenous community, in a series that began long before Louie’s murder and one that members continue to fight.

“There’s two generations there behind me, my mom fought for 30 years, so it’s a blow on an already wounded heart,” said Wilson. “My daughter is over there, and I like that she’s here but I hate that she has to be. There’s no reason for it.

“What kind of due diligence is that they can just cut off an entire race of people from submission and participating in justice for such a horrible, horrible crime?”

Wilson is currently preparing a petition to circulate through the community to be sent to the Parole Board of Canada and put on to force a review of the decision to give Robotti day parole.

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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