08/09/2019 15:51 EDT | Updated 08/12/2019 09:28 EDT

Doug Ford Says Mentally Ill Criminals Should Be In Jails, Not Hospitals

He doubled down on previous comments about a missing mental health detainee that were heavily criticized.

KITCHENER, Ont. — Ontario’s premier said Friday that people with mental illness who commit crimes should be in jail, calling a patient who had been detained at a mental health hospital for killing his roommate an “animal.”

Doug Ford teed off for a second time on the case of Zhebin Cong, who was found not criminally responsible for killing his roommate with a meat cleaver in 2014.

Cong, who has schizophrenia, was an in-patient at the secured forensic unit of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto but failed to return on July 3 from an unaccompanied trip into the community. City police have said he has left the country.

Canadian Press
Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends the opening remarks before the start of Toronto's Caribbean Carnival festival on Aug. 3.

Last month Ford called into a talk radio show to discuss the incident, calling the man a “nutcase.” The premier was criticized for that language and when asked Friday if he regrets it, he said not at all.

“It’s about time politicians stop hiding behind podiums and being politically correct,” Ford said. “He grabbed a meat cleaver and chopped up his roommate ... just imagine if it was your daughter that this animal chopped up.”

Ford said federal laws need to be tougher to deal with people like Cong.

“We’ve got to put these people away and if they have mental health issues they can be dealt with in jail — simple as that,” he said. “I’m passionate about helping people who have true mental illness ... Stop sympathizing with axe-wielding murderers and all this bleeding heart stuff.”

Reviews underway

CAMH has announced an external review of procedures for granting passes and privileges as several patients have managed to walk away recently. An internal review is also underway.

The hospital has defended the use of community passes, describing them as an important part of the care a patient receives and that supports rehabilitation and recovery.

When people are found not criminally responsible because of mental illness, review boards manage their cases.

The independent tribunals made up of at least five people, including at least one psychiatrist, can order that the person remain detained in a hospital, with varying levels of privileges, release the person on a conditional discharge or order an absolute discharge, based on risk.

The review board system lets people found not criminally responsible into the community once they’re deemed ready for short periods of time under close supervision to see how well they can cope. If they do well, they can be granted more privileges at subsequent hearings, step by step.

If they don’t fare well, the review board pulls the reins of supervision a little tighter.

In Cong’s case, police have said CAMH told them Cong presented a low risk to public safety, but the review board said in its most recent decision in April that he continued to pose a significant threat to public safety.

Toronto police are also conducting a review.

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