Regrettably, the Government's approach to Bill C-54, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act -- and to the entire question of mentally ill accused -- has been a paragon of needlessly divisive legislating. The bill in question was proposed in response to several recent high-profile cases in which individuals were found not criminally responsible (NCR) of serious violent offences on account of mental disorder. Perhaps it would not have been possible to craft a bill that victims and mental health and legal professionals all agree will improve the NCR system and enhance public safety. However, it is clear that the Government did not even try.
The Ontario government should not be afraid to resist Harper's misguided crime agenda. Instead of selling out another generation for political expediency, Ontario should commit the crime that Harper fears the most: sociology.
Prime Minister Harper wants to enhance the safety of victims harmed by the violence of the untreated mentally ill with proposed changes to the Criminal Code. But it still retains absolute discharge once the individual demonstrates that he/she is well and is taking medications. The problem is, there are no restrictions and no provision for ongoing monitoring to ensure that treatment is adhered to. Those who are untreated are often violent and nothing is to be gained by ignoring reality.
Friday the House began debating C-54, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act. From the Prime Minister's recent announcement of the legislation, one could easily get the impression that Canada is overrun with dangerous psychopaths and that Canadians should be fearful. Yet, the available evidence indicates that very few mentally ill people commit violent acts, even fewer are found not criminally responsible (NCR), and only a miniscule percentage of those found not criminally responsible (NCR) reoffend after treatment. Indeed, while high-profile cases of horrific acts have attracted much media attention, the reality is that these cases are exceptionally rare.