TORONTO – Red tape could keep a woman returned to Canada after a two-year prison ordeal in Mexico behind bars for several more days and possibly weeks, close friends said Saturday.
Former Liberal MP and friend Paul Macklin said there’s a “heavy amount of paperwork” to be done before Brenda Martin can leave the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., and head to her hometown of Trenton, Ont., to stay with her mother.
“No one knows what to expect at this point in terms of resolution – it isn’t imminent but it will be soon,” Macklin said.
“It’s hard to really get a finger on it.”
Among reports that need to be done is whether Martin poses a risk to society and whether the community in Trenton is prepared to receive her. The information then needs to be reviewed by the National Parole Board before her release can be finalized.
Amid intense pressure on the federal government, Martin, 51, was returned to Canada on Thursday following a conviction two weeks ago in Mexico on fraud-related offences for a scam run by her ex-boss, former Edmontonian Alyn Waage.
Martin steadfastly maintained her innocence during the more than two years she spent in prison near Guadalajara awaiting judgment. The Mexican court sentenced her to five years in prison and fined her about $3,500.
Correctional authorities in Canada still need to define the equivalency of her sentence, but have said that as a first-time, non-violent offender, she was eligible for immediate parole.
Deb Tieleman, a close friend who agitated strongly for the Canadian government to intervene in the case, said Martin is content with her situation for now.
“Her big concern was getting back to Canada and she’s happy to be here,” Tieleman said Saturday from Waterloo, Ont.
“She doesn’t seem concerned about (parole) at all. She’s just happy to be home.”
Martin’s mother Marjorie Bletcher and stepfather Bill Carnahan visited her for two hours in prison on Friday evening and again on Saturday.
An “ecstatic” Bletcher said her daughter was feeling the cold and having trouble sleeping, but was thrilled to be back in Canada and there was no rush to get her out.
“I’m not really worried about her being there because they’re looking after her,” said Bletcher, who was greeted by her daughter with a big hug and an apology for the distress she’d caused her mom.
“She needs that time to get rest. It’s been a very hard time for Brenda.”
On Friday, lawyer Edward Greenspan said there was no reason to keep Martin behind bars and he called for her immediate release.
Macklin said it’s not quite that simple and that everyone was being “cautious” about the timing of the release despite Greenspan’s comments.
“You can count on at least two days of reports that have to be prepared by the officials,” Macklin said.
“All the reports collected have to go to Ottawa to be reviewed by the parole board, but it will be a paper review because of the accelerated status.”
Martin’s plight garnered widespread public attention, pressuring the Canadian government to take up her case with Mexican officials. Ottawa eventually dispatched Conservative MPs Jason Kenney and Rick Norlock to Mexico.