not criminally responsible
Contrary to what Doug Ford seems to suggest, such mental health patients aren't criminals.
Not only was Harper's change to the Criminal Code of no value but the real problem is one that he and many provincial governments refuse to acknowledge or rectify. Far too much mental health care in this country is left to the prison system rather than to the health care system.
Most high-profile NCR patients -- that is, sufferers of mental illness who have committed horrific acts of violence and have been declared "not criminally responsible" by the courts -- are usually kept well-hidden from public view. But on Wednesday, October 8, another high-profile NCR patient, Sean Clifton, who tried his best to stab to death a complete stranger because his psychosis led him to believe he had to kill "the prettiest girl in the mall," will bravely step on stage to face the public after the screening of my documentary NCR: Not Criminally Responsible, in which he is featured.
The word "mental" conjures fearful images; the "crazed" ax murderer, the "psycho" who stalks people and then stabs them repeatedly, the young man who takes a gun and sprays a stream of bullets in a room full of young children. Mental illness drags behind it a heavy bag of ignorance and confusion that has led to the stigma of shame and prejudice for those of us with the illness as well as our families, and continues to promote fear in the public square. Unfortunately, there are still too many people who abuse the mentally ill and use our illness as a means to play on people's fear. Rosie DiManno, a columnist I respect, has fallen into that category.
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 violent attacks on a British soldier in London is a good example of the difference when the perpetrator is a Muslim. The issue has become about Islam and how the world needs to stop Muslims from taking over the world. When the accused is a Muslim, all the community pays and hatred against them grows dramatically.
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.
I am about to screen my finished film for Andy Bouvier, his wife, Noella, and the victim, their daughter Julie. They will be learning for the first time what was going through the mind of a madman in the midst of that murderous psychotic break -- what he was thinking as he tried to stab Julie to death.
We are now half-way through the screening. When Sean hears the victim describing years of pain she endured from the six stab wounds he inflicted, he sighs and says quietly: "I can't believe I caused so much suffering," He is nervous but excited that the film is coming out soon.
Growing whispery and weepy, Jimmy tells me his story. He murdered his wife and two daughters, aged 14 and 9, with an axe. "I don't want to live," he moans, "I'm a monster." In 25 years of making prison films I've never seen an inmate crack open this way. Most killers I have encountered rarely show real remorse.