I'm sorry but I really must apologize. I'm so nervous being here, but I'm so thankful to be here and to be heard. Thank you very much.
I've prepared something. I'm really being drawn to tell you the story. The actual story is very hard to put on paper. This is why I'm here to tell you why you should pass Bill .
As most of you know, the Allan Schoenborn case happened in Merritt about four years ago. Allan Schoenborn followed my cousin to Merritt.
My cousin Darcie Clarke and her three children—10-year-old Kaitlynne, 8-year-old Max, and 5-year-old Cordon—went to Merritt happily. They had a good school to go to and a wonderful home. Darcie provided for them. She called me for a reference so she could actually start work and get her feet underneath her and get her life back and move on and move forward for her children, to make sure they had a healthy environment to grow up in.
She was there. About two months went by. As I said, she phoned me and asked me for a reference so she could get a job because they were doing great in school. We thought the worst was over. Allan was leaving her alone.
I can't remember if it was the Thursday or the Friday he showed up in town. My cousin Darcie was scared. She wouldn't let him in the house, but the kids wanted to see their father. So as a good parent would, she took them to the park and let them see their father. He kept saying he wanted to stay, he wanted to stay. My cousin Darcie was scared and she said, “No, you can't stay.”
The kids wanted to see their father, so being a good parent, she wasn't going to begrudge her children the right to see their father. This is what's sticking with her. She didn't want her kids to resent her, and she let them see their father. She never in her wildest dreams thought he would do this to his own children. These were his children. She thought he was going to kill her. He'd always focused on her.
Anyway, I remember my mom calling me and telling me that Allan was back in town and that my cousin Darcie left him alone with the children. She went to stay at her mother's house for the night so he could spend time with his kids.
I can't remember if he phoned or she phoned, but he kept telling her to come home. She kept saying, “No, this is your time with the kids. Enjoy yourself with the children. All we do is argue and fight, and we don't want to keep arguing and fighting in front of the children.” He wouldn't let her get off the phone. He kept begging her to come home. It was maybe about two hours, she said, and she wanted to say goodnight to the kids and he wouldn't let her. He said, “No, they're sleeping already. They're fine. Don't worry. They're sleeping.” She said, “Okay.”
She had to deal with this. This is what separated people do. She phoned in the morning, and there was no answer. She said, “Okay, phone again.” No answer. As soon as that happened, she just ran out the door, ran home, which was a long way. When she got there, it was every human being's nightmare.
What happened was while 10-year-old Kaitlynne, who was the spitting image of her mother—blonde hair, blue eyes, just beautiful—was sleeping, he took a machete and slashed her face open. I was there when the testimony was read. Allan even said that Kaitlynne started saying, “Daddy, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. What did I do?” He just kept hitting her with a machete.
Then, of course, with this going on, Max, who was eight years old, and Cordon, who was five years old, walked in to witness their father murdering their sister and they were not able to help. Of course, they were next. They had to watch each other brutally die at the hands of their own father.
Eight-year-old Max was next. Allan Schoenborn grabbed a pillow and suffocated him, because the machete was too bloody. It didn't work fast enough and Kaitlynne could scream. For Max, he put a pillow over his head and suffocated him, and five-year-old Cordon had to watch. Then it was Cordon's turn.
Max didn't die easily. He couldn't be suffocated quickly enough. It was too messy. So while five-year-old Cordon waited, he found a plastic bag to put over his head to suffocate him.
Darcie wouldn't go home. He wanted her there because he wanted to kill her, too. She has always known that. He thought that if he killed everybody, they'd all be together in heaven.
So what does he do? He leaves Kaitlynne in the bed, grabs Max and Cordon, props them on the couch to make it look like they're sleeping so that Darcie would have to get really close before she realized they were dead. He wrote “forever young”, which we thought was in blood but it was in soy sauce, above the kids' bodies. “Forever young” was Disney movies and stuff like that.
Darcie explained to me how she felt when she walked in. “Oh, my gosh, the kids are there, but wait a minute. They're not moving.” She got close. She saw their little faces. Then she ran into the bedroom to see Kaitlynne, her face slashed open by a machete.
Where did he get the machete? He brought it with him. She was up there for two months. He drove for hours. He had waited for days. He wanted to get her in the house. He premeditated it. He thought about it. It's unbelievably terrifying. If he gets out, I know she'll be dead. I'm helping Darcie. He's not going to let me go. He wanted to kill her children in front of her so she would suffer.
After the court hearing, we thought for sure that it would be seen as being premeditated. That was going to happen, we thought, but there was a past history in his family of mental illness, and he was deemed to be not criminally responsible.
My cousin Darcie can't live in Merritt any more. My heart goes out to her. I said, “Come live with me.” I wanted her to move in with me a long time ago. I wanted her to come and stay with me, but my mom was scared for my safety and told me I wasn't allowed. She went to Merritt to stay with her mother, and rightly so. But it was my turn to finally help her, to finally help my cousin. We grew up together. We were so close.
She came to live with me. Just looking at her, I see what she is going through, not wanting to come out of her room. She's just a wisp of a person. It was a lot of hard work on my part to get her to the point where she would eat, where she would come out of her room, where she would leave the house, and then she has to do the yearly review.
She comes home from going out. She got a pool pass. This is what kills me. He knows her so well. She got a pool pass. I was so proud of her, especially her wanting to be around children. How could she want to be around children so soon after hers have gone? She loves kids. She loves to be around children. I am feeling so proud of her, proud of her progress. She comes home with a newspaper article with Allan's face on it, saying that he is up early and wants to go to the pool, that he wants to go to Starbucks for coffee.
He's in my area. Colony Farm is right down the street. What if he were to get out on a pass? I could walk into him. My cousin could walk into him, could see him. I shouldn't have to live like that, and neither should she.
I thought I had called whoever I could call. I e-mailed whoever I could e-mail. The response was, “This is the way the law is laid out. There's nothing we can do. You'd have to change the law.” I said, “How do I do that? Help me. All I want is help.”
Barry Penner, who was our attorney general at the time, said, “Stacy, what do you really want? Think reasonably. You're dealing with somebody who's mentally ill and needs care. You're dealing with a victim who has to go through a yearly review and can never heal. What would you like to see happen here?”
My cousin and I talked. We knew that no matter what we did, even if we did change the law, it would never pertain to Allan. It would never pertain to me. It wasn't going to help us, but it would help someone else. It would help another family. It would help another mother or father not to have to go through the pain. We thought that was good enough. If we could help somebody else, it would be worth it.
I've fought long and hard. I've been on TV and radio shows talking about this. It's mind-boggling how my being here right now, speaking in front of you, has happened.
Obviously the good people at the right time and in the right place and in the right situation are the reasons I am here. I'm really thankful for that because I get to speak and have my say, and not only that, but maybe pave the way for someone else to find some peace.
My cousin Darcie cannot go to the yearly reviews. She can't stand up for herself. I'm the one who has to go. I'm the one who has to sit there and look into the eyes of the devil knowing what he did. I want him to get care and I need him to get care, but I also need my cousin to have time to heal.
If Allan is in there for the next 30 years, I'll have to go to a review board hearing 30 times. How am I supposed to heal? Every time my cousin seems to get a little better, a yearly review comes up. She has three birthdays to deal with, Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day. Not only that, the review is held the same month the murders occurred. The pain....
I'm sorry, I'm talking too much.
The worst part about it, though, is that Allan was controlling and he still has control. He can stay a review. He doesn't have to show up for a review. He can ask for a transfer. My cousin doesn't want him moved. She wants to know where he is so I can take care of things for her, be there to speak for her.
You may say that she doesn't have to speak, that it's common sense, and she doesn't have to write out this victim impact statement every year, that it's not necessary. But when you're a victim, it is necessary, it is very necessary.
Thank you very much.
I am Louise Bradley, the president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. I want to thank you for the opportunity to listen today to such a wide diversity of stakeholders, including yourselves.
The commission has been asked by this government to develop Canada's first mental health strategy, which we developed and released last year.
We were also asked to play a leading role in tackling stigma associated with mental illness, and for which we are targeting youth, health care professionals, the media, and the workplace. We were also given funding to undertake the largest study in North America looking at the issue of homelessness and the mentally ill. Last, we were asked to improve the capacity for sharing evidence, knowledge, and information about mental health in Canada.
It is in this capacity that we are here today as a trusted adviser to government and stakeholders. Our role is to ensure that factual and pertinent information is provided to you as you deliberate on this very serious and important issue. There's the fact, for instance, that the vast majority of people with mental health problems and illnesses are not dangerous and violent. Indeed, they are more likely to be victims themselves.
While unintended, there is a concern that these discussions may reverse some of the progress we've made thus far.
The mental health strategy also states that assessment and treatment services are the way by which to prevent tragedies, like the one we've heard about here today, from ever happening, thereby ensuring public safety. This is an important component of discussions regarding mental illness and public safety and it cannot be ignored.
The strategy also states that services are needed for all, and in the context of why we're here today, the mental health needs of victims and families are equally important. We want to ensure that the right kind and the right amount of support and services will be provided to victims.
When it comes to specific issues like this one before you, we facilitate access to leading experts with the goal of giving Canadians the best evidence on which to make these important policy decisions. As such, the commission cannot take a position on the legislation per se, but we do rely on a very large network of experts and stakeholders to guide our three main areas of work.
The focal point of this advice is currently through our advisory council. Dr. Patrick Baillie, who will take up the remaining portion of our time allocation, led one of our expert groups of individuals with expertise in mental health and the law. This included family members, persons living with mental health problems, professionals, and researchers.
Dr. Baillie will present some facts and evidence based on his unique expertise as both a psychologist and a lawyer in Calgary. He contributes much to the commission. He is here today, however, to provide testimony as an individual expert.
Thank you to the members of the committee for the invitation to be here.
I want to emphasize that I am speaking as an individual, and in that capacity, I wear various hats. I'm a psychologist working in an outpatient forensic program in Calgary. I'm a member of the advisory council for the Mental Health Commission. I'm also a consulting psychologist with the Calgary Police Service. However, the views I'm expressing should not be taken as representative of any of those organizations, but only as being reflective of the experience I've had in these roles, the work I've done with my colleagues, and the patients I've seen over the years.
I want to start by addressing the comments Ms. Galt made, first by expressing my condolences for her exceptional loss, and by agreeing with her that there are clear breaks in the existing system that need to be repaired. To be clear, to me this is a piece of legislation that comes in response to the kind of tragedy that Ms. Galt has described. There should be a response to it, but I do not think this is the forum in which that response should take place.
The Mental Health Commission, funded by the health research foundation of Quebec, supervised a project looking at what happens to individuals who are found not criminally responsible. The survey looked at individuals in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. Because of the tremendous data that was drawn from that project, we were contracted by the Department of Justice to provide some background information for this legislation.
When we looked at individuals who had committed offences of homicide, attempted homicide, and designated sexual offences, they were found to comprise approximately 10% of all individuals who were found not criminally responsible. Certainly the proportions varied from province to province, but across those three areas the 10% figure was made up of those who had been engaged in these serious violent offences. That's out of a category of individuals who are very unlikely to be found not criminally responsible in the first place. By that I mean Canada experiences approximately 400,000 criminal charges per year, of which 1.8 per 1,000 or approximately 720 cases are resolved by way of a not criminally responsible verdict. Of those, 10% or about 72 cases a year are the cases involving serious violent offending.
The nature of the offence tells us very little about the likelihood that the individual who's found NCR will benefit from treatment and will be successfully reintegrated into the community. By that I mean there are many variables that go into predicting recidivism. Those variables are addressed by review boards, which are given expert evidence and which make the decision about whether or not to grant release or to keep the individual detained.
The recidivism rate for individuals granted an absolute discharge after a finding of not criminally responsible, over a three-year period, sits at 11%. Of those, 7% are for a new violent offence and 4% are for a new non-violent offence. If you do the math, 400,000 cases, 1.8 per 1,000 that result in an NCR outcome, 10% of those that involve serious violent offending and 7% of those that recidivate in a violent way, you end up with a piece of legislation that potentially affects four or five people per year. That is still a critically important number because of the information that Ms. Galt has presented to you today.
I don't mean to dismiss that, but let's be clear. What the legislation intends to do is to change the parameters around NCR. If this is legislation that is intended to target Allan Schoenborn, Vincent Li, Guy Turcotte, and Richard Kachkar, none of those individuals had previously been found NCR, and each had been involved in his respective provincial mental health care system.
When Louise talks about the need to support victims, I fervently advocate that in my own work. I see victims of crime, as well as the perpetrators. That gives me a unique perspective on what these people have experienced. This is legislation that does not affect the rate of recidivism, but in essence ends up being punitive towards individuals based on the nature of the offence.
I encourage the committee to look at the information that has been provided in the research to the Department of Justice and to look at the supports that can be given to ensuring adequate services in the provinces so that individuals with mental health problems do not deteriorate to the point of committing serious violent offences and victims are given adequate supports so they can move on with their lives in a productive and meaningful way.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for having us. I am here on behalf of the Barreau du Québec. I am joined by Lucie Joncas.
The Barreau du Québec is a professional body that represents almost 24,000 lawyers in Quebec. Its positions are taken by elected bodies, following the studies and recommendations of its advisory committees.
To fulfill its mission of protecting the public, the Barreau du Québec seeks to forge bonds of trust between lawyers, governments and the public. In the pursuit of that goal, the Barreau du Québec oversees professional legal practice, supports member practitioners, fosters a sense of belonging within the membership, and promotes the rule of law.
The Barreau du Québec feels that this bill amends the mental disorder regime in the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act to specify that the paramount consideration in the decision-making process is the safety of the public. It creates a mechanism for ensuring that certain persons who have been found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder can be designated as high-risk accused. It also enhances the involvement of victims in the regime and makes procedural and technical amendments.
The Barreau du Québec feels that, when a court finds an individual not criminally responsible, but the individual poses a significant threat to the safety of the public, it is appropriate to take action to protect public safety.
However, we think that it is important to refer to the principles identified by the courts. In Winko v. British Columbia (Forensic Psychiatric Institute), the Supreme Court addressed the issue of public safety in situations involving individuals found not criminally responsible. The court stated the following:
Part XX.1 protects society. If society is to be protected on a long-term basis, it must address the cause of the offending behaviour—the mental illness. It cannot content itself with locking the ill offender up for a term of imprisonment and then releasing him or her into society, without having provided any opportunities for psychiatric or other treatment. Public safety will only be ensured by stabilizing the mental condition of dangerous NCR accused.
Part XX.1 also protects the NCR offender. The assessment-treatment model introduced by Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code is fairer to the NCR offender than the traditional common law model. The NCR offender is not criminally responsible, but ill. Providing opportunities to receive treatment, not imposing punishment, is the just and appropriate response.
The teachings of the Supreme Court indicate that providing treatment to mentally ill individuals is the most just and equitable approach to protecting the public. In addition, the court cites another ruling as follows:
[T]he treatment of one unable to judge right from wrong is intended to cure the defect. It is not penal in purpose or effect. Where custody is imposed on such a person, the purpose is prevention of antisocial acts, not retribution.
Section 672.54 of the Criminal Code is subject to a major amendment. The section currently states:
672.54 Where a court or Review Board makes a disposition under subsection 672.45(2) or section 672.47 or 672.83, it shall, taking into consideration the need to protect the public from dangerous persons, the mental condition of the accused, the reintegration of the accused into society and the other needs of the accused, make one of the following dispositions that is the least onerous and least restrictive to the accused:
That is how public safety and the needs of the mentally ill person are taken into consideration. This is an important balance, a balance that we need to strike and strive for in a free and democratic society.
The proposed amendment creates the concept of high-risk individual. The wording of section 672.54, instead of talking about the “least onerous” disposition, places the “safety of the public” above any other criteria connected to the individual situation of the accused. In so doing, the amendments diminish the importance of the recognized objective of ensuring that the condition of the ill NCR person has improved as being the most just and equitable way to protect society.
In addition, the proposed amendments amend the current assessment and treatment system set out in Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code, to be more similar to a punishment system than a system that provides treatment to someone suffering from an illness. To use the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin's words, we believe that “the regime established in Part XX.1 of the Criminal Code”, meaning the part currently in force, “appropriately balances the need to protect the public from those mentally ill persons who are dangerous and the liberty, autonomy and dignity interests of mentally ill persons”, and we are afraid that some aspects of Bill will open up debate on the constitutionality of the new wording set out in the bill.
Bill also sets out that a court martial may find the accused person to be a high-risk accused if:
(a) the court martial is satisfied that there is a substantial likelihood that the accused person will use violence that could endanger the life or safety of another person; or
(b) the court martial is of the opinion that the acts that constitute the offence were of such a brutal nature as to indicate a risk of grave physical or psychological harm to another person.
This second criterion is concerning, since it does not take into account the person's condition. In our view, the second criterion presents constitutional weaknesses. The brutality of the acts that constitute the offence refers to the violent nature of the offence for which the accused was found not criminally responsible, not to the accused's mental health or how dangerous the individual may be.
A basic principle of criminal law states that criminal responsibility requires an operating mind. We understand that victims of violent and brutal acts actually need active physical and emotional support from the government and society. Those issues need to be addressed.
The Barreau du Québec has always promoted victim support and assistance services at every level. Their participation, their presence and their voices are important, but a democratic society also has a responsibility to create a fair balance. Punitive measures must be avoided, because the emphasis has to be on healing to protect society.
My colleague Ms. Joncas and I are here to answer your questions, and we would be happy to do so.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, and my fellow witnesses, most especially Ms. Galt. Her account to us this afternoon reminds us of the nature, the severity, and the magnitude of the issues we're talking about.
I am Dr. Alexander Simpson. I'm a psychiatrist. I'm the chief of forensic psychiatry at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, and I'm head of the division of forensic psychiatry at the University of Toronto.
CAMH is Canada’s largest mental health and addictions academic health sciences centre. Our forensic program provides care to and supports individuals designated as NCR, or unfit to stand trial. We care for over 30% of Ontario’s NCR accused persons and accordingly have a keen interest in the amendments to the NCR legislation that will affect our patients and our ability to provide them the best possible mental health care.
I would like to address three specific aspects of Bill .
The NCR regime has been in existence in its current form for 21 years. NCR is a rare disposition, though it has been more commonly applied in the last two decades. It is effective and successfully rehabilitates people with a mental illness that has caused them to offend. NCR accused persons present less risk to others than similar persons who are criminally responsible for their offending and are sent to prison.
The current controversies that have given rise to the reasons for this legislation are a small number of high-profile offences of a grievous nature, as we've heard. The victims are understandably deeply traumatized and find the thought of community reintegration of perpetrators horrifying.
This isn’t about the current risk, however; it is about the nature of the trauma that occurred over past incidents. This presents a real difficulty for Parliament and for those of us involved in the care of NCR accused persons: how to be sensitive to the needs of victims without punishing the illness. Thus, the factors driving this bill are real and difficult ones; however, in my view, two-thirds of the answers in this bill are the wrong ones.
First, with regard to victim safety and involvement, CAMH supports Bill 's commitment to victim safety. Victim safety is always at the forefront of the decisions made by review boards and by forensic mental health programs and treatment planning. This part of the bill makes explicit powers that already exist.
Victim involvement in the review board process is also very important, and we agree that victims should continue to be included in that process if they choose to be so. However, addressing victim needs must be broader than simply notification. New approaches, such as issues of restorative justice, may be of equal value.
Second, on the creation of the “high risk” designation, Bill proposes a “high risk accused” designation. CAMH has concerns about how this new designation can be determined and its severe restrictions on those considered to be high risk.
High risk is about the possibility that future violence may occur. Counterintuitive though it may seem, the brutality of the person's index offence is not an effective way of telling if somebody is going to be at high risk of future offending. Instead, it looks only at the past. Therefore, a high-risk regime built around a single severe act of violence alone is not evidence-based or scientifically based and may thus be seen as arbitrary in a non-punishment regime. If brutality is not to be used, one must ask, then, what the proposed “high risk” category adds.
First, there are clearly some NCR accused persons who are of high risk. Currently, they may spend many years in conditions of high security, without community contact. One only gains access to the community if one's risk has fallen to such a degree that community contact is a safe option, so the available security proposed in the “high risk” category already exists for a significant number of NCR accused persons. Second, implementing the “high risk” category decreases the expert oversight of the person's care and limits therapeutic opportunities. This will delay progress or increase risk and will not assist public safety.
For these reasons, it is both ill-designed and wrongly targeted, and CAMH recommends that the “high risk” designation be removed from the legislation.
Tightening of the criteria for all NCR accused is third. Of great concern to CAMH is the Bill recommendation to change section 672.54 of the Criminal Code. This will tighten the criteria for progress and release for all NCR individuals. Bill C-54 makes safety the paramount consideration when a disposition order is made. While similar wording already exists in case law, changing the wording in the Criminal Code clearly signals the desire to shift the emphasis of the entire NCR regime. The original intent of the NCR legislation was to balance public safety with the treatment of rehabilitation needs of the mentally ill offender. Shifting this balance will prevent the NCR individuals from receiving the best possible mental health care while cognizant of public safety.
The bill also amends the current NCR legislation requiring review boards to make disposition orders that are the “least onerous and least restrictive”, to make orders that instead are “necessary and appropriate in the circumstances”. Given the context of Bill and its primary focus on public safety, it is likely the necessary and appropriate dispositions will be more restrictive, and that more NCR individuals will be detained in forensic units for longer periods and in higher-security units than is actually necessary. Not only will this compromise rehabilitation and community reintegration for any NCR individuals, but the widespread application of this amendment will lead to increased pressure on forensic mental health programs which are already operating over capacity.
Clause 10 of Bill introduces a new statutory regime of significant threat. It no longer requires the word “real” in relation to potential harm or violence, therefore lowering the risk threshold necessary to maintain the jurisdiction of the NCR over individuals. Given the impact of these changes on the NCR regime as a whole, CAMH recommends that section 672.54 remain as it currently stands in the legislation.
We fear significant unintended consequences of this legislation. We fear that the shift to increasing security and restrictions over treatment of rehabilitation will make the NRC regime much less attractive as a regime to go down. We fear defence counsel will argue to potential NCR accused not to go down this pathway, and instead plead guilty and go to prison. We think this will place increasing pressure on provincial and federal correctional services by having more mentally ill persons in prison, who will be released from custody at higher risk of reoffending than those people under the NCR regime. Thus paradoxically we fear that public safety will actually be compromised by this bill.
I thank you for your attention and will be happy to take questions.
Sure. Thank you very much.
By way of introduction, I've been working with the family for about two and a half years. I saw this in the newspaper in my local community, and I volunteered my time, my company's time, to do government relations, public relations, and media relations, because I saw the travesty going on within the system.
We've also worked on not only this part of the legislation, but we also worked to correct some of the domestic violence laws that are in British Columbia. In fact, we had Premier Christy Clark present an apology to the family last year, and also to provide a report to ensure this doesn't happen again. We're looking at all sides of the spectrum.
With regard to the up to 36 months provision, I can tell you I've seen the pain this family goes through. The other thing this committee may or may not be aware of is that on a whim, the NCR accused can change the date of the hearing. For example, in April 2011, Mr. Schoenborn set the date, wanted to change it, then did not show up for his own hearing. In 2012 he decided he didn't want his date.
By the way, the family has been trying to move the date from the anniversary of the murders. They were told no, that the patient has to agree.
In March 2012, he wanted to move it to Christmas. Of course, we put up a fight. The crown agreed. He moved it to November. In November, four days before the hearing, he decided he didn't feel like that date was sufficient, so he moved it to Valentine's Day. That was convenient for the NCR accused.
This is the pain the family goes through. If it were every three years, the family could heal. Between hearings, it's like an election. Once you win your election, you're gearing up for the next election. Once they finish a hearing, they're gearing up for the next hearing. There's no time to heal. Three years would give the accused an opportunity to get better, and it would give the family an opportunity to heal as well.
Good afternoon. My name is André Samson. I live in Victoriaville, in the province of Quebec. I am 51 years old and I am unable to work. I live on my disability pension.
On August 1, 2002, my brother Martin Samson and his spouse Marie-France Foucault were murdered in their home in Victoriaville. The person who murdered my brother and his spouse was found not criminally responsible.
The accused was arrested. He was in the Hôtel-Dieu d'Arthabaska hospital for a few hours, then he ran away. The Sûreté du Québec helicopter and the response team spared no efforts to track him down. After several days of searching, he was finally caught. He was selling things to make some money and leave the city. The day after his arrest, he was charged with two counts of murder. The trial lasted a year and a half. We were very surprised to hear that the murderer was found not criminally responsible, because he was a very intelligent person studying at a school for adults.
Since then, we have not received much help. My family and I support Bill , which will provide more information to victims and help them feel safer. Access to information with help families feel safer, because part of the fear and insecurity experienced by families of murdered persons stems from a lack of information in this NCR system.
My family would very much have liked to know what was happening at the mental health review board hearings. We were never kept informed of the proceedings. We were never invited to the review board hearings. We were never given an opportunity to speak. We were cast aside. We were in a vacuum and we had no documents. For four or five years, we did not know where he was living. Had my girlfriend not been a court clerk, my family and I would not have known which hospital he was staying at. Had she not been my girlfriend, she would have never told me.
My family was not informed. We had no idea whether the attacker was taking his medication and whether he responded to treatment. We had no idea whether the attacker had any rights to leave the hospital or when he would be able to leave. We had no idea whether he was accompanied when he went out. We were never told when he was discharged from the hospital. I found out two weeks later. My girlfriend told me and I told my family.
My parents had to take steps to keep themselves safe because they were afraid that the attacker might go to their house and threaten them. We were not aware of the conditions of his release.
One day in January 2011, I was in the shopping centre and saw the attacker who had killed my brother and his wife. When I saw him, I was frustrated and afraid. I was under stress. I was at a loss.
Victims like us deserve to be part of the legal process. But we have been completely excluded. I often wonder whether we, as victims and as human beings, also have a right to security and to information. We have been denied our rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We should be respected as victims because the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that Canadians have the right to life and security.
My brother and his wife were deprived of that right and, to make matters worse, the members of my family and I had no right to security, as we were never informed about his release. Security goes hand in hand with the information provided to victims. How can we feel secure if we do not know when a murderer will be let out of prison and when he can roam the streets and come into our neighbourhood?
This bill gives the right to security back to victims. At the moment, the aggressors have better protection than the victims. This legislation will provide more supervision to those declared not criminally responsible. By remaining under supervision longer, and by having more access to medical resources, the aggressors will be able to stay in their rehabilitation programs longer.
Having information would have made us safer. This bill will let victims be informed and feel safe. It restores dignity to the families of those who have been murdered.
One of the issues here is to avoid any changes in the message that will raise the danger of continuing to have misinformation about mental disorders. Particularly, the act does use the words “mental disorder” without specification, and I think that has contributed to the criticism that the act unfortunately perpetuates some of the stigmatization that identifies all persons suffering from mental illness as being dangerous or incurable.
Indeed, I think it's very important that the government take this step, because we know that to the extent there is increased stigmatization about mental illness, it decreases public safety because it decreases self-awareness, decreases self-referral, and it certainly increases discrimination and stereotyping, which is not a good thing.
I want to focus on the pièce maîtresse of this legislation, which is the definition of the “high-risk accused”. I will make a couple of points here. The language that is used has two flaws, in our view. The first is that if you look at the definition, it's one of either proposed new paragraphs 672.64(1)(a) or 672.64(1)(b).
The first is essentially whether “the court is satisfied that there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will use violence...”. It's inviting the court to do a prospective assessment of the potential for violence. I think this is the wrong place to do this, because the treatment has not begun. It's a little bit like putting the cart before the horse.
I think 672.64(1)(b) is the place where we have more concerns. It states, “the court is of the opinion that the acts that constitute the offence were of such a brutal nature...”.
I think the flaw here is that it will be very difficult to identify what the acts are that the minister wants to address here. I think it's a little bit of an “I'll know it when I see it” type of approach. Many of the tragedies that have been referred to evoke such a deep emotional response from all of us that we think we know. Our concern is that it will be very hard for any victim not to think they have been brutally aggressed. I could not ever imagine a victim of sexual assault or a family of a murder victim who would not say, “There was brutality here”.
Indeed, in trying to assess why this is the right word, we looked around the world to try to assess whether there were other uses of the word “brutal”. What does “brutal” mean? Is that the right word? In our view it's not the right word. We would suggest that proposed new paragraph 672.64(1)(b) be deleted because of the possibility of an unworkable definition that is unfairly vague and may lead to too many people being caught in this web.
In our view, the second part of the criticism is that the concept of “high-risk accused” may present a confusion between the approaches that are necessary. I think we have to remember that the reason there is "not criminally responsible” is when it has been deemed—and there could be mistakes at times—that the person is incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, and therefore it's the illness that caused the crime and not the person. In that context we have a therapeutic approach that looks to correct the illness, as opposed to punishing the person. Focusing on the acts as opposed to the illness is a slippage in the way in which we should approach this problem.
Finally, I think it is absolutely crucial that there be a form of evaluation. I would suggest that this would be an appropriate amendment for this committee to make, to ensure that in five years there is a proper evaluation.
We've heard today that there are some differences of opinion as to whether or not this will have the perverse effect of diminishing the number of people who will opt for NCR and they end up in prison and all the problems increase. A prison is not the right place to treat serious mental illness. We know that. It creates tremendous problems for the prison system, and for the offenders and the guards. It's not the right place.
As we are assessing in our evaluation, the way in which the legislation is framed does not accomplish the goal. The use of the word “brutal” will not serve the victims well either. They will feel slighted if the acts that have been committed are deemed not to be brutal enough. In our view the intent will not be carried through by the concepts and language used in the bill.
In conclusion, we think, one, the government owes it to the Canadian public to counteract some of the messages with respect to mental health illness associated with this bill. Second, it should review the use of the word “brutal”, despite all the other examples. Third, an evaluation framework must be put in the legislation.
Good afternoon. My name is Isabelle Malo. I am appearing today on behalf of the entire Malo family. My mother, Nicole Malo, and my brother, Sylvain Malo, are sitting behind me. We are in full support of Bill . My family's story is a perfect example of why it is urgent to change the law. As I talk to you today, my heart is full of sadness.
On January 13, 2012, our peaceful community was shaken by a terrible tragedy. My stepfather, Ronald Malo was savagely murdered, stabbed 29 times by his neighbour, Rolland Belzil, who had been harassing him for 15 years.
My mother was also a target, but, luckily, she was spared because she did not answer the door that Rolland Belzil was trying to open. In Belzil's computer was a list of people to be killed and my mother's name was on it. After killing Ronald Malo, Rolland Belzil went to the town hall in Verchères, where he stabbed Luc Fortier, the town manager, in the head and neck. His assistant, Martin Massicotte, suffered wounds to the hands as he tried to help. They owe their lives to the fire chief.
This sordid story began in 1997 when the neighbour, Rolland Belzil, assaulted my mother by saying that he wanted her twice a week. My mother rebuffed him immediately, demanding that he leave her alone. He then looked her in the eyes and said: “you do not know what I am capable of, my dear; you have not heard the last of me.”
For 15 years, my mother and Ronald's life was pure hell, and I do not use the word lightly. They were constantly harassed, sworn at, provoked, honked at up to 150 times in a row. They received death threats for the three years before the murder.
In April 2010, Rolland Belzil told a case worker that he had a weapon and was going to kill his neighbour, Ronald Malo. In July 2010, Rolland Belzil was arrested for violating the conditions of a permanent order. Under that order, he was not supposed to come near my family. Nevertheless, he did approach us, with a can of gas, paper, beer and wine, staring right into our eyes all the time. Rolland Belzil was found guilty on four criminal charges out of five. He walked away with a discharge and a laughable $400 fine. We begged the judge not to release him again. The people at the CAVAC told us that he was like a big dog who barked a lot but did not bite and that the probability that he would do what he threatened to do was zero.
As you can see, our story has a number of missing elements. Primary prevention, in Dr. Isabelle Gaston's words, was a failure. Our family wholeheartedly supports Bill . The bill will make public safety a priority and will create the definition of “high-risk”.
I would like to discuss two improvements with you. It is urgent for public safety to be the priority. Have you thought for just one moment about what would happen if this man were to be released? If we found our mother murdered, we could not survive it. Victims must have a more prominent place. Fortunately, Bill will make public safety a major concern in coming to decisions about people deemed not criminally responsible. When public safety is paramount, it will be a victory for our rights.
Currently, if Rolland Belzil is released, three lives will certainly be in danger. It is agonizing to think that we are at the mercy of that decision. Our trust in the justice system has vanished. That man represents a real danger for society. He must be kept under strict supervision, primarily to protect him from himself.
People are living in terror simply thinking about the day when Rolland Belzil will be released, without even mentioning our seven children, aged from 14 to 24, who have lost their grandfather. The word “justice” does not exist for them. They are terrorized. One night, a little while ago, my 22-year-old daughter came to me shaking, because she had dreamt that Rolland Belzil had escaped from the Institut Philippe-Pinel in Montreal and wanted to kill us all. My brother's 20-year-old son sleeps with a bat under his bed, and his 16-year-old daughter has never gone back to where the tragedy happened. These children have had a hugely traumatic experience. How will we go about reassuring them? The burden our family has to bear is a very heavy one.
I have a business in Verchères and not a day goes by without someone talking to me about it. I am often asked what is happening to him and whether he is out. My heart races each time. In December 2012, I had to go to hospital. My heart rate went up to 170 beats per minute when I heard that Guy Turcotte had been released. I thought I was going to die. The number of victims goes beyond the family; the entire community is affected.
People are afraid when sick people like those are released. Their illness is not an excuse. From now on, with Bill , public safety will be paramount. We cannot wait for that change.
Bill provides for the creation of a “high-risk” designation intended for the most dangerous cases. They should be detained in hospital under guard. A high-risk offender must not be allowed to leave without an escort. He must be able to get a pass to leave, with or without an escort, only in rare circumstances and with public safety in mind.
We support the fact that a judge, not a board, will determine who is to be designated high-risk. We are very happy to learn that judges will have to base their decisions on the risk of grave physical and psychological harm, and on the offences committed. That is very important for us. We cannot wait for those changes to go into effect. We are convinced that there is no higher-risk situation than the one we are living in.
In Rolland Belzil's computer, the police found a list of several potential victims. When one murder and two attempted murders have been committed, the murderer becomes a serious case and must be under strict medical supervision. That is what Bill will make possible, and I ask you to pass it as quickly as possible.
Having a respite of up to three years between assessments, depending of the gravity of each case is, of course, a real relief for victims. You know as well as I do that a year goes by quickly. Rolland Belzil has mentioned that he has only killed one out of four and that he has to finish what he set out to do.
At no time have we been motivated by revenge. These proposed reforms will have no effect at all on the access to treatment for those deemed not criminally responsible. On the contrary, those needing special care will be able to have it tailored to their own specific needs.They will be better supervised. Providing more structured medical supervision for people suffering from a mental illness is not stigmatizing them. The concept of rehabilitating the offender remains in the act. So it is wrong to say that ill people will be losing their rights.
By lengthening the period of care, the risk of reoffending is reduced, but, above all, lives will be saved. We cannot sit on our hands and wait. We have to save our mother's life.
As victims, we have no place in all these interminable procedures. We will certainly not be the last to live through a similar event. In Verchères, with a population of 5,000, three people have confided in us and told us that they are living in a situation similar to our own and are terrorized.
We are supposed to have the right to security. At the moment, the only people with rights are those who have been charged and found not criminally responsible. Ronald wore his heart on his sleeve; he was always smiling, gentle and ready to help others. His murder was an enormous shock. The public is completely outraged by this heinous action that has gone unpunished.
We have lost a second father, a grandfather, a husband. But above all, we have lost an exceptional human being whom we loved more than anything in the world. We will never be able to forgive the action, but now we have to learn to live with it. Ronald's death must not be one among many. It must serve to advance the cause of victims. This bill is extremely important for our security and our quality of life.
Thank you all so much for giving me your valuable time and for letting me express to you my thirst for justice. We are behind you in supporting this urgent and vital bill.
Mr. Chairman, and members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, my name is Ben Bedarf. I am here today to give you my opinion of proposed new legislation, and answer any questions you have.
I am a victim. My seven-year-old grandson was violently killed by his father with a knife on July 27, 2011. My daughter tried to stop him and in the process was badly cut up on both hands and forearms.
We received a call from the Campbell River Hospital at about 3 a.m. to come to the hospital. Nothing else was said and no information was given. As we drove past our daughter's house, which we also own, we noticed a considerable RCMP presence. We stopped and asked what had happened. No information was given to us except to go to the hospital.
On our arrival at the hospital emergency ward we were guided into the room where my daughter was being stitched up. Upon seeing me she said, “I'm sorry, Dad, I tried to stop him.” I gave her a hug and told the doctor to finish stitching her up. I then asked, “Where is my grandson?”, the joy of my life. Nobody said anything. Then I saw a nurse going by and I asked her, “Where is my grandson?”, and she said, “I'm sorry, he did not make it”, and she walked away. There was nobody in the hospital to turn to: no victims services, no victims counsellor, no priest, no help of any kind.
The doctor then appeared and said that we could take our daughter home. He gave her a couple of pain pills and a few prescriptions for pain and anti-depressants, and said goodbye.
Because this accident happened while my daughter was sleeping, she had on only a nightgown, which was soaked in blood. The hospital gave my daughter a clean gown and discharged her from the hospital. She had no shoes; only plastic slip-on covers were supplied. I had to take off my own coat so she could have something to wear going home.
Upon leaving, I asked to see my grandson's body, but was refused.
The next day we had to take our daughter shopping for clothing and toiletries. We couldn't go into her house and get any supplies because of forensics. The RCMP said that the house could not be entered until forensic services were done, which would take about four days. If it weren't for us, she wouldn't have had anywhere to go.
Forensics completed their work, and we were given approval to enter the house, but we were told not to go there until restoration services were called and had the house cleaned up and repainted because of the extreme severity of the blood splatter. Most everything in the house was disposed of, leaving the house completely empty of all furniture and of all clothing.
The next day RCMP victim services contacted us. This was vital because this gave us information on facts. The RCMP, because they are first responders, should be able to give all immediately needed assistance to secure the victim, including financial help through their victim assistance program.
Mr. Brent Warren was charged with first degree murder. He was found not guilty by reason of a mental disorder.
The situation now is that he is no longer in the criminal system but is a patient in a mental hospital and will be discharged when he gets better. This is in the opinion of the psychiatric board. The issue has gone from if he gets released to when he will be released. According to some learned professionals in that field, it could be as soon as two to five years.
So where do we go from here?
I recommend immediate funding for victims for expenses incurred and secure shelter supplied; access to the bank account in case the account is only in the spouse's name; immediate funding, in some cases, for travel to their parents' and/or grandparents' home, even if the family lives out of the province. There should be a fund available for long-term assistance for people in need, either through employment insurance, the Canada pension plan, disability insurance, or any fund that is appropriate for the long-term survival of the victim and possibly children, including teenagers.
Crown counsel should proceed in a timely fashion and not drag the case on, which could result in more anguish for the victims and their families.
In my opinion, when he is released, charges should be laid for injuries incurred by my daughter. None was filed. There should not be an expiry date for criminal charges under this scenario. There should be a minimum sentence of 10 years spent in custody in a mental hospital or any institution deemed necessary for anyone who has committed murder and was found not guilty by reason of a mental disorder.
There should be a do-not-contact order for anyone, if so requested. He should not be released in the province where the violent act occurred. I do not wish to meet him face to face on my daily walks. He knows what would happen.
I've submitted this for your consideration on June 10, 2013.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, and fellow witnesses. These victims' stories are very tragic and heart-wrenching, and quite frankly, point to challenges in the system well beyond the amendments to the Criminal Code we're discussing today.
My name is Peter Coleridge. I am the national CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association, also known as CMHA. With me today is Mark Ferdinand, our national director of public policy.
CMHA is the largest and oldest provider of mental health services in communities across Canada. We were founded in 1918, and we serve thousands of people every day in hundreds of communities across the country. We rely on the work of staff and thousands of volunteers to facilitate access to the resources people require to maintain and improve their mental health, reintegrate into the community, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness.
In addition to being a front-line provider of community mental health services, we're also a champion for mental health for all Canadians. We actively promote positive mental health, ways in which people can focus on strengths, well-being, and functioning in the community, at home, at school, and at work. We provide advice on the development of good public policies that support positive mental health as well as improve access to the quality of mental health services and community supports, which is why we're here today. We share many of the concerns of some of our other mental health partners that spoke earlier: the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and many others.
We also work hard to increase the understanding in our society about mental illness. Unfortunately, our society holds many misperceptions about mental illness. Depictions in the media and labels used in our society create an impression that high-profile violent crimes are committed by people with a mental disorder, and that these things are common, when such occurrences are infrequent. The majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness. Mentally ill people are no more violent than any other group in our society; in fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence. It's also important to understand that some people who become involved with the criminal justice system had not been diagnosed with a mental illness, but were diagnosed upon connecting with the criminal system because of a crime.
These people need treatment and care. Punishment does not lead to recovery for individuals who are found not criminally responsible. This might explain in part why the relapse rate for individuals who are NCR on account of mental disorder is three to four times lower than the general criminal offender population. By all accounts, mental illness is complex. I think that is clear from all the witnesses you've heard from. However, with the appropriate supports and access to care, people with mental illness, including those with severe mental illness, can be helped. Today there's more hope than ever before that we can effectively treat these illnesses and improve the chances of recovery.
Long-term research has shown that many people with severe mental illness are able to lead productive lives. As you know, Canada has made important strides in reducing discrimination and stigma associated with mental illness. CMHA looks forward to continuing this progress with all Canadians, the federal government, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and our many other mental health partners across Canada. However, we are concerned that the proposed changes to the not criminally responsible provisions of the Criminal Code will negatively impact the lives of people found NCR, and unjustifiably increase the stigma toward people with mental illness that is pervasive in our society at the systemic, community, and individual levels.
For example, we're concerned the provisions aimed at creating a high-risk accused category, and restricting unescorted passes may have unintended consequences on the ability of mental health professionals to appropriately monitor and evaluate people who have been found NCR. We're also concerned that the creation of a high-risk accused category reinforces the stigma associated with mental illness, such as connecting mental illness with danger to the public and violence.
We know from studies that many people who would otherwise benefit from mental health services or care will not seek or fully participate in their care in order to avoid the labels that have the potential to diminish their self-esteem or social opportunities.
Finally, with regard to the public safety paramount provision, we are unaware of evidence to suggest that review boards are not already taking public safety into consideration when making dispositions. As such it's not clear that the proposed amendments will make any real difference to protecting the public. Such an amendment would appear only to fuel stigma by creating an impression that all individuals who are found NCR are likely to reoffend.
We understand that the federal government in proposing this bill is seeking better consistency and coherence in the application of the Criminal Code across Canada. To ensure the realization of this dual goal of consistency and coherence, we recommend that parliamentarians seek input on how the proposed provisions will impact victims, NCR accused, public safety, and health and mental health service providers across the country.
Measuring these impacts is even more important when we consider that mental health is an intersectoral issue involving several different sectors. These issues are very complex.
Given that we do not know today—and it was said earlier by many witnesses in their different perspectives—the possible impact of these changes on people or on our systems, we would strongly recommend that Bill include a provision that would create a flexible yet rigorous evaluation framework to better understand the implications of the proposed criminal law changes on a victim's ability to access meaningful and pertinent information regarding NCR accused, capacity issues in the forensic mental health system, actual impact on public safety, actual impact on treatment, reoffence rates and health outcomes of NCR accused.
A simple provision, as we've seen in other federal and provincial laws, would suffice to ensure regular review of the impacts of the law on people and to determine whether or not the expected outcomes are being achieved.
In closing, we believe it is appropriate that the government undertake periodic reviews of mental health disorder provisions of the Criminal Code. We equally believe that even if we were able to arrive at the perfect balance between individual rights and public interest through criminal law provisions, we would still fall woefully short of what is needed to address the part of the iceberg that we cannot or sometimes refuse to see.
Ultimately better cooperation and coordination between the levels of government are desperately needed to improve how we treat mentally ill offenders in the criminal justice system. We would welcome the opportunity to work on this pressing agenda. This agenda should include reducing stigma, improving recovery, continuity of care, reintegration into society, and improving public safety.
We know care has been taken in developing this bill, and that the individuals who worked on its development have carefully considered the legal and even constitutional aspects of the bill. However, more meaningful consultation and greater policy coherence are needed.
Specifically, we need to know that victims are involved appropriately in the review board system, that public safety is truly being enhanced, that the rights of the accused are not infringed, and that recovery and access to effective treatment is not unintentionally made more difficult or limited as a result of these amendments.
Mr. Chair, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee today. We're happy to answer any questions the committee may have.
Good evening. My name is Michel Surprenant, and I am the president of the AFPAD, or the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared.
I would like to thank the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for having me here today for the study of Bill .
I would like to share a few examples of not criminally responsible cases that have been of concern to member families of the association in recent years and that justify the AFPAD's support of this bill.
Allow me to start by telling you a little bit about the AFPAD, which I represent. It was founded by victims' families for victims' families. The main mission of the Association of the Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared is to support, advise and defend the interests of families affected by a homicide or disappearance under apparently criminal circumstances. The AFPAD has over 500 member families.
In recent years, a number of cases have attracted the attention of victims in Quebec. I would like to tell you about some of these cases.
I would like to start with the case of Pascal Morin. On February 10, 2012, a little over a year ago, in a murderous fit and affected by a mental illness, Pascal Morin in turn killed his mother, Ginette Roy-Morin, 70 years of age, and his two nieces, Laurence and Juliette Fillion. At the end of his trial, Pascal Morin was found not criminally responsible for his actions under section 16 of the Criminal Code.
No one is questioning the fact that he was sick. He is currently in hospital under the responsibility of the mental health commission. However, the idea of Pascal Morin's being released causes enormous fear on the part of the family and the community, which knows Pascal Morin well.
The idea of releasing such people makes the families of victims and the authorities fear the worst. I would like to quote Francis Fillion, the father of the victims, “Our other daughter, who is five years old, still wonders if her uncle will come and see her and kill her. All I want now is to take care of my family without the fear that he can visit her!”
Furthermore, the mayors of the Saint-Roman region have asked the government to intervene to prevent this type of case. On December 8, 2012, the council of mayors of the Granit RCM expressed that it was urgent to find solutions so that tragedies like this wouldn't happen in the future.
According to the AFPAD, in addition to strengthening medical resources for people with mental health issues, Bill is an essential solution.
As Dr. Gaston said during her testimony before the committee on June 5, 2013, a distinction needs to be made between primary and secondary prevention. Primary prevention means providing resources to treat individuals with mental health issues before their case become so severe that they are a danger to other members of society. The provincial government is responsible for taking care of this because it comes under the responsibility of health care authorities.
Furthermore, when a crime has been committed and it involves serious personal injury, the AFPAD believes it is reasonable and fair to take preventive measures so that an individual who committed a crime, but who was deemed not criminally responsible, cannot commit another one. To achieve that, the person needs to remain very closely monitored for a certain number of years.
Bill will ensure that the most serious cases cannot be quickly released from hospital. That doesn't mean putting them in prison, but rather giving them the care they need.
Bill is a reasonable and fair response that could have enabled Ronald Malo's family to feel respected as victims. Remember that Ronald Malo was murdered in cold blood by Rolland Belzil at the Verchères city hall. Rolland Belzil was found not criminally responsible after he was charged with attempted murder in 2012 of two City of Verchères employees in Montérégie. A third charge, for the murder of his 80-year-old neighbour, Ronald Malo, was brought later.
The justice system needs Bill to restore public confidence in institutions of the judicial system. When citizens lose confidence in the justice system, not only does it lead to distrust of judges, defence lawyers and Crown attorneys, but it also causes mistrust and fear within families and the community. These fears are not unjustified.
Rolland Belzil stabbed his neighbour, Ronald Malo, to death following a dispute over a fence that had gone on for 12 years. He then went to city hall, where he allegedly attacked Luc Fortier, the city manager, and Martin Massicotte, his assistant, at knifepoint. Allow me to quote the lawyer of the victims, who had the opportunity to be represented. These comments by Christine Dubreuil-Duchaine appeared in an article:
“At what point do we declare a person dangerous or not? How far can we go without there being any true consequences? As far as I'm concerned, this situation mirrors that of Guy Turcotte...,” said Ms. Dubreuil-Duchaine.
According to the lawyer, the Quebec justice system needs to ask the right questions, so that there are no more situations like Ronald Malo's. Should justice be harsher? Should we step in more quickly?
“Someone paid with their life for these questions to be asked,” lamented Ms. Dubreuil-Duchaine....
I would also like to tell you about the case of Alain Piché, an accountant who lived in Cap-de-la-Madeleine and who had no prior criminal record. However, on March 19, 2007, Alain Piché killed his parents. He cut off their heads with an axe and a blunt object before hiding their bodies in a freezer. In July 2008, the court rendered its verdict and found him not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. In June 2009, Piché was admitted to the Institut Philippe-Pinel.
The mental disorder review board had granted Piché unescorted absences. I repeat: they were unescorted absences. The only condition imposed on him was that he not communicate with members of his family. The attending medical team was even given the power to determine the terms, duration and frequency of his absences based on his clinical state and his behaviour.
This raised the indignation of the criminal and penal prosecuting attorney responsible for the case, Jean-François Bouvette. He had deplored the fact that it was up to the board to monitor Alain Piché's absences and to issue conditions to ensure the public's safety. This example clearly reveals the fear that this type of permission can lead to in the community. This example also shows the risks of giving the mental disorder review board too much leeway.
Thanks to Bill , the most serious cases of personal injury can be better monitored. It will be up to judges to determine when a person will be at high risk and when that person is no longer at high risk. High-risk individuals will not be able to go out into the community. They will have to receive intensive medical care, surrounded by trained medical personnel. Some might say that it is stigmatizing toward individuals with mental illness. The AFPAD feels that it is a secondary prevention measure that will protect the lives and safety of community members, including families and individuals with a mental illness who have not committed any serious offences.
I will close by reminding you that these cases of being not criminally responsible, including the case of Guy Turcotte, who killed his two children, affected the population. A mother from Sherbrooke, Fanny Denoncourt, who was quite shocked by the outcome of the Guy Turcotte trial, took the initiative of organizing a march to denounce violence against children. The protest took place on March 2, 2013, in the streets of Sherbrooke, and other similar protests were held at the same time elsewhere in Quebec to demand tougher criminal legislation.
On behalf of victims, on behalf of future victims who will have to experience tragedies, on behalf of the population, we ask you to support Bill and pass it as quickly as possible; otherwise, the justice system will lose even more of its legitimacy.
We will talk about the following provisions in particular: clause 9, regarding the preponderance of the safety of the public; clause 10, concerning the definition of a significant threat to the safety of the public; and clause 12, which adds the notion of a high-risk accused to the Criminal Code, and all the provisions consistent with that notion.
We feel that these provisions reduce the exercise of the rights of people who are living or have lived with mental health issues. We also feel that they reinforce the stigmatization of those people, foster prejudice and restrict access to credible, transparent and impartial recourse respectful of rights.
Although we are not legal experts, we feel that those three provisions greatly undermine the principles of fundamental justice and the very spirit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This bill proposes returning to the past. You probably all remember that some of those provisions were repealed in 2005, only to be reintroduced in 2013. There are some slight differences, but the idea is the same.
In addition, this bill reinforces disinformation. It establishes a link between mental health and violence, even though, most of the time, people who are living with or have lived with mental health issues are victims of violence and are only subject to the coercive system of medicine.
We will not talk to you about research. You have had a tremendous amount of time and have heard about Anne Crocker's research results.
People think that individuals who have been found not criminally responsible go home free, but that is totally untrue. They often remain incarcerated longer than they would had they been found criminally responsible for their actions.
Moreover, people believe that mental health issues are due to a chemical imbalance in the brain or are hereditary. No research currently exists that can prove that. Unfortunately, this bill will not prevent unreasonable actions.
The AGIDD-SMQ thinks that these measures restrict human rights because they are unreasonable and cannot be justified in a free and democratic society, as set out in section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In addition, these measures violate the principles of fundamental justice—human dignity, freedom and the respect for autonomy, pursuant to section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
For all the above-stated reasons, we ask that clauses 9, 10 and 12 be repealed, along with any relevant provisions.
The work done, the research, the process and the jurisprudence have so far made it possible to reduce arbitrariness, comply with sections 1, 7, 9 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, create section XX.1 of the Criminal Code and prioritize release.
The introduction of the “high-risk accused” notion and the amendment of the procedure to include that notion are more consistent with a punitive process, especially when it comes to various provisions.
The first provision has to do with the high-risk designation. That measure could become the usual procedure for any accused individual and result in their being automatically deprived of their freedom and detained in a hospital. As my colleague was saying, this measure establishes a link between mental health and dangerousness by elevating the likelihood of recidivism as it relates to the brutality of the action.
The second provision has to do with the possibility of amending the review time frames, and thereby extending the detention period from one year to three years.
The automatic deprivation of freedom and detention in a hospital constitute a third provision.
As we said, it is also a matter of the following: the addition of the definition of “significant threat to the safety of the public”; the inclusion of the past and expected course of the accused’s treatment, including the accused’s willingness to follow treatment; and the impossibility of the high-risk accused being absent from the hospital, whereby detention becomes the norm.
Legislation—and even less so the Criminal Code—cannot be arbitrary and move away from the rule of law and the spirit of the Canadian Charter on Rights and Freedoms. This legislation is excessively broad in its scope and directly threatens the spirit and the scope of part XX.1 of the Criminal Code.
These measures reflect a certain inaccuracy, especially in terms of the factors that need to be taken into consideration to designate someone as a high-risk accused. Mental health is based solely on a series of symptoms and behaviours. Therefore, we are talking about a field conducive to subjectivity.
These measures will increase the vulnerability of people who are living with or have lived with a mental health issue by stigmatizing them.
Finally, some consistency would be appropriate with the spirit of the Canadian strategy presented to us this afternoon by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which was created in 2007 by the current government.