12/14/2012 05:32 EST | Updated 02/13/2013 05:12 EST

Prison: Not a Cure for Child Murderers


Should we challenge mental health experts? Challenge the justice system on the grounds that we do not agree with a single, solitary verdict? On the grounds that the crime is particularly horrendous?

Should we accept that a government is using a single, solitary court decision that it disagrees with and that causes public outcry to change the laws, strengthen enforcement at the expense of prevention, and imprison individuals with a mental illness?

Should we allow public condemnation to spew across pages and pages in tabloids that have joined one camp or the other in hopes of increasing their circulation?

On the one hand, the press writes with compassion about mental illness, lamenting the lack of resources and the science that does not advance fast enough. It speaks theoretically, urging reason and common sense.

On the other hand, it prematurely condemns, or condemns despite justice having been meted out, howling like a pack of wolves and lashing out at a proven judicial system. "Justice!" it cries. But this is, at best, a political call for American justice, known for its inefficiency and violence and, at worst, a downward spiral of vengeance.

In all seriousness, is it possible that one who kills his or her children is in a healthy and balanced mental state? Think about it for a minute. Those who have an individual close to them suffering from a mental disorder, even slight, know what I mean. We are talking about sick people. Punishment will not cure them. Prison does not cure.

It is not the role of government or of Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu to play Merlin and tell us what science can or cannot do -- to claim that this or that mental illness can or cannot result in a verdict of not criminally responsible, or to impose medical treatment for a certain period in a mental hospital.

Even though there may be the odd case that concerns us all, Canada has recognized mental health experts and a proven judicial system.

Anger and pain should not dictate our courts. Nor should they dictate our laws. It is a mistake to go down this path because instead of building a peaceful society we would create an unstable, harder, less tolerant one.

We would fall into a vicious cycle of repression and violence, precisely that which Harper's Conservatives -- and Senator Boisvenu -- seek to lead us into.

[Earlier this fall, Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette tabled Bill S-214 which proposes the protection of children against child-rearing violence.]

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