Changes must consider the unique needs of people with mental illness
WINNIPEG, Feb. 8, 2013 /CNW/ - Today, the Government of Canada tabled a
Bill proposing changes to the Not Criminally Responsible on account of
Mental Disorder (NCRMD) provisions of the Criminal Code. The Bill
proposes, amongst other things, that annual reviews for individuals
deemed NCRMD of a violent crime can be pushed to every three years and
that "high risk" NCRMD accused cannot be considered for release by a
Review Board until their designation is revoked by a court.
Given the significance of passing such changes, Canada's mental health
community has come together to form a working alliance in an effort to
strengthen their voice on this critical matter - which is of vital
importance to the mental health community and the one in five Canadians
with mental illness.
The alliance strongly believes it has the knowledge, resources and tools
that will allow the Government to move ahead with NCRMD changes that
will take into account the need to protect the public from dangerous
persons, while addressing the therapeutic needs of these mentally
disordered offenders so as to mitigate risk and promote recovery.
"The Government of Canada has made progress in enhancing public
understanding of mental health and mental illness with important
initiatives such as the development of the Mental Health Commission.
However, these proposed changes are inconsistent with its work
to-date," said Chris Summerville, Alliance Facilitator and Chief
Executive Officer, Schizophrenia Society of Canada. "These changes will
unnecessarily heighten the public's fears, increase negative stigma
around mental illness and ultimately undermine the reintegration of
NCRMD individuals without increasing public safety."
In Canada's most populated province, Ontario, only .001% of individuals
charged with Criminal Code violations were adjudicated NCRMD.
Recidivism rates for NCRMD individuals range from 2.5 to 7.5%. These
numbers are far lower than that of federal offenders in the regular
justice system, at a rate of 41 to 44%. And despite what Canadians are
lead to believe, the seriousness of the crime committed does not equate
to the likelihood for the offender to reoffend or even his/her ability
to improve his/her mental health state and live a normal, healthy life.
The alliance recognizes that the government's review of the mental
disorder provisions of the Criminal Code is important to many
Canadians, and it also recognizes the fact that the public has
legitimate reasons to be concerned about safety, however the group is
working together to ensure that this public policy is informed by the
latest evidence based knowledge.
The working alliance has requested a meeting with the Minister of
Justice to discuss theses proposed changes. Implementing such
legislation cannot be in the best interest of Canadians without
consulting and working with the mental health community. Canadians want
a working mental health system and not an out-dated approach.
SOURCE: Schizophrenia Society of Canada