Homolka's children face terrible dilemma

Tomorrow, three young children in a Montreal suburb will give their mother a birthday card and some hugs and kisses before heading off to school.

This Sunday, the same woman will enjoy more attention from her kids and her devoted husband on Mother's Day.

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She will be able to look at her family and feel so blessed.

She will be able to tell them how proud she is of them for making her feel so special.

And Leanne Bordelais is special.

Before she was Leanne, before she got out of jail and married Thierry, she helped her first husband drug, rape, torture and kill three teenage girls, one of them her own sister.

That was when Leanne was Karla Homolka.

There's no question she should be spending the rest of her life in jail, just like her partner-in-crime Paul Bernardo. If the videos had surfaced earlier, depicting her as an active and willing participant, she would be. Neither the law, nor its application, are perfect.

But is she deserving of forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a unilateral act of the victim often offered as a coping mechanism to let go of the consuming hatred and anger. Kim Phuc spoke of it eloquently at last month's Bob Ewert Memorial dinner in Prince George.

She has forgiven the men who conducted the raid that led to the horrific burns she suffered as a child in Vietnam. Forgiveness is difficult but liberating because it allows the victim to define what happened to them on their own terms, rather than through the lens of the crime against them.

If the families and friends of her victims are willing to forgive Homolka, that is their gift alone to offer. If they choose to withhold such generosity, that is also their right.

The acceptance of forgiveness is difficult. The transgressor must not only accept full blame for their crime but they must also feel they are unworthy of such charity. In other words, they may accept forgiveness offered to them by a victim but they never fully forgive themselves. Instead, they work towards redemption by accepting their punishment and committing themselves to a permanent penance of meaningful words and actions.

This is not Homolka's path.

Instead, the comfort of her family life in suburban Montreal reveals her spitting in face of atonement for her crimes.

In fact, by the very act of marrying and having children, she has committed new crimes.

She has declared that she's just like other Canadians, that she deserves the protection of the law she violated with such abandon, that as a parent her children deserve protection from being chopped into pieces with a circular saw, encased in concrete and dropped into a lake, as she did to one of her victims.

That's her new crime against Canadians but what she's done to her children is much worse.

Most children comes to terms with the shock of learning mother and father are not perfect and made horrible mistakes in their past. Imagine the confusion and the horror those children will experience when they learn Leanne is really Karla and what she did. If Homolka's three children are capable of the guilt and shame their mother clearly is not, they will be forced to carry a huge burden and make an agonizing decision.

Faced with a similar dilemma, many adult children of active participants in the Holocaust chose to immediately sever all ties with their mother and father.

That scenario and its rightful moral outcome was well-depicted in the Jessica Lange film Music Box.

If there is such a thing as justice in this existence, hopefully all three of Homolka's children will choose, as teenagers or as adults, once they've learned the horrifying extent of their mother's crimes, to sever all ties with their mother and their father. They will not lose their parents but rather the lie that is their parents and their childhood.

By robbing their mother of seeing them fall in love, get married and have kids of their own, Homolka's kids could give her punishment no court or prison could serve.

She would experience the endless sorrow of losing her own children.

She would be dead in their eyes.

That's the birthday and Mother's Day gift she really deserves.

-- Managing editor Neil Godbout

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